Guide to the F3 Visa

Updated on March 6, 2024

At a Glance

  • The F3 visa is a Family Based Green Card allowing U.S. citizens to bring their married children, spouses, and minor children from foreign countries to the United States.
  • It is a Preference Relative visa, offering benefits such as exemption from employment visas and seamless travel for studies.
  • To qualify, individuals must meet specific criteria and submit required documents.
  • The application process involves petitioning the USCIS, completing Form DS-260, undergoing a medical examination, attending a visa interview, and paying relevant fees.

Having your family living in different places can be a little agitating, especially if you live in two different countries. If you are a U.S. citizen whose child is living in a foreign country with his/her spouse and children, and you want to bring them all to the U.S., F3 visas are the way to ensure that.

However, applying for F3 visas can be a cumbersome and painstaking process. That’s why we have carefully detailed all the steps you must take to unite your family.

What Is an F3 Visa?

Unlike the F1 visa, the F3 visa is a Family Based Green Card that allows U.S. citizens to bring their children, who are settled in foreign countries, to the United States. The F3 visa is categorized alongside the F2A, F2B, and F4, as a Preference Relative visa, and is applicable for married children, their spouses, and minor children as well. It does not, however, include grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc.

This is one of the most preferred visas; however, the USCIS only issues 23,400 F3 visas each year. The F3 visa comes with a lot of benefits. If you are allotted an F3 visa, you won’t need an employment visa, and your travel for studies will be seamless.

Who Qualifies for an F3 Visa?

If you are looking to apply for an F3 Visa, here are the criteria:

  • You must have a birth certificate proving that at least one of your parents is a U.S. citizen
  • You must be 21 years of age or older
  • You must have a valid marriage certificate

Parents who wish to bring their children into the United States must meet the following criteria:

  • You must be a U.S. citizen
  • You must have birth/adoption certificates proving you have an adult child residing in a foreign country
  • You live in the U.S. and have a valid address

Required Documents for an F3 Visa

The documents required to apply for an F3 visa are as follows:

  • Passports (yours, your spouse’s, and your children’s) with validity extending beyond six months from the date of your entry into the U.S.
  • Signed Affidavit of Support (Form I-864) from the sponsor (parent)
  • Documents about medical examinations and vaccinations
  • Marriage certificate
  • Form DS-260 confirmation
  • Photographs of everyone
  • Birth certificate and/or adoption documents
  • Any court or criminal records and/or police certificates
  • Records of time served in the military
  • If you are no longer married, the divorce certificate

Please note that all submitted documents must be in English. Once you have collated all the required documents, you must send your file to the National Visa Center (NVC). The NVC will call you for a one-on-one interview if your application is deemed qualified.

How to Apply for an F3 Visa?

Applying for an F3 visa is a long process and generally involves the following steps:

  • The U.S. citizen petitions the USCIS for bringing their child, the spouse, and their children into the U.S.
  • After the USCIS approves the petition, the applicant’s family can start the visa application process at their U.S. consulate or embassy
  • Complete and submit Form DS-260
  • Undergo medical examination and get all required vaccinations
  • Attend the visa interview
  • Final confirmation from the NVC

We will explain each of these steps in detail in the next section.

Petitioning the USCIS

The parent (U.S. citizen) must petition the USCIS by submitting the completed Form I-130 (petition for alien relative). It is important to include the name of the spouse and any minor children at this stage. There is a fee involved at the time of submission of Form I-130. The petition submitted to the USCIS is processed after it goes through the Department of Homeland Security.

Once the petition is approved, the NVC sends a detailed list of steps the foreign applicant must follow. If the USCIS rejects the petition, it notifies the U.S. citizen of mistakes in the petition, which can then be rectified before re-submission.

F3 Visa Application

Once you receive the document package from the NVC, visit the U.S. embassy or consulate in your country to start the application process. Please note there will be a separate visa application for each of the members listed in the petition.

Filing Form DS-260

The Immigrant Visa Electronic Application is required for all immigrants seeking a U.S. visa. The form is to be duly filled by each person, i.e. you, your spouse, and your children stating their reason for immigration to the U.S. Once you have submitted the form, you will receive a confirmation (page and number), which then has to be submitted to the NVC, along with other documents.

Medical Examination and Vaccination

The USCIS requires all immigrants to undergo a thorough medical examination and receive all necessary vaccinations from licensed practitioners and submit a report along with the forms.

Visa Interview

The last step in the F3 visa application process is attending an interview at your respective consulate or embassy after the NVC has cleared your application. The officer interviewing you will determine whether or not you should be allowed to enter the U.S.

F3 Visa Cost

Applying for an F3 Visa requires payment of fees as set by the USCIS, U.S. Homeland Security, and respective consulates or embassies. Fees will be incurred for the following:

  • Form I-130
  • Processing of Form DS-260
  • Medical examination and vaccinations
  • Translation fees (if any) for the documents
  • An immigrant fee which is to be paid to the USCIS before your travel to the U.S. and after getting a visa

F3 Visa Processing Time

Since there is a very limited number of F3 visas allotted each year, the USCIS takes time to process applications thoroughly. Due to the number of applications received each year by USCIS, the processing time ranges from one to ten years.

Read More


Keeping in mind the long processing time, it is best to start your F3 visa application now. It is going to be a long and winding road, but it will all be worth it when you have your children and grandchildren living in one country together. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

1. What Is an F3 Visa, and Who Is Eligible for It?

The F3 Visa, also known as the “Married Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens” visa, is a family-sponsored immigrant visa category that allows the married children of U.S. citizens to immigrate to the United States. To be eligible for an F3 Visa, you must be the married son or daughter of a U.S. citizen who is at least 21 years old.

2. How Do I Apply for an F3 Visa?

To apply for an F3 Visa, your U.S. citizen parent must file a Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, on your behalf. Once the I-130 petition is approved, it will be forwarded to the National Visa Center (NVC), where you will go through further processing, including submitting required documents and fees.

3. Is There a Waiting Period for F3 Visa Applicants?

Yes, there is typically a waiting period for F3 Visa applicants. The waiting time depends on the visa bulletin’s priority date for the F3 category, which can vary based on the applicant’s country of origin and the demand for visas in that category.

4. Can My Spouse and Children Accompany Me on an F3 Visa?

Yes, your spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 can accompany you to the United States on derivative visas (F3A and F3B visas) if they are listed on the approved Form I-130 petition.

5. What Is the Process for Consular Processing for F3 Visa Applicants?

After your priority date becomes current, you will go through consular processing. This involves attending a visa interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country, where you will be required to provide documentation, undergo a medical examination, and attend an interview with a consular officer.

6. Are There Any Annual Numerical Limits for F3 Visas?

Yes, there are annual numerical limits for F3 Visas, which means that only a certain number of visas are issued each fiscal year. These limits can result in waiting periods for applicants from countries with high demand for F3 Visas.

7. Can I Work in the U.S. on an F3 Visa?

Once you enter the United States on an F3 Visa, you may apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) to legally work in the country. However, work opportunities may be limited, as the F3 Visa is primarily for family reunification.

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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.

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