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K3 vs K4 Visa: What You Should Know

The K3 visa allows non-U.S. foreign citizens who are the spouse of a United States citizen to come to the United States. The K4 visa allows eligible children of K3 visa applicants to enter into and stay in the United States. The K3 and K4 visas are not permanent, but allow the spouse of a U.S. citizen and their eligible children to enter the United States to then apply for permanent resident status. K3 and K4 visa holders must apply for adjustment of status with the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) after arriving in the United States in order to become a permanent U.S. resident.

How are the K3 and the K4 visas different?

  • K3 visa
    The K3 visa is the nonimmigrant visa available for foreign citizens who are the spouse of a U.S. citizen. The K3 visa permits the visa holder to immigrate to the United States to stay with their U.S. citizen spouse until legal permanent resident status can be obtained. The foreign citizen spouse must meet certain requirements in order to be granted a K3 visa.
  • K4 visa
    The K4 visa is the nonimmigrant visa available for the eligible children of a foreign citizen who is the spouse of a U.S. citizen.

How to qualify for the K3 & K4 visa

  • K3 visa
    To qualify for the K3 visa, an applicant and his or her U.S. citizen spouse must meet several criteria:

    • The applicant is the spouse of a United States citizen;
    • The applicant and the U.S. citizen are legally wedded as husband and wife or as a same-sex couple;
    • The applicant is the same person the U.S. citizen spouse filed Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative on behalf of;
    • The applicant seeks to enter the United States to await the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services decision on the Form I-130;
  • K4 visa
    To qualify for the K4 visa, an applicant must be a child under the age of 21 to a K3 visa applicant. Thus, a K4 visa holder must continue to be unmarried and under the age of 21 in order to be admitted to the United States and throughout their stay in the United States as K4 nonimmigrants.

What is the process for obtaining a K4 & K4 visa?

  • K3 visa process
    The process for receiving a K3visa requires the U.S. citizen spouse to initiate the process on behalf of his or her foreign citizen spouse by filing required forms with the USCIS.

    Step One: Filling out the Form I-129F and the Form I-130 with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services

    The first step to receive a K3 visa is for the U.S. citizen spouse to file Form I-129F, Petition for Alien fiance(e)(e) and the Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. Both forms are filed with the USCIS.

    By filing Form I-129F, the U.S. citizen is asking the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services to recognize the relationship between the U.S. citizen and the applicant. By filing Form I-130, the U.S. citizen is asking the United State Citizenship and Immigration Services to establish his or her relationship with their foreign citizen spouse for the purpose of the spouse coming to the United State permanently.

    The USCIS will then review the submitted Form I-129F and Form I-130 and may request additional information or documentation.

    Approval of Form I-129F before approval of Form I-130

    If the USCIS establishes the applicant’s eligibility for the K3 visa, the Form I-129F is approved and then sent to the United States Department of State National Visa Center. The approved Form I-129F is valid for four months from the date of approval by the USCIS. A consular officer may extend the validity of the Form I-129F if it expires before processing is complete.

    If the USCIS denies the applicant’s Form I-129F, the applicant will be notified of the reasons why it was denied. Certain conditions and activities may make an applicant ineligible, including drug trafficking, overstaying a previous visa, or submitting fraudulent documents. Some ineligibilities may be waived, while others may not.

    After the Form I-129F is approved, the K3 visa applicant must complete the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application by filling out Form DS-160. While completing the Form DS-160, the K3 visa applicant must upload a photo that meets certain photograph requirements.

    Approval of Form I-130 at the same time or before approval of Form I-129F

    If the applicant’s Form I-130 is approved by the USCIS before or at the same time as the applicant’s Form I-129F, the applicant will no longer need the K3 visa, and his or her children will no longer need the K4 visa. Instead, an immigrant visa is immediately available to the applicant and his or her children, and they must apply for them to seek admission to the United States as lawful permanent residents.

    Step Two: Visa Application and Interview at U.S. Embassy or Consulate

    If the National Visa Center receives the K3 visa applicant’s approved Form I-129F before the Form I-130, the Form I-129F will be forwarded to the U.S. Embassy or consulate nearest to the K3 visa applicant. The U.S. Embassy or consulate will then notify the applicant of the day and time of the applicant’s visa interview at the U.S. Embassy or consulate.

