Will the K-3 Marriage Visa or I-130 Be Faster?

The K-3 Nonimmigrant Visa was created to provide a faster process for spouses of U.S. citizens, but that is not always the case.

What is a K-3 Marriage Visa?

This type of visa only applies to a nonimmigrant that is legally married to a U.S. citizen. A K-3 visa allows you to enter and live in the United States as a nonimmigrant. This means that instead of having to wait abroad for the approval of your I-130 Petition for Alien Relative or for your immigrant visa, a spouse of a U.S. citizen can enter the country, connect with their family, and then subsequently apply for immigrant status all while remaining in the U.S. In order to qualify for a K-3 visa, you (the alien spouse) must be married to a U.S. citizen.

In addition, the U.S. petitioner must also file two separate petitions with USCIS:

  • Form I-130: the U.S. petitioner must file an I-130 for the alien spouse. This does not have to be approved prior to the K-3 marriage visa being approved. After the I-130 has been approved, you will receive a 1-797 Notice of Action which merely indicates that USCIS has received your I-130. It is important to also note that if the alien spouse also has children that plan to immigrate with him or her, the U.S. citizen spouse also has to file separate petitions for each of the individual children. The U.S. citizen spouse has to be either the child’s biological parent or their stepparent. A spouse will only qualify as the child’s stepparent if the marriage occurred prior to the child turning 18 years old.
  • Form I-129F: This form allows for the spouse or children to enter into the United States to finish applying for status as a permanent resident. It is also used to petition USCIS to bring an alien fiancé and their children to the U.S. for the marriage to the U.S. citizen.

After these steps have been completed, the case will be transferred to the relevant U.S. consulate. That consulate will then send you the instructions about what forms you still need to fill out and what documents you should have ready, as well as how to schedule an interview time with the consulate. Following the interview and if you are approved, you are expected to begin applying for adjustment of your status in the U.S.

Limitations on the K-3 Marriage Visa

Although the K-3 visa was originally created in order to deal with the delays that many married couples experienced while they waited for the approval of the alien’s, I-130, it is not always the most useful or expedient route. The U.S. government doesn’t always favor using the K-3 marriage visa process, and in many cases will make you apply for the typical immigrant visa instead of the K-3. Even though this can be a useful route, there are significant limits on the effectiveness of this type of visa. If USCIS approves your I-130 before your I-129F, your alien spouse is deemed not eligible to use the K-3 visa. In this case, your alien spouse’s application will be treated as a regular immigrant visa application and the I-129F is actually ignored.

There is no way to estimate how long the process will take because it mostly depends on how long it takes to get your I-129F approval. This process can be tedious by itself and even if and after it is approved, it still will take several more weeks before you would get the instructions from the local consulate. Even assuming that you correctly fill out all the forms and provide all of the relevant documents immediately after receiving the instructions, you then have to wait for your appointment with the consulate. Therefore, despite the benefits that should come with the K-3 Visa, like faster processing times, this is not always the most efficient route to take.

What is an I-130?

An I-130, or a Petition for Alien Relative, is what you would submit to USCIS when you (the U.S. citizen) want to sponsor a relative for permanent status in the U.S. If your spouse is not in the United States when this is filed, then only after this has been approved can he or she apply for a green card through a consular proceeding. When submitting this form, you should include any evidence that can support the fact that you have a legitimate marriage. Such evidence can include:

  • Documents that show you jointly own any property or significant assets
  • A lease that can prove you share a common residence
  • Documents that prove you share your financial resources and responsibilities
  • If you have had children together, birth certificates of those children
  • Affidavits from third parties who can support the fact that you have a legitimate marriage
  • Any other documents that can be used to establish that you are in a legitimate marriage, such as a marriage license

Before submitting this document, it is important to review your application thoroughly. You want to make sure that it is thorough and complete because the process will only be delayed if USCIS has to notify you that the request was incomplete. After your petition is approved, which typically takes a few months, your case will be transferred to the appropriate U.S. consulate that is located in the alien spouse’s home country. You will have to go through an interview and medical examination at the consulate. After, if approved you will receive your immigrant visa either at the interview or soon after.

Is the K-3 or the I-130 Faster?

The true answer to this question is that it depends on the circumstances. Even though the K-3 is supposed to be the faster option, it usually is not. The I-129F required for the K-3 visa usually takes about as long as the processing for the I-130, so applying for the K-3 is not always the most efficient method since if it is not approved before the I-130, your application will not be considered under the K-3 categorization anyway. Typically, the K-3 visa is used as a secondary option or insurance if the processing of the I-130 has been delayed. But both the I-130 and the K-3 can be useful options, you just have to be conscious of how quickly USCIS is processing the forms when you are applying.

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