Education & Resources
Employer Guides
International Student Guides
Green Card Guides
Citizenship Guides
Other Guides
Important Links
"K-3" Visa
Nonimmigrant Visa for a Spouse (K-3)

What Is a Nonimmigrant Visa for a Spouse (K-3) Visa?

Spouses of U.S. citizens, and the spouse's children, can come to the United States on nonimmigrant visas (K-3 and K-4) and wait in the United States to complete the immigration process. Before a K-4 visa can be issued to a child, the parent must have a K-3 visa or be in K-3 status.

What Is a "Spouse"?

A spouse is a legally wedded husband or wife. Cohabiting partners do not qualify as spouses for immigration purposes. 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 qualifies as a spouse for immigration. U.S. law does not allow polygamy. If you were married before, you and your spouse must show that you ended (terminated) all previous marriages before your current marriage. The death and divorce documents that show termination of marriages must be legal and verifiable in the country that issued them. Divorces must be final. In cases of legal marriage to two or more spouses at the same time, or marriages overlapping for a period of time, you may file only for the first spouse.

Two Petitions are Required

You must first file an immigrant Petition for Alien Relative, Form I-130 for your spouse with the USCIS Office that serves the area where you live. The USCIS will send you a Notice of Action (Form I-797) receipt notice. This notice tells you that the USCIS has received the petition.

You next file Petition for Alien Fiancé(e), Form I-129F for your spouse and children. Send the I-129F petition, supporting documents and a copy of the Form I-797 receipt notice to USCIS.

National Visa Center Sends Petition to Post

After the USCIS approves the I-129F, it sends it to the National Visa Center (NVC). The NVC sends the petition to the embassy or consulate in the country where the marriage took place. If your marriage took place in the United States, the NVC sends the petition to the embassy or consulate that issues visas in the country of your spouse's nationality.

If your marriage took place in a country that does not have an American embassy, or the embassy does not issue visas, the NVC sends the petition to the embassy or consulate that normally processes visas for citizens of that country. For example, if the marriage took place in Iran where the United States does not have an embassy, the petition would be sent to Turkey.

A K-3 Is Also an Immigrant

The spouse of an U.S. citizen applying for a nonimmigrant visa (K-3 applicant) must have an immigrant visa petition on his/her behalf by the U.S. citizen spouse. Therefore, the spouse of the U.S. citizen (the K-3 applicant) must meet some of the requirements of an immigrant visa.

Applying for a Visa

The embassy or consulate where you, the spouse of an American citizen, will apply for a K-3 visa must be in the country where your marriage took place. Here are the procedures to apply. The embassy or consulate will let you know any additional things to do, such as where you need to go for the required medical examination. During the interview process, an ink-free, digital fingerprint scan will be taken. Some visa applications require further administrative processing which takes additional time after the visa applicant’s interview by a Consular Officer. The following is required:

  • A passport valid for travel to the United States and with a validity date at least six months beyond the applicant's intended period of stay in the United States (unless country-specific agreements provide exemptions).
  • Birth certificate
  • Divorce or death certificate of any previous spouse for both the applicant and the petitioner
  • Police certificate from all places lived since age 16
  • Medical examination (vaccinations are optional, see below)
  • Evidence of financial support (Form I-134, Affidavit of Support may be requested.)
  • Two Nonimmigrant Visa Applications, Form DS-156 (A Form DS-156, prepared in duplicate.)
  • One Nonimmigrant Fiancé(e) Visa Application, Form DS-156K
  • Two nonimmigrant visa photos (each two inches 50 X 50 mm square, showing full face, against a light background)
  • Marriage certificate for spouse
  • Payment of fees, as explained below.
Fees - How Much Does It Cost?

Fees are charged for the following services:

  • Filing an immigrant Petition for Alien Relative, Form I-130
  • Filing an Alien Fiancé(e) Petition, Form I-129F
  • Applying for a nonimmigrant visa application processing fee, DS-156
  • Medical examination (costs vary from post to post)
  • Fingerprinting fees, if required
  • 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 expenses for travel to the 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, government services select Fees .

