Within the immediate relative or family sponsored visas, some of the most popular ones are the visas for spouses. When a U.S citizen marries a person who is from a foreign country, the spouse from the foreign country needs a visa to go to the U.S permanently. The spouse can apply for U.S non-immigrant visas for short term stays but if the couple wants to live in the U.S, then the spouse needs one of the spouse visas.
There are different types of spouse visas for the U.S, depending on the situation of the couple. Which one fits your family better depends on the requirements and whether you can fulfill them. The visas below are spouse visas and can be acquired in that order:
- K-3 Visa – Spouse of a U.S Citizen awaiting approval of an I-130 immigrant petition
- Conditional Resident (CR-1) Visa – means that you have just been married and for 2 years you will maintain conditional status. This is to prevent marriages from happening only for obtaining permanent residence in the U.S.
- Immediate Relative (IR-1) Visa – after you have been married for 2 years, you will gain permanent status without the conditions of the CR-1 visa.
This article will go through the K-3 visa, what it is, its requirements, application process, and other relevant details.
What is the K-3 visa?
A K-3 visa is a visa created for married couples who are in the process of getting reunited through a permanent U.S immigrant visa. This applies for married couples when one spouse is a U.S citizen and the other is from a foreign country.
When the U.S citizen files Form I-130 to the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for the spouse to join them in the U.S, it takes some time until it is processed. Because during this time, the couple will be apart, the U.S government created the K-3 visa to shorten the time that they have to be away from each other. The K-3 visa allows the spouse from the foreign country to join their spouse in the U.S while they wait for the petition to be approved. A different way that the U.S government has termed the K-3 visa is a non-immigrant visa for a spouse.
The K-3 visa allows the spouse to move to the U.S and live there, as well as work by applying for an Employment Authorization Document. The K-3 visa though is not an immigrant visa, and so is valid for only 2 years. It can be renewed in 2 year increments, but will be revoked in case the U.S Department of State rejects Form I-130, the application for Lawful Permanent Residence, or if the couple gets divorced.
Because of these restrictions, it is much better that after the Form I-130 is approved to continue and obtain a CR-1 visa, which is permanent and adjust the status to an IR-1 visa after 2 years. The CR-1 visa does not expire, but it is conditional on the couple being married, while the IR-1 visa does not have any conditions.
What are the requirements for the K-3 visa?
There are a few requirements for the spouse from a foreign country to qualify for the K-3 visa. The K-3 visa applicant must fulfill them, as follows:
- Be married to a U.S citizen – the U.S does not recognize living together as being married. The couple must present valid documents that the marriage was conducted by legal means.
- The U.S citizen must have filed a Form I-130 for the spouse from a foreign country
These conditions must be fulfilled, otherwise the spouse from a foreign country does not qualify to get the K-3 visa.
How to apply for the K-3 visa?
The application process for the K-3 visa is divided in two steps:
- First, the U.S citizen spouse must file Form I-130 and then Form I-129F and have them approved by USCIS
- Second, the spouse from a foreign country must apply for a K-3 visa at a U.S Embassy in the country of residence
To fulfill the requirements for the K-3 visa, the U.S citizen must first have filed the Form I-130 to USCIS for their spouse. If after getting the K-3 visa, the spouse from a foreign country wants to change status to a CR-1 or IR-1 visa, this petition will be used for them and there will be no need for a new one. When the form is filed, the U.S citizen spouse will get Form I-797, Notice of Action from USCIS, which they can use as proof that the Form I-130 is in processing.
After filing the Form I-130 petition, the U.S citizen spouse must then file Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé(e). Attached to this form must also be the Form I-797 and other supporting documents proving marriage. The Form I-129F must also include any dependents of the spouse from a foreign country such as children. There is no fee for this form for the purposes of a K-3 visa.
The Form I-129F will be processed by USCIS and if approved will be sent to the National Visa Center (NVC). The NVC will issue a case number and invoice ID number for the applicant and will send a package to the K-3 applicant. The package will contain information and instructions about how to apply for the K-3 visa and what documents are needed.
