The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issues various types of immigration visas for individuals seeking residence in the country. As such, spouses or fiancés of US citizens have different visa options to join their partners in the United States, including green cards and fiancé visas. Another option is the K-3 visa.


The K-3 visa is meant to grant lawful temporary visa status to a foreign spouse or fiancé of a US citizen. The objective is to shorten the physical distance between a US citizen and their spouse or alien fiancé.


Once the foreign spouse enters the U.S on the K-3 nonimmigrant visa, they can file for a permanent residence or green card for better privileges.


What Is a K-3 Visa?

A K-3 visa is a nonimmigrant or temporary visa meant for U.S citizens'  foreign spouses. This visa allows foreign spouses of citizens to enter the United States through a temporary legal status while still looking to obtain lawful permanent residency.


This visa category aims to help individuals unite with their spouses in the United States and allow them to enter the country while waiting for their immigrant visa petition (Form I-130) to be approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) or adjust their status. Several K-3 visa holders choose to adjust their status to permanent residents after entering the United States.


Obtaining a K-3 visa can be complicated and long. According to statistics, the U.S Department of State gave only two K-3 nonimmigrant visas in the fiscal year 2020 as compared to around 55,044 immigrant visas (IR1/CR1) for US citizen spouses. Therefore, it's crucial to work with an immigration attorney to determine your legal obligation and eligibility.


How to apply for a K-3 visa

While it can be stressful because of how long you have to wait for approval of the forms, filing a K-3 nonimmigrant visa application is not complicated. You need to follow these steps:


Step 1: File Form I-130

The U.S citizen spouse must first file and submit Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative on behalf of their foreign spouse, followed by Form I-129. The petition must be submitted to the USCIS along with supporting documents which include:


  • Proof of U.S. citizenship (U.S citizen spouse's copy of the birth certificate, passport, and Certificate of Citizenship or Certificate of Naturalization).
  • Biographic Data Sheet (Form G-325A), one for each spouse
  • Foreign spouse's passport copy
  • Birth certificate of the foreign spouse
  • Marriage certificate and any other relevant documents that confirm the relationship.
  • Colored passport-style photograph of each spouse.
  • Copy of death or divorce certificate if either the foreign spouse or the U.S. citizen was previously married.

Upon approval of Form I-130, the USCIS will send a Form I-797 Notice of Action that indicates that the petition has been accepted for processing.


Step 2: File Form I-129F

Once you have Form I-797, Receipt Notice, the next step is to file Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé.  This form must be completed and signed to be submitted along with supporting documentation, including:


  • Proof of  U.S. citizenship (U.S citizen spouse's copy of the birth certificate, passport, and Certificate of Citizenship or Certificate of Naturalization).
  • The foreign spouse's passport.
  • Legal marriage certificate. You must attach a certified English translation if you have a foreign language marriage certificate.
  • Evidence of the annulment of any previous marriage, if any (death certificate, divorce decree, or marriage annulment document).
  • If the foreign-citizen spouse has previously been to the U.S, then you must produce form I-94 (Arrival/Departure Record) from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
  • Passport-style photographs, one for each spouse.
  • Form I-797, Notice of Action or Receipt Notice for Form I-130.

It might take roughly 30 days to get a receipt notice for Form I-129 from the USCIS. The receipt notice indicates that your petition has been received and is under processing. During processing, you may receive a Request for Evidence (RFE) in case the USCIS needs additional information. And once approved, an approval notice will be issued to the U.S citizen spouse.


Step 3: File Form DS-160

Once you receive the approval correspondence, the next step is to download Form DS-160 from the official website of the U.S. Department of State, fill and submit it electronically. After submitting the completed Form DS-160, you will receive a confirmation page from the web portal with a barcode that should be retained for future use.


Step 4: Pay and Attend the Visa Interview

About 30 days after your Form I-129F is approved by the USCIS, you will receive a notification through email from the embassy or consulate in your home country. This will inform you of the date and time of the visa interview at the consulate or US embassy in your home country, including the needed documents.


If your Form I-129 petition is for a fiancé, you'll need to pay the processing fee of $265 either online or later when you attend the visa interview.


Here is the list of supporting documents needed for the visa interview:


  • Original birth certificate.
  • Legal marriage certificate
  • Form DS-160 confirmation page.
  • Valid passport.
  • Police clearance certificates.
  • Medical examination results
  • Evidence that any of prior marriage(s), if any, have been terminated
  • Medical examination result.
  • Two colored passport-style photographs.
  • Form I-134, Affidavit of Support, if needed.

You can expect to get a decision on your K-3 visa approval immediately after the interview or a few days after. If you receive formal approval of your K-3 visa application, you may then travel to the U.S.


It's important to note that if the National Visa Center (NVC) receives the approved Form I-129F petition before receiving the approved Form I-130, the I-129F petition will be processed. However, if Form I-130 is approved first, the K-3 visa case will be administratively closed by the NVC as the applicant will not need a K-3 visa if an immigrant visa is available. The foreign spouse will be directed to apply for an immigrant visa in such instances.