Extending the Petition

The I-129F petition is valid for four months from the date of approval. A consular officer can extend the validity of the petition (revalidate the petition) if it expires before you finish processing the visa.

Children Have Derivative Status

Children do not need separate Petition for Alien Relative, I-130 petitions, but you, the petitioner, must take care to name all your children on the Petition for Alien Fiance, I-129F petition. If you do not name the children on the petition, they may find it difficult to prove their identity as children of a K-3 applicant or person in K-3 status.

You must file separate I-130 immigrant visa petitions for your children before they qualify for permanent residence. When they adjust status in the United States, they must file Form I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status with the USCIS Office that serves the area where you live. Remember that in immigration law children must be unmarried and under 21 years of age.

If the Child is Not Named on the I-129F Petition

The K-4 visa will not be denied because the child's name is not listed on the I-129F petition. As long as it can be established that he/she is the minor, unmarried child of the applicant issued a K-3 visa.

Can a K-3 Visa Holder Work in the United States?

As a K-3 visa holder you may file Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization with the USCIS office that serves the area where you live for a work permit (employment authorization document). For more information see How Do I Get a Work Permit (Employment Authorization Document)?

How Long Does It Take?

The length of time varies from case to case according to its circumstances. The time it takes each USCIS office and each consular office to process the case varies. Some cases are delayed because the applicant does not follow instructions carefully or supplies incomplete information. (It is important to give correct 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.

What If the Applicant Is Ineligible for a Visa?

Certain conditions and activities may make an applicant ineligible for a visa. Examples of these ineligibilities are:

  • Trafficking in Drugs
  • Having HIV/AIDS
  • Overstaying a previous visa
  • Practicing polygamy
  • Advocating the overthrow of the government
  • Submitting fraudulent documents

The consular officer will tell you, the applicant, if you are ineligible for a visa, whether there is a waiver of the ineligibility and what the waiver procedure is. For a complete list of ineligibilities see Classes of Aliens Ineligible to Receive Visas .

How do I qualify for a child of a spouse (K-4) nonimmigrant visa?

To qualify for K-4 issuance, an applicant must be the minor, unmarried child under 21 years of age of a qualified K-3 visa applicant. The U.S. citizen who files an I-129F petition for an alien spouse does not have to file a separate I-129F petition for a child of his/her spouse. These children should be listed on the I-129F petition for the spouse. While the U.S. citizen must also file an I-130 petition for the alien spouse, there is no requirement to file a Form I-130 immigrant visa petition on behalf of the alien's children seeking K-4 nonimmigrant status, since K-4 is a derivative nonimmigrant classification.

How does a K-4 child adjust status in the United States?

The K-4 child will not be able to file for adjustment of status in the United States until the U.S. citizen parent/step-parent files a I-130 on behalf of the child. If the U.S. citizen parent/step-parent never files the I-130 petition, the immigrating parent may do so once he/she has obtained legal permanent resident (LPR) status, but the child would have to wait for an available visa number. Finally, the immigrant parent, upon adjusting status will no longer be in K-3 status, therefore, the child will no longer be in lawful K-4 status, since this is merely a derivative classification, and that child would begin to accrue unlawful presence.

Can those with K-3 and K-4 visas change to another non-immigrant visa category in the United States?

K-3/K-4 visa holders cannot change status in the United States to another non-immigrant visa category.

Can I travel and re-enter the U.S. on my K-3 or K-4 visa?

Aliens present in the United States in a K-3 or K-4 nonimmigrant visa status can travel outside of the United States and return using their K-3/K-4 visa. If they have filed for adjustment of status in the U.S. prior to departure from the U.S., USCIS will not presume that the departure constitutes abandonment of an adjustment application.

How do I apply for a K-3 Visa?

To apply for K-3, K-4 visa click here >