Getting a K Visa as the Spouse of a U.S. Citizen

What is a K-3 Visa

The K-3 visa is a nonimmigrant visa that allows the alien spouse of a U.S. citizen, along with his or her minor children, to come to the United States while their spousal petition is pending. Once admitted to the United States, an alien who enters on a K-4 visa is immediately eligible to apply to adjust status to a permanent resident.

The K-3 visa is valid for two years. If the alien spouse does not adjust his or her status to that of a legal permanent resident, the spouse may petition to extend the K-3 visa in two year increments as long as a marriage-based I-130 immigrant petition or a corresponding application for adjustment of status or visa application remains pending adjudication.

Who is Eligible for a K-3 Visa

To be eligible for a K-3 visa a person must meet the following requirements.

  • Valid Marriage -- The person must be the spouse of a U.S. citizen as the result of a valid marriage.

  • Pending I-130 -- The citizen spouse must have filed a Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, on behalf of the alien spouse.

  • Form I-129 -- After filing the Form I-130, and receiving a Form I-797, Notice of Action, indicating that it has been received by the USCIS, the U.S. citizen spouse must file Form I-129F, Petition for Alien FiancĂ©(e), on behalf of the non-citizen spouse.

If the alien spouse has any children who will be applying for K-4 visas, they should be identified on the I-129F form.

What is a K-4 Visa

A K-4 visa allows the children of the alien spouse to enter the United States in association with their parent's valid K-4 visa. In order for a child to be eligible for a K-4 visa, the child must also be unmarried, under the age of 21. For a stepchild of the U.S. citizen to immigrate as a relative of the citizen parent, the marriage between his or her parent and the U.S. citizen spouse must occur before the child reaches the age of 18.

Holders of K-4 nonimmigrant visas are admitted to the United States for 2 years or until the day before their 21st birthday, whichever comes first. Within those constraints, and subject to the same terms as apply to extension of the parent's K-3 visa, a K-3 visa may be extended in increments of up to two years.

Upon admission to the United States as a K-4 nonimmigrant, either when the citizen spouse files an I-130 on his or her behalf or at any time after the I-130 has been filed, the child may file an application for adjustment of status.

What Happens if You Turn 21 or Get Married

A K-4 visa nonimmigrant 's status will expire when he or she reaches the age of 21. If the U.S. citizen petitioner filed a Form I-130 on behalf of the K-4 child before the child reaches the age of 21, the child may continue to be eligible for adjustment of status under the Child Status Protection Act.

If a K-4 nonimmigrant marries, his or her status automatically expires 30 days after the date of marriage.

Affidavit of Support

It is not necessary to file a Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, when applying for a K-3 or K-4 visa, but it is necessary to document that a K-3 or K-4 nonimmigrant will not become a public charge once in the United States. When the K-3 or K-4 nonimmigrant applies for adjustment of status, it becomes necessary to file Form I-864.

When to File Form I-130

Once a K-3 visa holder's I-130 reaches the Department of State, an immigrant visa is immediately available. As a consequence, as of that moment the alien spouse and his or her children are no longer eligible for K-3 or K-4 status, and instead must immigrate as lawful permanent residents. If at that time a child does not have an approved I-130 at the Department of State, that child will not be eligible to immigrate with the spouse of the U.S. Citizen. Consequently, although it is not required that an I-130 be fined on behalf of the child in order to obtain a K4 visa, the citizen spouse should file an I-130 for each child at the same time that he or she files an I-130 on behalf of the alien spouse.

Eligibility for a Work Permit

Upon admission, K-3 and K-4 nonimmigrant visa holders may obtain employment authorization. They can obtain evidence of eligibility to work legally in the United States by filing Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. Upon filing an application for adjustment of status, K-3 and K-4 nonimmigrant visa holders may also apply for employment authorization based on that pending application even if the K-3 or K-4 nonimmigrant status expires.

Travel Outside of the United States

If you hold K-3 or K-4 visa status you may use your unexpired visa to travel out of the United States and to return to the United States, even while you are applying for adjustment of status. Advance parole is not required unless your K-3 or K-4 visa has expired while your petition for adjustment of status remains pending.

Approval of Adjustment of Status

Once a K-3 or K-4 nonimmigrant's petition for adjustment of status has been approved, that person becomes a legal permanent resident of the United States. If at that time a spouse has been married to the U.S. citizen spouse for less than two years, a K-3 and K-4 immigrants will become a conditional permanent resident, and must file a Form I-751 Petition to Remove Conditions of Residence during the 90 day period preceding the expiration of their green card.

Notice: Immigration laws and regulations can change very quickly, and you should not rely upon this article to reflect the latest changes in the law. Obtaining a non-immigrant visa can be complicated, and visa applications may be denied. While many individuals successfully navigate the application process on their own, it is often beneficial to utilize a qualified immigration attorney.

Copyright © 2014 Aaron Larson, All rights reserved. No portion of this article may be reproduced without the express written permission of the copyright holder. If you use a quotation, excerpt or paraphrase of this article, except as otherwise authorized in writing by the author of the article you must cite this article as a source for your work and include a link back to the original article from any online materials that incorporate or are derived from the content of this article.

This article was last reviewed or amended on Nov 7, 2014.