You have married a U.S. citizen and look forward to your new life in the U.S. Your spouse files an I-130 petition on your behalf to begin immigration processing and the two of you hope to be reunited soon. That is before you are informed that processing for your visa requires at least a year. You knew delays at the U.S. consulate in Manila were commonplace but you didn't realize that the backlog of applications applied even to you, a spouse of a U.S. citizen.
The frustration caused by immigration delays is maddening and the separation they cause are depressing because you feel like there is nothing you can do. That is until you learn that a visa exists that will speed up your reunion and your new life in the U.S. namely, the K-3 nonimmigrant visa.
Faced with an avalanche of cases just like the previous, U.S. citizens forced apart from there foreign born spouse by long processing times, Congress in 2000 passed the Legal Immigration Family Equity Act or LIFE Act. Part of this important legislation was the creation of the K-3 nonimmigrant visa, which established a visa for a person who has a valid marriage to a U.S. citizen where the citizen spouse has filed an I-130 petition on his or her behalf and where the applicant seeks to enter the U.S. to await approval. This new visa also made provisions for minor children of the beneficiary as well.
To qualify for the K-3 visa the applicant must be a foreign national spouse of a U.S. citizen, residing outside of the United States and your spouse has filed an I-130 petition for you and the petition is still pending. Once the K-3 is approved and the visa issued the beneficiary may reside in the U.S. with his or her spouse while waiting for the approval of the immigrant visa petition.
In addition to expediting family unity the K-3 allows the applicant spouse to obtain work authorization, study in U.S. schools and receive permission to travel outside of the United States. Family unity is accomplished and the ability to work and travel granted.
The K-3 is valid for a period of two years and an extension of stay may be obtained by using form I-539, Application to Extend or Change nonimmigrant status 120 days prior to the expiration of your authorized stay. Extensions are granted in two-year intervals.
When considering a K-3 visa some of the necessary documentation will include two copies of the Form DS-156 application form, local police clearance certificates, birth certificates for each K-3 and K-4 applicant, marriage certificates, divorce or death certificates, standard immigrant visa medical examination and a valid passport.
The K-3 visa does come with some restrictions that all potential applicants should be aware of and consider before choosing this course. Though extensions are permitted K-3 are limited to the I-130 filed by your spouse. If after entry into the U.S. the relationship does not work out the applicant cannot change his or her status to another nonimmigrant visa. As always it may be a good idea to consult an experienced immigration attorney prior to the filing of this petition to insure that the K-3 is right for you.
In order to accommodate the processing of the K-3 and K-4 visa the Immigration Service established a new Service Center in Missouri designed to handle all LIFE related cases including the K-3 and K-4 nonimmigrant petitions. Currently processing is about 120 to 150 days and after approval the petition is forwarded to the appropriate consulate for issuance. Petitioner and Beneficiary will be notified.
In a time where processing times can be an extreme hardship on new families resulting in increased stress on the relationships the K-3 visa is a valuable tool in reducing this separation and allowing for expeditious family reunification.