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K-3 and K-4 Visas – US Citizens Bringing Their Foreign-born Spouse and Children

With the passage of the LIFE Legalization (Legal Immigration Family Equity) Act in Dec. 2000, came the creation of several new immigration aimed at uniting families; in addition to legalizing many foreigners living in the U.S., the Act also created a new category of non immigrant visas specifically for the spouses and children of U.S. citizens-the K-3 and K-4, respectively. These new visa categories allow admission as a non immigrant in order to complete processing for permanent residence while in the U.S.

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A K-3 visa applicant must have a valid marriage to a U.S. citizen, be the beneficiary of a pending I-130 immediate relative petition, and seek entry to the U.S. to await approval of that petition. The U.S. citizen (USC) spouse begins the process by filing USCIS’ Form I-130. The USC spouse then files an I-129F petition together with the USCIS-issued I-130 Receipt Notice. Approval of the I-129F petition is then forwarded to the National Visa Center and the appropriate overseas American consulate. An I-129F approval is valid for four (4) months although a consular officer may revalidate the petition for an additional four months, should it expires.

If the qualifying marriage took place in the U.S., the designated consulate for issuance of the K-3 visa will be the one with jurisdiction over the non-citizen spouse’s current residence. If the marriage was overseas, then the issuing consulate must be in the country where the couple married, if the U.S. has a consular office that issues immigrant visas in that country.

Children of K-3 visa eligible applicants may accompany on the K-4 visa if named in the parent’s petition. To be eligible, K-4 children must be under 21 years of age and unmarried. K-4 status is dependent upon the parent’s K-3 status and ends upon the termination or revocation of the parent’s underlying K-3 visa or I-130 petition.

K-3 visa benefits include a generally shorter waiting period compared to marriage-based immigrant visa petitions; petitions usually take four to six months for USCIS, and another two to three months, for the consulate to process. Additionally, K-3 and K-4 visa holders may be granted employment authorization while their I-130 petitions or adjustment of status applications are pending. Other benefits include being able to study and the ability to travel outside the U.S. on the K visa, even if simultaneously applying for adjustment of status. The K-3 visa is valid for two (2) years, with multiple entries allowed, and may be extended, if necessary, for two-year intervals.

The K visas may not change status to another non immigrant visa once in the U.S., nor may another non immigrant visa category change to K status. While an I-129F petition may be approved by USCIS, one may not be issued a K visa, or may not enter the U.S., if temporarily barred for previous violation of immigration law. K-3 status is automatically terminated 30 days after the denial or revocation of the visa holder’s underlying I-130 petition or adjustment of status application, or the divorce or death of the U.S. citizen petitioner spouse.


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