The Complete Guide to K3 Visas

Updated on August 14, 2023
At a Glance: The K3 visa allows the foreign spouse of a U.S. citizen to live in the U.S. while waiting for the permanent resident process. Eligibility requires a legal marriage, submission of Form I-130, and an approved Form I-129F. The application process involves filing petitions, submitting documentation, and attending an interview. The processing time is around 6-9 months. K3 visa holders can obtain employment authorization and travel freely.

A K3 visa can help facilitate your reunion if you are a U.S. citizen married to a foreign national residing outside of the United States. Rather than waiting abroad for immigrant visa processing, it is possible for your legally married spouse to obtain a K3 visa and enter the U.S. as a nonimmigrant.

This article will go over K3 visa eligibility requirements, the application procedure, and processing time along with some frequently asked questions.

What Is a K3 Visa?

The K3 visa is a nonimmigrant visa that allows the spouse of a U.S. citizen, who is residing in a foreign country, to move to the United States while waiting to complete the permanent resident process. This visa status is specifically applicable to legally married couples where one spouse is a U.S. citizen and the other is from a foreign country.

Who Is Eligible for a K3 Visa?

The K3 visa is intended for the spouse of a U.S. citizen who is legally married in a foreign country. It is available to those individuals who meet the following eligibility criteria.

  • The applicant must be legally married to a U.S. citizen.
  • The applicant must reside in a foreign country and hold a valid foreign passport.
  • The family sponsorship form (Form I-130) must have been duly submitted by the spouse who is a U.S. citizen.
  • Form I-130 must be currently pending with the USCIS and the applicant must have the receipt notice.
  • Petition for Alien Fiancé, Form I-129F in approved status, has been forwarded to the U.S. consulate abroad where the spouse of the U.S. citizen wishes to apply for the K3 visa.
  • The spouse who is a U.S. citizen must be financially well-off to meet certain income requirements. The most recent tax return must show that the gross income is at least 100% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.
  • If the gross income in the most recent income tax return falls below 100% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, then a joint sponsor must file an “affidavit of support.”

How to Apply for a K3 Visa?

Want to file a K3 visa application for your foreign spouse, but not sure what the procedure is? Don’t worry, we have compiled a step-by-step guide on the K3 visa application process. All you need to do is follow the steps outlined below.

Step-1: File Form I-130 Petition

The spouse who is a U.S. citizen must file two petitions on behalf of his/her foreign spouse with the USCIS—first, Form I-130 and then Form I-129F.

Form I-130 refers to the Petition for Alien Relative. It has to be duly filled in and submitted to the USCIS Service Center along with the following set of documentation:

  • Evidence of U.S. citizenship (copy of U.S. birth certificate, U.S. passport, Certificate of Naturalization, or Certificate of Citizenship).
  • Biographic Data Sheet, Form G-325A, one each for the U.S. citizen and the foreign spouse.
  • Passport copy of the foreign spouse.
  • Foreign spouse birth certificate.
  • Marriage certificate and relevant documents confirming the relationship.
  • Colored passport size photograph of both the spouses.
  • Copy of any divorce decree, death certificate, or marriage annulment if either the U.S. citizen or the foreign spouse have been previously married.

Upon receipt of the petition, the USCIS will issue a Form I-797 (Notice of Action) indicating that the petition is being processed.

Step-2: File Form I-129F Petition

After obtaining the Receipt Notice (Form I-797) for Form I-130, the next step is to file the Petition for Alien Fiancé (e), Form I-129F. This form must be filled out and submitted along with copies of the following documents:

  • Evidence of U.S. citizenship (copy of U.S. birth certificate, U.S. passport, Certificate of Naturalization, or Certificate of Citizenship).
  • The applicant spouse’s foreign passport.
  • Legal marriage certificate. For foreign language certificates, the applicant must produce a certified English translation.
  • Proof of termination of any prior marriage (divorce decree, death certificate, or marriage annulment document).
  • If the foreign spouse has ever been to the United States, then form I-94 (Arrival/Departure Record) must be submitted.
  • Passport size photographs of both the spouses.
  • Form I-797, Receipt Notice for Form I-130.

It usually takes around 30 days for the USCIS to issue the receipt notice for Form I-129F, indicating that the petition has been received and is being processed. The processing time varies depending on the availability of staff and workload, but on average, it takes around 6-9 months to get approved.

Once the applicant spouse receives the correspondence of approval, the next step is to electronically file the DS-160 visa application form on the U.S. Department of State website.

Step-3: Submit Form DS-160

First, create a user account on the official website of the U.S. Department of State. Then, download form DS-160, fill it out and submit it electronically. When you submit the filled in DS-160 form, the web portal generates a confirmation page with a barcode that you need to retain for future use.

Step-4: Make the Payment and Schedule the Interview

You can pay the visa processing fee online or decide to pay later during the interview. Currently, the processing fee for the K3 visa is $265.

The embassy or consulate where the foreign spouse resides will then schedule an interview with the applicant. It is usually scheduled 4-6 weeks after notification is given to the applicant. In the meantime, the applicant is required to undergo a medical examination. The list of approved hospitals will be shared by the consulate. They will also inform the applicant whether any additional documentation is required. Below is the list of documents that the applicant is required to carry for the interview:

  • Original birth certificate.
  • DS-160 submission confirmation.
  • Foreign passport of the applicant.
  • Completed Nonimmigrant Visa Application Forms DS-156 and Supplement Form DS-156K.
  • Filled in Biographical Form DS-230.
  • Evidence of termination of prior marriage(s) (if applicable).
  • Police clearance certificates.
  • Result of medical examination.
  • 2 colored passport size photographs.
  • Form I-134 (Affidavit of Support) (if required).

The applicant can expect to receive a decision on his/her visa approval on the interview day or shortly thereafter. Upon receiving the formal approval of the K3 visa, the spouse may then travel to the United States.

K3 Visa Processing Time

Obtaining a K3 visa is a time-consuming exercise. The waiting period for the approval of Forms I-130 and I-129F contributes to the delay. Then there is the submission of Form DS-160 and scheduling the interview, which takes another couple of months. On average, the entire process usually takes around 6-9 months.

K3 Visa Frequently Asked Questions

Q1: Can K3 Visa Holders Get Social Security Numbers?

A1: The K3 visa does not include a work permit, so applicants are not eligible to get a SSN directly. You can, however, file for employment authorization and upon a change of visa status may apply for a Social Security Number.

Q2: Can K3 Visa Holders Work in the U.S.?

A2: K3 visa holders can obtain employment in the U.S. after getting employment authorization from the proper authorities. You can file for EAD immediately after arrival to get the required work permit.

Q3: Can K3 Visa Holders Travel Outside the U.S.?

A3: K3 visa holders are allowed to travel in and out of the U.S. freely!

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The K3 visa is intended to facilitate the entry of a foreign spouse to the United States. There are certain eligibility criteria that the applicant must fulfill to obtain a K3 visa. A K3 visa does not include a work permit, so in order to be legally employed in the United States, the visa holder must get employment authorization first—which is a prerequisite for getting a Social Security Number as well.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.