What Is a K-3 Visa?
The K-3 nonimmigrant visa is for the foreign-citizen spouse of a United States (U.S.) citizen. This visa category is intended to shorten the physical separation between the foreign-citizen and U.S. citizen spouses by having the option to obtain a nonimmigrant K-3 visa overseas and enter the United States to await approval of the immigrant visa petition. K-3 visa recipients subsequently apply to adjust status to a permanent resident (LPR) with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) upon approval of the petition. Because the spouse of a U.S. citizen applying for a nonimmigrant K-3 visa must have a immigrant visa petition filed on his or her behalf by his or her U.S. citizen spouse and pending approval, a K-3 applicant must meet some of the requirements of an immigrant visa. It should be noted that under U.S. immigration law, a foreign citizen who marries a U.S. citizen outside the U.S. must apply for the K-3 visa in the country where the marriage took place.
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.
What is a “Spouse”?
A spouse is a legally wedded husband or wife. Same-sex spouses of U.S. citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents, along with their minor children, are now eligible for the same immigration benefits as opposite-sex spouses.
- Merely living together does not qualify a marriage for immigration.
- Common-law spouses may qualify as spouses for immigration purposes depending on the laws of the country where the common-law marriage occurs.
- In cases of polygamy, only the first spouse may qualify as a spouse for immigration.
The First Step: Filing the Petitions
- You, the U.S. citizen sponsor, must first file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, with Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office that serves the area where you live. The USCIS will send a Notice of Action (Form I-797) receipt notice to inform you that it has received the petition. See the USCIS website under K-3/K-4 Nonimmigrant Visas for more information.
- You must then file Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé(e), for your foreign-citizen spouse and stepchildren. See Direct Filing Addresses for Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé(e) for information on where to file the petition for a K-3 visa.
- After USCIS approves the petitions, they will be sent to the National Visa Center (NVC) for processing.
The Second Step: Applying for a Visa
When both petitions have been approved by USCIS and sent to the NVC or when USCIS approves the I-130 before the I-129F, the availability of, as well as the need for, a nonimmigrant K-3 visa ends. If the NVC receives both an approved I-130 petition and an approved I-129F petition:
- The nonimmigrant K-3 visa case will be administratively closed.
- The application process explained below will not be available to the foreign-citizen spouse and cannot be used.
- The NVC will contact the U.S. citizen sponsor and foreign-citizen spouse, with instructions for processing the IR-1 (or CR-1) immigrant visa. For more information on the immigrant visa process, review the Immigrant Visa for a Spouse webpage.
If the NVC receives the approved I-129F petition before it receives the I-130 petition, the NVC will process the I-129F petition. NVC will then send the I-129F petition to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the country where the marriage took place. If the marriage took place in the United States, the NVC will send the petition to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate that issues visas in the foreign-citizen spouse’s country of nationality. If the marriage took place in a country that does not have a U.S. Embassy, or the Embassy or Consulate does not issue visas, the NVC will send the petition to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate that normally processes visas for citizens of that country. For example, if the marriage took place in Iran where the U.S. does not have an Embassy or Consulate, the petition would be sent to Turkey.
The U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you, the foreign-citizen spouse, will apply will provide you with specific instructions, including, where to go for the required medical examination. During your interview, ink-free, digital fingerprint scans will be taken. Some visa applications require further administrative processing, which takes additional time after the visa applicant’s interview by a Consular Officer.
Eligible children of K-3 visa applicants may apply for K-4 visas. Separate applications must be submitted for each K visa applicant, and each K visa applicant must pay the visa application fee.
Medical Examination and Vaccination Requirements
In preparing for the interview, applicants will need to schedule and complete a medical examination. Before the issuance of an immigrant or K visa, every applicant, regardless of age, must undergo a medical examination which must be performed by an authorized panel physician. You will be provided instructions regarding medical examinations from the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you will apply for your visa, including information on authorized panel physicians. See Medical Examination for more information, including a list of panel physicians by country, and frequently asked questions.
K visa applicants are encouraged to get the vaccinations required under U.S. immigration law for immigrant visa applicants. Although such vaccinations are not required for K visa issuance, they will be required when adjusting status to that of legal permanent resident. Applicants are therefore encouraged to fulfill these vaccination requirements at the time of the medical examination. See Vaccination Requirements for IV Applicants for the list of required vaccinations and additional information.
Proof of Financial Support and Affidavit of Support forms
During the visa interview, applicants will be required to present evidence to the Consular Officer that they will not become a public charge in the United States. You may present evidence that you are able to financially support yourself or that your U.S. citizen spouse is able to provide support. The Consular Officer may request that a Form I-134, Affidavit of Support, be submitted by the U.S. citizen spouse.
