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K3 Visa: Do You Need One? Thumbnail

K3 Visa: Do You Need One?


The K-3 visa helps couples limit their separation when married outside of the United States and the citizen spouse must return to the US. It’s supposed to provide access for the immigrant spouse sooner than the green card process allows.

While the K-3 process isn’t used often, it’s important to know how it works and that it’s an option should you need it.

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What Is a K-3 Visa?

If you’re a US citizen, but your spouse isn’t, you can apply for a K-3 visa, which is a temporary visa for your spouse, allowing him/her in the US faster than a typical visa. 

With a K-3 visa, your spouse can be in the United States while waiting for his/her visa. If you and your spouse have children, they may also enter the United States with a K-4 visa.  

The K-3 visa is most common for couples who marry outside of the United States, but then the US citizen needs to return to the states. Because the immigration process could take 1 year or longer, the K-3 visa provides the opportunity for your spouse to enter the US sooner.

Related Article | Green Card vs. Visa: What's the Difference?

K-3 Visa Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible for the K-3 visa, you must have married outside the United States, and you must meet these requirements:

  • Your spouse must be a US citizen, not a green card holder
  • The US citizen must file the Petition for Alien Relative Form I-I30 before entering the United States, but be in review, not yet approved
  • You must be a resident of a country outside the US
  • Your spouse must qualify as a financial sponsor for immigrants, by meeting the income guidelines (make more than the federal poverty level)
  • If the US citizen doesn’t make enough money, there must be a joint sponsor

All children who will enter the United States on a K-4 visa must be younger than 21 years old and be unmarried.

Steps to Apply For the K-3 Visa

To apply for the K-3 visa, take these steps:

1. Complete Form I-30

Complete Form I-30 at the same time or before completing Form I-29F. Send the form to the correct address, which will grant you an immigrant visa to enter the United States.

If the National Visa Center receives your I-29F petition before your I-30 petition is approved, they’ll process the I-29F petition. However, if the I-30 petition is approved first, they won’t process the I-29F petition because it’s not needed. 

2. Complete Form I-29F

The name may seem to deceive, but it’s the first step to the K-3 visa. Complete the Petition for Alien Fiance and send it to the correct address. This is the first step to applying for your K-3 visa. 

You may file Form I-29F first or with Form I-30. Form I-29F may not be necessary if Form I-30 is approved first, but many couples file both to minimize the amount of time they must be apart.

Either (or both) forms are sent to the National Visa Center upon approval for further processing. 

3. Do the Interview and Medical Exam

If the National Visa center processes your I-29F petition first, you’ll undergo an interview (both you and your spouse). Follow all instructions provided by your embassy, including bringing the appropriate payment and documents to your appointment.

Most decisions are made instantly or shortly after the interview.

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Documentation Required for the K-3 Visa

To complete the processing of your K-3 visa, you and any eligible children must provide:

  • Form DS-160, Nonimmigrant Visa Application
  • Non-immigrant’s birth certificate
  • Marriage certificate for the couple
  • Dissolution of any previous marriages (or death certificate if applicable)
  • Police certificate for any country you or your children lived for over 6 months
  • Valid passport good for at least 6 months longer than you plan to stay in the US
  • Proof of financial support from a spouse or joint sponsor 
  • Medical exam

You’ll also need the appropriate fees based on the forms you’re filing.

How Long Does the K-3 Visa Process Take?

Here’s the problem. The K-3 visa can take as long as the green card, so most couples don’t end up with the K-3 visa.

Once the I-30 Form is approved, you don’t need a K-3 visa, but then you’ve paid the fees for it. Many couples just wait for the immigrant visa and save money since both processes take around the same amount of time. It may mean a slightly longer separation, but there’s always the chance that it will get approved faster.

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How Long Can You Stay on a K-3 Visa?

Most couples have their green card before the K-3 visa expires. If that’s not the case, the K-3 visa lasts for 2 years or until the I-30 is approved and you can apply for a green card. If there is an issue with your I-30, you can file for an extension. 

Example of a K-3 Visa

Here’s a real-life example of a couple who could apply for the K-3 visa.

Jack is a United States citizen, but he worked abroad in Japan for 3 years. In his time there, he fell in love and married. He and his spouse live in Japan until Jack has to go back to the United States for his job - they relocated him back home.

Since they want to move back to the United States together, Jack’s spouse must file for a green card, but that could take a year or longer to get. Jack and his wife also had a child while in Japan, and they don’t want to be separated.

To fix the issue, Jack’s spouse files for a K-3 visa and his child for the K-4 visa with Jack as the financial sponsor. While here, Jack’s spouse can apply for her green card, but she’ll be together with her family while she waits rather than being stuck in Japan away from her spouse.

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The Bottom Line

Do you need a K-3 visa? You might, but chances are you won’t. We can help you determine which visa is right for you and your spouse to limit your time apart and get you into the country faster. 

The key is to provide the right documentation and file the right documents to get your green card faster, allowing you to be in the United States with your spouse. 

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