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K3 Spouse Visa

A K3 visa allows a spouse (husband or wife) of a U.S. citizen to enter the United States as a non-immigrant, and wait for the green card application process to finish. A K3 visa applicant must have an immigrant petition (I-130) filed on his or her behalf.

After entering the U.S. on K3 non-immigrant visa, the spouse of a U.S. citizen may file I-485 to adjust status, or wait for I-130 approval and go to a U.S. consulate abroad to obtain an immigrant visa. Both lead to permanent resident status (green card).

Alternatively, the spouse may choose to complete the entire process outside the United States, and enter the U.S. on an immigrant visa. She/he will become a permanent resident immediately upon entry, either in IR (immediate relative) status or CR (conditional resident, if the marriage is less than two years old).

Similar to K1 fiancé visa, K3 visa is also one of the fastest ways to immigrate to the U.S. As a result, it has been a favorite vehicle used in visa fraud. For this reason USCIS and consular officers closely scrutinize K3 visa applications, in an attempt to detect marriage fraud and scams.

See detailed comparison between K1 and K3

Department of State Notice: Effective February 1st, 2010, when both the I-129F petition for a nonimmigrant K visa and the I-130 petition for an IR-1 (or CR-1) spouse of a U.S. citizen visa have been approved by USCIS and sent to the National Visa Center (NVC), the availability as well as the need for a nonimmigrant K-3 visa ends. If the NVC receives both petitions:

  • The nonimmigrant K visa will be administratively closed.
  • The application process explained below will not be applicable and cannot be used.
  • The NVC will contact the petitioner and you with instructions for processing your IR-1 (or CR-1) immigrant visa. For more information on the immigrant visa process review the Immigrant Visa for a Spouse webpage.

What is considered a "spouse"?

A spouse is a husband or wife in a legal marriage. "Common-law" spouses may or may not qualify for K3 visas, depending on local laws governing "common-law" marriages. Partners living together are generally not considered spouses for immigration purposes.

How do I file a K-3 visa petition?

  • You, the American citizen, must file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, for your spouse with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
  • USCIS will send you a receipt notice (Form I-797).
  • You then file Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé(e), for your spouse with USCIS. If your spouse is planning to bring his/her unmarried children under 21 years of age to the United States in K-4 status, you must name the children in the I-129F petition.
  • If USCIS approves your I-129F, it will send the petition to National Visa Center (NVC).
  • After initial processing, NVC sends the I-129F petition to a U.S. embassy or consulate in the country where your marriage took place.
  • If your marriage took place in the U.S., NVC will send the petition to the embassy or consulate in the country where your spouse will be applying for the K3 visa. This is usually the country of his/her nationality, but could be another country if there is no US embassy or consulate in that country, or there is one but the post doesn't issue visas.
  • After receiving the I-129F petition, the embassy or consulate will notify your spouse, with instructions regarding medical examinations, visa interview and supporting documents (proof of marriage, financial support, etc.)
  • Your spouse must attend the visa interview, and if all goes well, will receive K-3 visa on his/her passport.

What happens after receiving K-3 visa?

  • A K-3 visa holder may travel to a US port of entry (POE) within the visa's validity period (generally two years).
  • After entering the U.S., your spouse should file I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. The sooner the better.
  • You and your spouse attend an interview with a USCIS officer at a local office; sometimes you may be called in for a secondary interview, also known as the Stokes Interview.
  • When I-485 is approved your spouse will become a permanent resident, and receive a green card shortly after.
  • If I-130 is approved while I-485 is still pending, your spouse may choose Consular Processing instead. This is not a preferred option, however, because of required international travel and often the need to file Form I-824, Application for Action on an Approved Application or Petition, to change your selection. Most people choose to stay in the U.S. and wait for I-485 approval.
  • If you have been married for less than two years when your spouse's I-485 is approved, or when she/he enters the U.S. on an immigrant visa, your spouse will first receive a conditional green card valid for two years. You must together file I-751 to remove the condition later on (three months before the expiration of conditional green card). A waiver is required if the citizen spouse is unable or unwilling to file I-751.

What about children of K-3 visa holders?

  • Unmarried children under 21 years of age may apply for K-4 visas, as derivative dependents of their K-3 parent.
  • A qualified child doesn't need a separate I-129F for a K-4 visa, but must be named on the I-129F petition of his/her parent who is applying for a K-3 visa.
  • A qualified child doesn't need a separate I-130 either to apply for a K-4 visa. However, they do need I-130 filed on their behalf in order to adjust status (apply for green card) in the United States.
  • You, the American citizen, need to file I-130 on behalf of each child for them to be eligible for adjustment of status.
  • If the American citizen parent never files I-130, the K-3 parent may do so on behalf of a child as soon as the K-3 parent becomes a permanent resident. However, in this case the child will be under family-based second preference (FB-2), instead of immediate relative (IR) category, and must wait for an immigrant visa number. FB2 is much slower than IR.

When should a K-3 visa holder apply for adjustment of status?

As soon as possible. Remember K-3 visa category was created to reunited families. So applying early can be taken as a strong indication of your intent and effort to obtain permanent residency in the United States, which further validates your marriage being genuine. In fact if you never file I-485 after entering on K-3, you will have trouble renewing EAD or your K-3 status with USCIS.

Another reason is that green card processing is unpredictable. Applying early gives you more flexibility when unexpected happens during the process.

Can a K-3 visa holder work in the United States?

Yes, but only if you have a valid Employment Authorization Document (EAD). You apply for EAD by filing I-765 with USCIS.

A K-3 visa holder may apply for EAD as soon as he/she enters the U.S., or wait until they are ready to apply for adjustment of status and file I-765 together with I-485.

Can a K-3 visa holder travel outside the United States?

Yes. K-3 and K-4 are multiple-entry visas. Visa holders may use their unexpired K-3 and K-4 visas to re-enter the U.S., even if they already filed I-485 for adjustment of status.

K-3 and K-4 visa holders may extend their status, or apply for travel documents (I-131, advance parole), for future travels.

Can a K-3 visa holder change to another non-immigrant status?


What status am I in if my K-3 expires?

After your K-3 status expires, you will remain in legal status under AOS (adjustment of status), if you filed I-485 and it is still pending. After I-485 approval your status will be permanent resident or conditional resident.

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