Spouses of U.S. citizens, and the spouse’s children, can come to the United States on nonimmigrant visas (K-3 and K-4) and wait in the United States to complete the immigration process. Before a K-4 visa can be issued to a child, the parent must have a K-3 visa or be in K-3 status.

What Is a “Spouse”?

A spouse is a legally wedded husband or wife. Cohabiting partners do not qualify as spouses for immigration purposes. Common-law spouses may qualify as spouses for immigration purposes depending on the laws of the country where the common-law marriage occurs. In cases of polygamy only the first spouse qualifies as a spouse for immigration.

U.S. law does not allow polygamy. If you were married before, you and your spouse must show that you ended (terminated) all previous marriages before your current marriage. The death and divorce documents that show termination of marriages must be legal and verifiable in the country that issued them. Divorces must be final. In cases of legal marriage to two or more spouses at the same time, or marriages overlapping for a period of time, you may file only for the first spouse.

Filing – Two Petitions are Required

You must first file an immigrant Petition for Alien Relative, form I-130 for your spouse with the USCIS Office that serves the area where you live. The USCIS will send you a Notice of Action (Form I-797) receipt notice. This notice tells you that the USCIS has received the petition.

You next file Petition for Alien Fiancé(e), form I-129F for your spouse and children. Send the I-129F petition, supporting documents and a copy of the Form I-797 receipt notice to this Department of Homeland Security USCIS Address on their web site.

National Visa Center (NVC) Sends Petition To Post

After the USCIS approves the I-129F, it sends it to the National Visa Center (NVC). The NVC sends the petition electronically to the embassy or consulate in the country where the marriage took place. If your marriage took place in the United States, the NVC sends the petition to the embassy or consulate that issues visas in the country of your spouse’s nationality.

If your marriage took place in a country that does not have an American embassy, or the embassy does not issue visas, the NVC sends the petition to the embassy or consulate that normally processes visas for citizens of that country. For example, if the marriage took place in Iran where the United States does not have an embassy, the petition would be sent to Turkey.

A Spouse of a U.S. Citizen (K-3) Is Also an Immigrant

The spouse of an U.S. citizen applying for a nonimmigrant visa (K-3 applicant) must have an immigrant visa petition on his/her behalf by the U.S. citizen spouse. Therefore, the spouse of the U.S. citizen (the K-3 applicant) must meet some of the requirements of an immigrant visa.

Applying for a Visa

The embassy or consulate where you, the spouse of an American citizen, will apply for a K-3 visa must be in the country where your marriage took place. Here are the procedures to apply. The embassy or consulate will let you know any additional things to do, such as where you need to go for the required medical examination. During the interview process, an ink-free, digital fingerprint scan will be taken. The following is required:

  • Two copies of form DS-156, Nonimmigrant Visa Application
  • One DS-156K, Nonimmigrant FiancĂ©(e) Visa Application form
  • Police certificates from all places lived in since the age of 16
  • Birth certificates
  • Marriage certificate for spouse
  • Death and divorce certificates from any previous spouses
  • Medical examination (except vaccinations)
  • A passport valid for travel to the United States and with a validity date at least six months beyond the applicant’s intended period of stay in the United States (unless country-specific agreements provide exemptions).
  • Two nonimmigrant visa photos, two inches/50 X 50 mm square, showing full face, against a light background)
  • Proof of financial support (Form I-134 Affidavit of Support may be requested.)
  • Payment of fees, as explained below

The consular officer may ask for additional information. It is a good idea to bring marriage photographs and other proof that the marriage is genuine.

Documents in foreign languages should be translated. Take clear, legible photocopies of civil documents, such as birth and marriage certificates, to the visa interview. Original documents can then be returned to you.

Fees – How Much Does It Cost?

Fees are charged for the following services:

  • Filing an immigrant Petition for Alien Relative, Form I-130
  • Applying for a nonimmigrant visa application processing fee, DS-156
  • Medical examination (costs vary from post to post)
  • Fingerprinting fees, if required
  • Filing Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status
  • Other costs may include translation and photocopying charges, fees for getting the documents required for the visa application (such as passport, police certificates, birth certificates, etc.), and travel expenses to the embassy or consulate for an interview. Costs vary from country to country and case to case.

For current fees for Department of State, government services see Fees.

Extending the Petition

The I-129F petition is valid for four months from the date of approval. A consular officer can extend the validity of the petition (revalidate the petition) if it expires before you finish processing the visa.

Children Have Derivative Status

Children do not need separate Petition for Alien Relative, I-130 petitions, but you, the petitioner, must take care to name all your children on the Petition for Alien Fiance, I-129F petition. If you do not name the children on the petition, they may find it difficult to prove their identity as children of a K-3 applicant or person in K-3 status.

You must file separate I-130 immigrant visa petitions for your children before they qualify for permanent residence. When they adjust status in the United States, they must file Form I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status with the USCIS Office that serves the area where you live. Remember that in immigration law children must be unmarried and under 21 years of age. See child

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