What is the K-3 Visa Application Process?
K-3 Visa recipients apply to adjust status to a permanent resident (LPR) with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) upon approval of the petition. Because the spouse of a US citizen applying for a nonimmigrant K-3 visa must have an immigrant visa petition filed on their behalf by their US citizen spouse and pending approval, a K-3 applicant must meet some of the requirements of an immigrant visa.
Step 1: File Form I-129F
The U.S. citizen spouse must fill out Form I-129F and file it with USCIS.
Once the form has been completed and signed, copies of all required documents should be attached to it, including:
- The U.S. citizen spouse’s passport, certificate of naturalization, or birth certificate, as proof of citizenship.
- The applicant spouse’s passport.
- Legal marriage certificate with certified English translation.
- Proof of termination of any prior marriages (divorce decree, annulment document, or death certificate).
- I-94 arrival/departure record, if the applicant spouse has ever received one from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
- One passport-style photograph of the U.S. citizen spouse and one passport-style photograph of the applicant spouse.
- Receipt notice for the Form I-130 (itself technically called the Form I-797).
Unlike the I-129F petition when used by fiances, there is no filing fee for I-129F petitions designated for spouses.
After signing the Form I-129F and attaching all supporting documents, it’s always a good idea to make an archival copy of the packet before filing.
Typically within about 30 days from the time the Form I-129F is filed, the U.S. citizen spouse should receive a receipt notice. This indicates that the package has been received by USCIS and is being processed. Processing times will vary depending on which USCIS service center is handling the case, but the average is about 6–9 months. During that time, a Request for Evidence (RFE) may be issued, should USCIS require any more information. Once the petition is approved, the U.S. citizen spouse will receive an approval notice.
Step 2: File Form DS-160 and Attend Your Visa Interview
Approximately 30 days after USCIS approves the Form I-129F, the applicant spouse will receive correspondence, usually via email, from the U.S. Embassy in their home country. This correspondence will include the date and time of the applicant spouse’s interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country. It will also include a list of documents required for the interview.
The next step is to electronically file the DS-160 visa application on the Department of State’s website, which includes uploading a passport-style photograph. Once the DS-160 has been filed electronically, the confirmation page should be printed and taken to the interview, along with the following documents:
- Legal marriage certificate
- Valid, unexpired passport for the applicant spouse
- Birth certificate for the applicant spouse
- Police clearance for the applicant spouse, obtained from all countries of residence of more than six months since the age of 16
- Sealed medical exam for the applicant spouse (obtained through a physician abroad, authorized by the Department of State)
- Sponsor’s affidavit of support (Form I-134)
- Sponsoring spouse’s most recent tax returns
- Proof of relationship (for example, a copy of the pending Form I-130 package originally filed with USCIS). It’s generally a good idea to also bring things such as wedding photographs or any other proof that the marriage is valid.
- Two passport-style photographs of the applicant spouse.
The State Department’s visa filing fee is currently $265, usually paid at the interview. It’s important to review specific instructions regarding time and place of payment, included in the embassy’s correspondence, which may vary depending the applicant’s home country.
The interview is usually scheduled about 4–6 weeks from the date of the correspondence from the embassy. The applicant should receive a decision the same day or shortly thereafter. If the consular officer needs additional evidence, they will request for it to be submitted directly to the U.S. consulate. Upon approval of the K-3 visa, the spouse may then travel to the United States.
Step 3: Apply for a Green Card Once in the United States
The final step of this process is to travel to the United States on the approved K-3 visa. Although K-3 visa holders may apply for employment authorization upon arrival to the United States, they are not eligible to work until they receive approval of the work permit application, which typically takes about four months.
K-3 and K-4 visa holders must have an approved Form I-130 to be eligible for a Green Card to become a lawful permanent resident. You may apply for a Green Card at any time (even while the Form I-130 is pending) by filing Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. If you have a K-3 visa, you may only apply for a Green Card based on your marriage to the U.S. citizen spouse who petitioned for your K-3 status.