    Interview at U.S. Embassy or Consulate

    The K3 visa applicant must attend an interview at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate nearest to them. At the interview, the applicant needs to establish that they meet the qualifications for the K3 visa. The K3 visa applicant must bring certain items with them to the interview as required by the U.S. Embassy or Consulate that hosts the interview. These items and documents help the United States Department of State verify the applicant’s qualifications for the K3 visa and the legitimacy of his or her marriage with the U.S. citizen spouse.

    The K3 visa applicant must bring the following documents to the interview:

    • Completed Form DS-160
    • A valid passport for travel
    • Birth certificate
    • Marriage certificate
    • Police certificates from the applicant’s present country of residence and all countries where the applicant has lived for six months or more since age 16
    • Medical examination documents
    • Evidence of financial support, including Form I-134, if requested
    • Two photographs conforming to photograph requirements
    • Evidence of the applicant’s relationship with the U.S. citizen spouse
    • Payment of all applicable fees

    Step Three: Entering the United States

    After a K3 visa is issued to an applicant, the Consular Officer will provide the applicant with a passport containing the K3 visa and a sealed packet that contains the documents the applicant provided as well as documents

    prepared by the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. The new K3 visa holder must not open the sealed packet. The sealed packet will be opened by the DHS immigration official when the new K3 visa holder enters the United States. The new K3 visa holder must seek entry into the United States within 6 months from the date the visa was issued.

    After the K3 visa holder arrives in the United States, the U.S. citizen spouse will need to submit Form I-485 to the USCIS with application for adjustment of status so that the K3 visa holder can become a legal permanent resident.

    After the U.S. citizen spouse submits the Form I-485 with accompanying documents, the application to register for permanent residence is reviewed by the USCIS. Both spouses are usually required to appear for an interview. Approval of the Form I-485 will grant the foreign citizen spouse a Green Card valid for 10 years.

    If the marriage is less than two years old at the time the Form I-485 is approved, the USCIS will grant the foreign citizen spouse conditional permanent resident status and issue him or her a Green Card valid for 2 years. The conditions will then need to be removed by the foreign citizen spouse filing Form I-751 in the 90 days before his or her Green Card expires.

  • K4 visa process
    The process for obtaining a K4 visa for eligible children of the K3 visa applicant can occur simultaneously to the K3 visa applicant’s petition, or after.

    Generally, the K4 application process involves the same steps as the K3 visa application process.

    Form I-129F, Form I-130, and Form DS-160

    When the U.S. citizen spouse submits the Form I-129F, the children seeking a K4 visa must be listed on the form. A separate Form I-130 must be filed by the U.S. citizen spouse for each K4 visa child applicant.

    Eligible children may apply for K4 visas once the Form I-129F is approved for the K3 visa applicant(s). If the K4 visa applicant’s Form I-130 is approved before or at the same time as the Form I-129F, then the K4 visa applicant(s) may also forgo the K4 visa and immediately qualify for an immigrant visa.

    If the Form I-129F is approved before the Form I-130, approval of the Form I-129F applies to all eligible K4 visa applicant(s) listed. However, each K4 visa applicant must have his or her own Form DS-160 completed and submitted, and each must pay the required fee. The K4 visa applicant(s) over the age of 14 will likely be required to attend the U.S. Embassy or Consulate along with his or her parent.

    At the interview, the K4 visa applicant and his or her parent will be asked questions to verify their relationship and the K4 applicant’s eligibility.

    The K4 visa applicant should bring to the interview the following documents:

    Entering the United States

    After the K4 visa holder(s) arrives in the United States, the U.S. citizen spouse will need to submit Form I-485 to the USCIS with application for adjustment of status so that the K4 visa holder can become a legal permanent resident.

How much does it cost to get a K3 & K4 visa?

  • The Form I-129F filing fee is $535
  • DS-160 fee is $160
  • Potential biometrics fee is $85
  • Embassy fee is $265
  • Form I-485 fee is $750-$1,140
  • Form I-751 fee is $595
  • Medical exam cost varies

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Sweta Khandelwal

Sweta completed her Masters in Law from the University of California, Los Angeles and her JD from the Faculty of Law, Delhi University in India and has been practicing law for 15+ years getting visas, green cards, and citizenship for 1000+ clients, 100+ companies across 50+ nationalities.

Sweta has been recognized as a ” Super Lawyer, Rising Star,” and as amongst the ” Top 40 under 40″ immigration attorneys in California (American Society of Legal Advocates). She is also the recipient of the Advocacy Award by the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

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