The U.S. citizen spouse will need to submit Form I-864 to USCIS with the application for adjustment of status to that of legal permanent resident.
Fees are charged for the following services:
- Filing a Petition for Alien Relative, Form I-130
- Filing an Alien Fiancé(e) Petition, Form I-129F
- Nonimmigrant visa application processing fee, Form DS-160 (required for each K visa applicant)
- Medical examination (required for each K visa applicant; costs vary from post to post)
- Other costs may include translation and photocopying charges, fees for getting the documents required for the visa application (such as passport, police certificates, birth certificates, etc.), and travel expenses to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate for an interview. Costs vary from country to country and case to case.
- Filing Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status
For current fees for Department of State, see Fees for Visa Services. For current fees for USCIS, see Check Filing Fees on the USCIS website.
Rights and Protections – Pamphlet
You should read the Rights and Protections pamphlet before your visa interview to learn about your rights in the United States relating to domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse and protection available to you. The consular officer will verbally summarize the pamphlet to you during your interview. Additionally, K-3 visa applicants will be provided with any existing criminal background information on their U.S. citizen spouses that USCIS received from other government agencies during processing of their Form I-129F petitions.
My petition expired – Can it be extended?
The I-129F petition is valid for four months from the date of approval by USCIS. A Consular Officer can extend the validity of the petition if it expires before visa processing is completed.
Ineligibilities for Visas
Certain conditions and activities may make you, the applicant, ineligible for a visa. Examples of these ineligibilities include: drug trafficking; overstaying a previous visa; and submitting fraudulent documents.
If you are ineligible for a visa, you will be informed by the Consular Officer and advised whether there is a waiver of the ineligibility and what the waiver process is. Learn more and see the complete list of ineligibilities.
How long will it take to get my K visa?
For Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé(e), you can visit the USCIS website for the status of your petition.
Once your case has been received from NVC by the U.S. Embassy or Consulate that will process it, the length of time varies from case to case according to its circumstances. Some cases are delayed because applicants do not follow instructions carefully or supply incomplete information. (It is important to give us correct postal addresses and telephone numbers.) Some visa applications require further administrative processing, which takes additional time after the visa applicant’s interview by a Consular Officer.
After You Receive a K-3 Visa
If you are issued a K-3 visa, the consular officer will give you your passport containing the K-3 visa and a sealed packet containing the civil documents you provided, plus other documents prepared by the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. It is important that you do not open the sealed packet. Only the DHS immigration official should open this packet when you enter the United States. As the K-3 visa holder, you must enter the U.S. before or at the same time as any qualifying children holding K-4 visas.
Does my U.S. citizen spouse need to file separate petitions for my children?
No. Your children may apply for K-4 visas based on the approval of Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé(e), that your U.S. citizen spouse filed on your behalf, but your U.S. citizen spouse must list the children on the petition. Separate visa applications must be submitted for each K-4 visa applicant, and each applicant must pay the K visa application fee.
Your U.S. citizen spouse is also not required to file I-130 petitions on behalf of your children before he or she is able to list them on the I-129F petition. However, your U.S. citizen spouse must file separate I-130 immigrant visa petitions for your children before they can qualify for permanent residence or apply for adjustment of status.
Important Notice: Under U.S. immigration law, a child must be unmarried. In order to file for adjustment of status for your child, the child’s stepchild relationship with your spouse must be created before your child reaches the age of 18.
Are my children required to travel with me?
Your children may travel with (accompany) you to the United States or travel later (follow-to-join). Like you, your children must travel within the validity of their K-4 visas. Separate petitions are not required if the children accompany or follow to join you within one year from the date of issuance of your K-3 visa. If they want to travel later than one year from the date your K-3 visa was issued, they will not be eligible to receive K-4 visas, and separate immigrant visa petitions will be required. If your child has a valid K-4 visa and you have already adjusted status to that of permanent resident, your child may still travel on the K-4 visa.
Entering the United States: Port-of-Entry
A visa allows a foreign citizen to travel to the U.S. port-of-entry and request permission to enter the United States. You should be aware that a visa does not guarantee entry into the United States. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials have authority to permit or deny admission to the U.S. Upon arrival at the port-of-entry, be prepared to present to the CBP officer your passport with visa and your unopened/sealed packet containing your documents. Travelers should review important information about admissions and entry requirements on the CBP website under Travel.
Adjustment of Status, Working in the United States, and Traveling Outside of the United States
Information for K-3/K-4 visa holders about adjustment of status, permission to work in the United States, and travel outside of the United States is available on the under K-3/K-4 Nonimmigrant Visas.
How to Apply for a Social Security Number Card
To learn about applying for a Social Security Number Card, visit the website for the Social Security Administration.