If you have a K-4 visa, you may only apply for a Green Card based on the step-parent/step-child relationship created when your K-3 parent married the U.S. citizen who petitioned for your K-4 visa. You may also benefit from certain age-out protections under the Child Status Protection Act (CSPA).
Applying For a Green Card
It’s generally better to simply file for employment authorization and a travel permit along with the green card application, which can be submitted upon arrival to the United States. This application, Form I-485 (technically called an “Adjustment of Status” application) is filed with USCIS based on a pending or approved Form I-130.
If USCIS approves your Form I-485, you will receive a Green Card. If you are K-3 visa holder and you have been married to your U.S. citizen spouse for at least 2 years when USCIS approves your Form I-485, your Green Card will be valid for ten years.
However, if you have been married to your U.S. citizen spouse for less than 2 years when USCIS approves your Form I-485, you and any K-4 children will become conditional permanent residents. This means that the Green Card you and your children receive will be valid for two years. In order to remove the conditions on residence, you (and your children) and your U.S. citizen spouse must file a Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions of Residence in the 90 days before your Green Card expires.
Do Children of a K-3 Visa Holder Also Get Status?
Eligible children of K-3 visa applicants receive K-4 visas. Both K-3 and the K-4 visas allow their recipients to stay in the United States while immigrant visa petitions are pending approval by USCIS.
Period of Admission and Extensions of Stay
If you are granted a K-3 visa, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will admit you for a 2-year period. You generally cannot change your status in the U.S. to another nonimmigrant visa category.
If you are granted a K-4 visa, DHS will admit you for a 2-year period or until the day before your 21st birthday, whichever is shorter. Your status will expire when you turn 21 years old. You generally cannot change your status in the United States to another nonimmigrant visa category.
If you have either a K-3 or K-4 visa, you may submit a Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status to USCIS in the 120 days before your authorized stay expires. To be eligible for an extension of stay, you must show either:
- That a Form I-130, a Form I-485, or an immigrant visa application is still pending; or
- Good cause why you did not file a Form I-485 or immigrant visa application after USCIS approved the Form I-130 filed for you.
If you have a K-4 visa, you must file your extension application together with your parent’s K-3 status extension application.
USCIS grants extensions of stay for K-3 and K-4 visa holders in 2-year increments.
Employment and Travel Authorization
If you are admitted to the United States with a K-3 or K-4 visa, you are automatically authorized to work based on your status. To obtain evidence of employment authorization, you may file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization at any time after being admitted to the U.S. Alternatively, you may file an application for a Green Card and then apply for employment authorization based on that pending application even if your K-3 or K-4 nonimmigrant status expires.
K-3 and K-4 visa holders may travel temporarily outside of the U.S. When you return from your temporary foreign travel, you may use your K-3 or K-4 visa to apply for admission to the United States. You do not need an advance parole document unless your K-3 or K-4 visa will be expired when you return to the United States and you have a pending Form I-485. In this case, the advance parole must be approved before you leave the United States.
Automatic Termination of K-3 Nonimmigrant Status
If you have a K-3 visa, your authorized stay in the United States automatically terminates 30 days after any of the following events:
- USCIS denies or revokes the Form I-130 filed for you;
- USCIS denies your Form I-485;
- The Department of State denies your immigrant visa application based on Form I-130; or
- Your marriage to the U.S. citizen petitioner ends through divorce or annulment before you become a lawful permanent resident.
If you have a K-4 visa, your authorized stay in the United States automatically terminates 30 days after any of the following events:
- Your parent’s K-3 status ends;
- USCIS denies or revokes the Form I-130 filed for you;
- USCIS denies your Form I-485;
- The Department of State denies your immigrant visa application based on Form I-130;
- You turn 21 years old; or
- You marry before becoming a lawful permanent resident.