Depending on your  circumstances for pursuing  lawful permanent residency of the U.S., you may opt to pursue a K-1 visa, which is intended for people who are engaged to U.S. citizens, or a K-3 visa, which is designed for people already married to U.S. citizens awaiting approval of an I-130 immigrant petition.

At JacksonWhite Law, we’re proud to help individuals achieve their dreams of residing in the U.S. on a permanent basis. Keep reading to learn more about K-1 and K-3 visas and find out which one may be best for your situation.

How K-1 Visas Work

U.S. citizens seeking to bring a foreign fiance into the country may apply for a K-1 nonimmigrant visa. Also known as a fiance visa, the K-1 allows you to bring your partner into the country for a period of 90 days.

If you and your fiance get married during this three-month period, then your fiance may apply for lawful permanent resident status in the U.S. If a marriage does not occur, your fiance will have to return to their home country.

Additionally, marriages must be valid and not just planned for the sake of obtaining immigration benefits.

To apply for a K-1 visa, the fiance who is a U.S. citizen has to file a Form I-129F, Petition For Alien Fiancé(e). You won’t be able to bring your foreign fiance into the country until your petition is approved.

If you are already married to someone living outside the U.S., or you plan to marry outside the country, your spouse won’t be eligible for the K-1 visa.

Children and K-1 Visas

Options exist for Americans looking to marry foreign citizens who have children. If your fiance has children who are under 21 and unmarried, they may be eligible to enter the U.S. on a K-2 immigrant visa.

To bring your fiance’s children into the country, you must first include their names on the Form I-129F. Note that these children have to travel to the U.S. with your fiance rather than arriving at a later date.

If you bring your fiance to the U.S. and get married within 90 days, your fiance can apply for a green card along with their children who were admitted as K-2 non-immigrants.

However, it’s important to note that K-2 immigrant children have to remain unmarried until the time when the green card is issued.

How K-3 Visas Work

The K-3 visa is an option for U.S. citizens already married to someone living outside the country. If you want to bring a foreign spouse to the U.S., you will need to fill out a Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. Expect to provide a copy of your marriage certificate along with evidence that your spouse has ended any previous marriages.

In most cases, the government will approve your application provided that you can establish a relationship between you and your spouse. Once your petition has been approved, your spouse can apply to become a legal permanent resident.

The U.S. spouse must meet certain income requirements to bring a foreign spouse to the country. If the American spouse’s gross income falls below the Federal Poverty Guidelines according to their most recent income tax return, then they must find a joint sponsor willing to file an affidavit of support.

In the past, family members were often separated for years waiting for a decision on their Form 1-30 petition. The goal of the K-3 non-immigrant visa was to reduce the amount of time spouses and other relatives had to spend apart. If approved for a K-3 visa, you can bring your spouse to the U.S. while awaiting completion of the permanent resident process.

It’s worth noting that the government may opt to change your K-3 nonimmigrant visa petition to a CR1/IR1 Immigrant visa. This is due to the fact that the backlog of I-130 petitions has eased to some degree in recent years.

Another type of spousal visa, a CRI/IRI allows an alien to live and stay in the U.S. with their spouse who is a citizen or permanent resident. While the CRI applies only to couples who have been married less than two years, the IR1 is for couples who have been married longer than two years and other immediate family members.

K-1 Visas vs. K-3 Visas

Wondering whether you should apply for a K-1 visa or a K-3 visa? One of the best reasons to pursue a K-1 visa is that the process tends to move more quickly than a K-3 or CR-1 visa.

Typically, the fiance visa process takes approximately six months, and obtaining permanent resident status after the fact takes around 10 to 11 months. For a K-3 or marriage visa, you can expect to wait 10 to 16 months. If your goal is to be able to live in the U.S. with your partner as soon as possible, the K-1 visa may be the best choice.

While the K-1 visa allows your fiance to join you in the country faster, this option also comes with a higher price tag. Additionally, the K-3 visa allows for multiple entries into the country, while the K-1 visa allows for only one.

Both the K-1 visa and the K-3 visa enable U.S. citizens to live in the country with a foreign spouse. Additionally, both K-1 and K-3 visa holders are permitted to work and travel after, assuming they have the necessary USCIS documents. An experienced immigration attorney can help you determine which option is best for your family.

Contact JacksonWhite Law for Immigration Help

All too often, immigration issues can separate families and keep loved ones apart. At JacksonWhite Law, we help those seeking permanent resident status work to achieve their goals. The end result is that families can stay together, and our country thrives. Contact us below for more information!


Call our Immigration team at (480) 626-2388 to discuss your case today.

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