K-3, Spouse of U.S. Citizen
The K-3 visa classification was created by the LIFE Act in 2000 to shorten the time that U.S. citizens and their foreign spouses would need to be physically separated prior to the approval of the foreign spouse's application for permanent residency. The way the visa category was designed to operate is as an interim grant of a nonimmigrant classification to the alien spouse so that he can enter the U.S. while waiting for his permanent residency application to be approved. The whole visa classification is a failure because in most cases it takes just as long to get the K-3 visa as it does to obtain an immigrant visa.
The way the K-3 works is this:
- First, the U.S. citizen spouse files an I-130 immigrant petition on behalf of his spouse, who is abroad. Shortly after filing, the citizen receives a receipt notice for his filing.
- Second, upon receipt of the I-130 receipt notice, the U.S. citizen spouse files a second petition, on Form I-129F. This one is not to support the alien spouse's permanent residency but to support the K-3 visa.
- Third, upon I-129F approval, the spouse applies for a K-3 visa at the U.S. consulate in his home country, gets the visa and enters the U.S.
- Fourth, once in the U.S., the K-3 then has to adjust status to permanent resident.
Note that this is four steps: two petition filings, a visa application and an application for permanent residency. All of those take time and cost money.
Now consider the typical process absent the K-3 filing:
- First, the U.S. citizen spouse files an I-130 immigrant petition on behalf of his spouse, who is abroad.
- Upon I-130 approval, the spouse applies for an immigrant visa at the U.S. consulate abroad, gets the visa and enters the U.S. as a permanent resident.
This is a two-step process: one petition, and one visa. There is no need to file the subsequent adjustment of status application in the U.S. because the alien is already a permanent resident upon entry.
The K-3 was a good idea in theory. The reason it doesn't work is because USCIS takes just as long to approve an I-129F petition as it does to approve the associated I-130. Therefore, there is no time savings whatsoever.
The K-3 could be a good visa if USCIS were to omit the I-129F petition filing requirement and permit the alien spouse to apply directly for a K-3 visa at the consulate abroad following the filing of an I-130 petition. However, that option does not currently exist.