What Is the K-3 visa?

In a Nutshell

If you are the fiancé or spouse of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, there are a handful of visa options for you to join your partner in the United States. There are both fiancé visas and green cards available for foreign partners and spouses. The K-3 visa is an option that may be available to you as the spouse of a U.S. citizen, but not many immigrants opt for it. This article is a guide to the K-3 visa. It explains what the visa is, whether it's a good idea to get it and why many don't, and how to apply for the visa if you choose to.

Written by Jonathan Petts
Updated August 22, 2022

What is the K-3 visa?

The K-3 nonimmigrant visa is for foreign spouses of U.S. citizens. This visa category helps spouses unite with their partners in the United States sooner because it allows foreign citizens to enter while waiting for their immigrant visa petition's approval. K-3 visa recipients can adjust their status to become permanent residents or green cardholders.

However, for most applicants, the K-3 visa isn't worth it. In 2019, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued only five K-3 visas. Since the K-3 visa processing time usually takes six to nine months, it will take you just as long to get your K-3 visa as it would to get your marriage green card. The K-3 visa process is usually an unnecessary extra step and extra expense because of the $265 filing fee.  

Suppose you and your spouse are already married with a pending Form I-130. In that case, you should probably directly apply for a green card via consular processing, which takes the same amount of time. Once you arrive in the United States with an approved green card, you can work immediately as a permanent resident without any additional applications. 

Who is eligible for the K-3 visa?

If you would like to go ahead with getting the K-3 visa, you need to be sure you are eligible to apply. You qualify if you meet the following eligibility requirements: 

  • You are the legal spouse of a U.S. citizen. Your spouse cannot be a lawful permanent resident (LPR)

  • You currently reside outside of the United States 

  • You have already filed Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Your I-130 petition should be pending but not already approved, and USCIS should have provided a receipt notice. 

  • Your U.S. citizen spouse must meet specific income requirements. To qualify as a financial sponsor, the adjusted gross income on their most recent tax return must be at least 100% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. If they can't meet this requirement, they will need a joint sponsor willing to file an affidavit of support. They must be willing to take financial responsibility for you, the foreign spouse. 

  • Any biological or adopted children who will also come to the United States on a K-4 visa must be unmarried and younger than 21 years old. 

What is the K-3 visa application process?

To complete the K-3 visa application, you will need to file Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé, and Form DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application. You will then attend your visa interview. After receiving approval, you can travel to the United States, and once there, apply for your green card. 

Step 1: File Form I-129F

Your first step in the K-3 visa application process is filing Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé. The name of this form can be confusing, but rest assured that spouses of U.S. citizens can also use this form. Once you complete and sign this form, you need to attach supporting documentation, including: 

  • Your U.S. citizen spouse’s proof of citizenship, such as their passport, certificate of naturalization, or birth certificate

  • Your passport 

  • Legal marriage certificate and a certified English translation, if applicable 

  • Proof of termination of any prior marriages, such as a divorce decree, annulment document, or death certificate 

  • Your I-94 arrivals and departures record, if you ever received one from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) 

  • One passport-style photo of your U.S. citizen spouse and one passport-style photo of you 

  • Receipt notice or notice of action for Form I-130, which is technically known as Form I-797 

Unlike the I-129F petition for fiancés, there is no filing fee for I-129F petitions for spouses. 

After signing the form and attaching your supporting documents, you should make a copy of your completed form packet for yourself. Generally, within 30 days of filing Form I-129F, your spouse should receive a receipt notice. The notice will indicate that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) received your application packet and is processing it. Processing times will vary, but usually, it will take around six to nine months. 

During the six to nine months, USCIS may issue a Request for Evidence (RFE) to gather additional information. After USCIS approves your petition, your spouse will receive an approval notice at their U.S. mailing address. 

Step 2: File Form DS-160 and attend your visa interview

Generally, 30 days after USCIS approves your Form I-129F, you should receive a message, usually via email, from the U.S. embassy in your home country. This message will include the date and time of your visa interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country and a list of the documents required for the interview. 

Your next step is to file the DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application form, on the Department of State website. You will have to include a passport-style photograph. Once you file this form electronically, you should print out and bring the confirmation page to your interview, in addition to these documents: 

  • Legal marriage certificate 

  • Your valid, unexpired passport 

  • Your birth certificate 

  • Your police clearance, from all countries you resided in for more than six months since you were sixteen years old 

  • Your sealed medical examination results, which you should obtain from a physician authorized by the Department of State 

  • Your sponsor’s affidavit of support, or Form I-134

  • Your sponsoring spouse’s most recent tax returns 

  • Proof of your relationship, such as the pending Form I-130 package you filed with USCIS. You may also want to bring other evidence your marriage is valid, such as wedding photographs. 

  • Two passport-style photographs of you 

The filing fee is $265, usually paid at the time of your interview. Pay attention to the time and place of the payment specified in the embassy’s message, which varies depending on your home country. 

Usually, your interview will occur four to six weeks after the embassy sends you information. You will receive a decision about your visa the same day or shortly after. If the consular officer who interviews you needs additional evidence, you will submit it directly to the U.S. consulate. 

Step 3: Apply for a green card once in the United States

Once USCIS approves your K-3 visa, you can travel to the United States! You already have a pending Form I-130 to become a lawful permanent resident, so you can apply for your green card at any time. You will file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, based on your pending or approved Form I-130 or immigrant visa application. 

It’s a good idea to file for employment authorization and a travel permit alongside your green card application. Otherwise, you may have to wait around four months for your green card approval to be able to work. You can apply for employment authorization via Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, and submit these once you arrive in the United States. 

Do children of a K-3 visa holder also get status?

Yes, your unmarried children under 21 can receive K-4 visas based on your Form I-129F. However, you must include your children as dependents on your petition. You will also have to submit separate visa applications and K-4 visa fees for each child. 

After entering the United States, your children must file separate adjustment of status applications. You cannot include them on your Form I-485. To qualify for adjustment of status, your child must have been under 18 years old when you married your U.S. citizen spouse.