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K-3 Visa: Spouse of U.S. Citizen Visa for Residing in the U.S.

Are you a non-U.S. citizen married to an American and eager to start your life together in the United States? The K-3 visa might be your pathway. This visa category is specifically for spouses of U.S. citizens, enabling them to reside in the U.S. while they wait for their permanent residency processing.

In this blog, we’ll walk you through the K-3 visa application process, explain the eligibility criteria, and offer insights into how you can transition from a K-3 visa holder to a permanent resident.

From required documents to next steps post-arrival, we’ll cover all the essentials you need to know to make your journey as smooth as possible. Join us as we guide you step-by-step through the process of uniting with your spouse in the U.S.

What is a K-3 Visa? 

The K-3 nonimmigrant visa allows non-U.S. foreign citizens who are the spouse of a United States citizen to come to the United States. This 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 to be granted a K-3 visa. 

Can a K-3 visa holder permanently live in the U.S.,?

The K-3 visa is a nonimmigrant visa that allows the spouse of a U.S. citizen and their eligible children to enter the United States temporarily while waiting for their immigrant visa petition (Form I-130) to be approved.

To pursue permanent resident status, K-3 visa holders must apply for adjustment of status with the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) after arriving in the United States.

Who is Eligible for a K-3 Visa? 

In order to qualify for This, 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 Form I-130.

What is the process for obtaining a K-3 visa? 

The process for receiving a K-3 visa requires the U.S. citizen spouse to initiate the process on behalf of his or her foreign citizen spouse by filing the required forms with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (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 K-3 visa is for the U.S. citizen spouse to file Form I-129F, Petition for Alien fiance(e)(e), and 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 USCIS to recognize the relationship between the U.S. citizen and the applicant. 

By filing Form I-130, the U.S. citizen is asking the USCIS to establish his or her relationship with their foreign citizen spouse for the purpose of the spouse coming to the United States 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 This, 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 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 Form I-129F is approved, This applicant must complete the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application by filling out Form DS-160. While completing Form DS-160, This 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 This, and his or her children will no longer need the K-4 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 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 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 the U.S. Embassy or Consulate

After the USCIS approves Form I-129F, This 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 This. 

This 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 This and the legitimacy of his or her marriage with the U.S. citizen spouse. 

This 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 K-3 visa is issued to an applicant, the Consular Officer will provide the applicant with a passport containing This 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 K-3 visa holder must not open the sealed packet.  The sealed packet will be opened by the DHS immigration official when the new K-3 visa holder enters the United States. The new K-3 visa holder must seek entry into the United States within 6 months from the date the visa was issued.  

Step Four: Application to Adjust Status to Legal Permanent Resident 

After This holder arrives in the United States, the U.S. citizen spouse will need to submit Form I-485 to the USCIS with the application for adjustment of status so that This 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.

How much does it cost to get a K-3 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


How long is This valid? 

This is generally valid for entry into the U.S. within 6 months of issuance. The visa holder must then apply for adjustment of status.

Can K-3 visa holders work in the U.S.? 

Yes, K-3 visa holders can apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) to work in the U.S. while their adjustment of status is pending.

What if the I-130 is approved before the I-129F?

If the I-130 is approved first, the applicant no longer needs This and must apply for an immigrant visa to enter as a permanent resident.

Can children accompany This holder? 

Yes, unmarried children under 21 of This holder can obtain K-4 visas to enter the U.S. with their parents.

How long does the K-3 process typically take? 

The entire K-3 visa process can take 9-12 months from filing the initial petitions to entering the U.S. on This.

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.

Sweta is also a chartered accountant — the equivalent of a CPA. This makes her uniquely positioned to understand the immigration needs of her business clients in the broader context of their corporate objectives.

Sweta is actively involved with immigration issues and immigrant communities in various capacities. She has assumed key roles at the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), both at the local and national level. She has been a past chair at the Santa Clara Valley Chapter at AILA and has also been involved in various practice area committees at AILA National. Sweta has addressed multiple conferences/forums in the United States and worldwide on immigration and business issues.