What Are They? What Are the Eligibility Requirements?
To obtain either temporary or permanent lawful residency in the United States, most foreign nationals must seek either an employment-based visa or a family-based visa. Family-based visas include the K-type visas, and generally allow a United States citizen to petition the U.S. government (through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service, or USCIS) to allow a family member to come to the United States as a nonimmigrant, thereby circumventing the need to go through consular processing in their country of origin.
What Are the Different Types of K Visas?
K visas include:
- The K-1 visa is available to the fiancé of an U.S. citizen. The K-1 visa grants lawful residency status to a foreign national to come to the United States, provided the foreign national marries an American citizen within 90 days of arrival. A K-1 visa will only be granted if the parties to the impending marriage have met in person within two years prior to the application for the K-1 visa. Furthermore, both parties must be free to marry at the time the visa is issued. There must be no legal factors that would prevent the marriage, such as a party being underage or already married to someone else.
- The K-2 visa permits any legal children of a K-1 fiancé to enter the United States as a nonimmigrant, provided the child’s parent qualifies for entry under a K-1 visa.
- The K-3 visa, available to spouses of U.S. citizens, allows them to enter the United States as nonimmigrants. The spouse may have married a U.S. citizen outside the United States, or may have held prior U.S. residency status but abandoned it.
- The K-4 visa is available to the legal children of anyone receiving a valid K-3 visa.
Do I Need a K-3 Visa? What Is the Filing Process Like?
To qualify for a K-3 spouse visa, the petitioner must provide proof of a valid marriage certificate. Common-law spouses may or may not qualify, based on the laws of the country of origin. The USCIS does not recognize cohabitation or domestic partnership agreements as qualification for a K-3 visa. If the person filing the application has multiple spouses, but that practice is legal in the country of origin, a K-3 visa may be available, but only to the first spouse for whom a visa is sought.
The application for a K-3 visa may be filed only by a U.S. citizen. USCIS recommends that those seeking a K-3 or K-4 visa file both Form I-129F (Petition for Alien Fiancé(e)) and Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative). If USCIS approves the Form I-130 first, then there’s no need for a K-3 or K-4 visa because the spouse and children are eligible to apply for immigrant visas and seek admission to the U.S. as lawful permanent residents. This occurs in most cases, which means K-3 and K-4 visas are rarely issued. If, however, USCIS approves the Form I-129F first, then the foreign spouse and their children are eligible to receive K-3 or K-4 visas to enter the country as nonimmigrants while they continue to wait for USCIS to rule on the Form I-130.