If USCIS processes both Form I-130 and Form I-129F and approves them, sending them to the NVC, then the applicant cannot get a K-3 visa, but must apply for a CR-1 visa. That is because the K-3 visa is only for those whose Form I-130 is still processing and has not been approved yet.
Applying for a K-3 visa
The application process for the K-3 visa must then be done by the spouse from the foreign country. The applicant must apply at a U.S Embassy or Consulate in their home country using the instructions sent by the NVC. In general, the process for the K-3 visa application is as follows.
File Form DS-160
Form DS-160, Non-immigrant Visa Electronic Application is an online form which you as the applicant must fill out and submit with the relevant information. You can access it by using your NVC case number. The questions will be related to your background and reasons for going to the U.S. After the form is complete, you must submit and get the confirmation page which you will need later.
Complete medical examination and vaccination
The U.S has certain medical and vaccination requirements which its citizens and immigrants must fulfill. Anyone who wants to immigrate to the U.S must get the necessary medical check-ups and vaccines. The NVC package which you received after the approval of the petition will specify what medical procedures you must complete and the vaccines you need to get. The documents and the check-ups must be completed by a licensed doctor who will sign them. These documents will be attached to your supporting file which you will then send to the NVC.
Compile documents file
Besides the application form, you must also attach various supporting documents such as:
- Your valid passport for more than 6 months after your planned entry into the U.S
- Form DS-260 confirmation page
- Medical examination and vaccination documents
- Two photographs per individual according to the Photo Requirements
- Birth certificate and marriage certificate
- Court and criminal records and/or police certificate
- Evidence that you are financially supported for the initial period in the U.S (U.S citizen spouse must provide you with the Form I-134, Affidavit of Support)
- Receipts for the payment of fees
The NVC will first make sure that you have submitted all the necessary documents and then will schedule the interview at the U.S Embassy where you have applied. The interview will be on your background and reasons for going to the U.S, as well as asking for any additional documents.
Receive NVC packet and travel to the U.S.
If your K-3 visa is approved, the officials at the U.S Embassy where you applied will give you a packet from the NVC. Do not open this packet under any circumstances. Instead, bring it with you when you travel to the U.S for the first time with your K-3 visa and give it to an immigration official at any U.S port of entry. They are allowed to open it and will determine whether you can get into the country or not.
What are the K-3 visa fees?
The K-3 visa fees that your U.S citizen spouse and you will incur are as follows:
- Form I-130 filing fee
- Form DS-160 processing fee
- Medical examination and vaccination fees
- Other administrative costs for obtaining, translating, and shipping documents
How long is the K-3 visa processing time?
Taking into account the work load of USCIS and other U.S institutions responsible for processing documents, the K-3 processing time varies case by case. Additionally, the U.S Embassies in different countries have different working times, which then might speed up or delay the processing of your K-3 visa. Except to wait for at least 3 months, but the time might also go up to 1 year or more.
How to become a Lawful Permanent Resident after getting a K-3 visa?
The next step after you have gotten your K-3 visa is to become a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) of the U.S. This is usually known as getting the Green Card. To change your status from your immigrant visa to an LPR, you must first have an approved petition from USCIS and the visa, as well as live in the U.S.
Afterwards, you must file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status to USCIS. This form will be processed and if approved you will be a legal resident in the U.S. If this form is rejected, then your K-3 visa will be revoked or not renewed for the next term.
Can my spouse bring their children to the U.S with a K-3 visa?
After the spouse from a foreign country gets an approved K-3 visa, they can also bring their children to the U.S to live with them. The children which qualify must be unmarried and under 21 years old.
The children will get a K-4 visa, but if the K-3 visa holder gets their CR-1 visa, the child will also have to switch to the appropriate derivative visa. The child is allowed to live in the U.S, attend school and higher education, and apply for naturalization after they qualify and get their U.S citizenship.