Eligibility for a K-3 visa

Eligibility for the K-3 nonimmigrant visa depends on a fairly straightforward process. It is available to foreign-citizen spouses who meet the following criteria:


  • The intending immigrant must be the legal spouse of a U.S. citizen, not a lawful permanent resident or green card holder.
  • The applicant must be currently residing in a foreign country outside the U.S with a valid foreign passport.
  • Form I-130, the family sponsorship form, must have already been filed and duly submitted by the  U.S. citizen spouse. This form must be currently pending with USCIS and must not have been approved yet. However, the applicant must have a receipt notice from USCIS.
  • The applicant must have forwarded the approved petition for Alien Fiancé (Form I-129F) to the U.S consulate in the country where the fiancé of the US citizen would like to apply for the K-3 nonimmigrant visa.
  • The U.S. citizen spouse must be financially eligible to meet specific income requirements. As the financial sponsor, their most recent tax return must highlight at least 100% adjusted gross income of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. Otherwise, there must be an affidavit of support from a joint sponsor willing to take financial responsibility for the foreign spouse.

What privileges are available on a K-3 visa?

With a K-3 visa, you can enjoy a few privileges, including:


  1. Work in the United States
  2. Travel in and out of the U.S
  3. Apply for permanent residency

How long can an applicant stay in the U.S. on a K-3 visa?

The Department of Homeland Security allows foreign-citizen spouses of U.S citizens with K-3 visas to stay in the U.S for up to two years while waiting for their green card application to be approved.


What are the limitations of a K-3 visa?

The K-3 nonimmigrant visa is a great solution for foreign-citizen spouses of U.S citizens who don't have the opportunity to apply for a green card or immigrant visa via the normal process. But the K-3 visa has some limitations. For example, a K-3 visa holder cannot change to another nonimmigrant visa status. Additionally, a recipient cannot use the K-3 visa to enter the United States if they are temporarily barred due to previous violations of United States immigration laws.


Can an applicant extend their stay on a K-3 visa?

If you are a spouse on a K-3 visa, you can apply for an extension of stay via Form I-539, Application to Extend, or Change Nonimmigrant Status. This should be done as soon as possible, not later than 120 days before the expiration of your visa.


What is the K3 visa processing time?

 On average, the processing time for obtaining a K-3 visa takes around 6 months. And depending on individual cases, you could easily wait up to 9 months. This is about the same length of time it takes to get a marriage green card application approved by the USCIS, which is why most people find it worthwhile to apply for a marriage green card rather than a K-3 visa.


The K-3 visa process is generally time-consuming. The waiting time for the USCIS to approve Forms I-130 and I-129F results in delays. The submission of Form DS-160 and the interview schedule also take months. Most people consider the K-3 visa process unnecessary due to the processing time, which is just as long as it takes to get a marriage green card, and because of the $265 filing fee. 


If you and your partner are legally married and have a pending From I-130, then you should apply directly for a marriage green card through consular processing since it takes the same amount of time.


However, its worth noting that the K-3 visa falls under a category of US visas. It's not a specific visa that makes the processing period vary based on the particular consulate or embassy an applicant uses.


What are the documents needed for a K-3 visa?

As a foreign spouse, you will be required to bring the following forms and documents to the K-3 visa interview:


  • Duly filled Form DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, and a printed confirmation page of it
  • A valid passport with a validity date of at least six months after the visa application date.
  • Civil documents. These include the original documents or certified copies and photocopies of documents such as:
    • Birth certificate
    • Marriage certificate
    • Divorce or death certificate depending on the circumstances
    • Police certificate from the current country of residence and all other countries where the foreign spouse has lived for 6 or more months.
  • Medical examination
  • Evidence from the U.S citizen spouse of financial support or Affidavit of Support from a joint sponsor
  • Two 2″x 2″ photographs in passport-style
  • Proof of relationship with the U.S. spouse
  • Receipt of fee payment

Do K-3 visas have any travel restrictions?

K-3 nonimmigrant visa holders don't have any restrictions regarding traveling. The K-3 visa is described as a multiple-entry visa valid for up to two years. And unlike the K-1 visa, it allows recipients to travel out and re-enter the United States freely. Foreign spouses with a valid K-3 visa do not need an Advance Parole document when traveling on a K-3 visa.


However, if your K-3 visa is set to expire before your return to the U.S and your Form I-485 is still pending, you will need advance parole document. Otherwise, you risk being denied re-entry.


Which USCIS office handles K-3 visa petitions?

Applicants file their petition with the USCIS service center with jurisdiction over the U.S citizen petitioner's place of residence. As such, no particular USCIS office is dedicated to processing K-3 visa petitions.


How Can an Immigration Law Firm Help?

A K-3 visa is a perfect and quick solution to unite with your spouse in the United States without an extended physical separation associated with obtaining an immigrant visa. But in practice, getting the K-3 visa can take several months to process, plus the U.S government rarely issues it. So for most people looking for a K-3 visa, the smartest approach is to contact an experienced immigration attorney.


There are various situations where a K-3 visa is your best choice, and if you are unsure of your situation, it's wise to work with an immigration lawyer about your case. An experienced immigration lawyer can tell you whether you need to apply for a K-3 visa or go straight for a green card. Contact us or post a job to find a qualified and skilled immigration attorney.