The Legal Immigration Family Equity Act and its amendments (LIFE Act) established a new nonimmigrant category to allow the spouse or child of a U.S. citizen to be admitted to the U.S. in a nonimmigrant category while waiting for a pending relative petition to be approved. This category was established as a result of large backlogs in processing relative petitions resulting in families being separated for long periods of time. The K-3 visa is for spouses and the K-4 visa is for children. An attractive benefit of the K-3 visa is that employment authorization is available for those admitted in the new category while waiting for processing of their case.
Who is Eligible?
A person may receive a K-3 visa if the person:
Has a valid marriage with a U.S. Citizen;
Is the beneficiary of a relative petition (Form I-130) filed by the U.S. citizen spouse;
Seeks to enter the U.S. to await the approval of the relative petition and apply lawful permanent resident status; and
Has an approved Form I-129, Petition for Alien Fianc?/e, forwarded to the American consulate abroad where the alien wishes to apply for the K-3/K-4 visa. (Note: the consulate must be in the country in which the marriage to the U.S. citizen took place if the U.S. has a consulate which issues immigrant visas in that country. If the marriage took place in the U.S., the designated consulate is the one with jurisdiction over the current residence of the alien spouse.)
A person may receive a K-4 visa, if that person is under 21 years of age and is the unmarried child of an alien eligible to be a K-3.
How Do I Apply?
First, the U.S. citizen must file Form I-130 on behalf of the alien spouse with the USCIS Regional Service Center having jurisdiction over the citizen's place of residence. The U.S. Citizen will then receive a Form I-797, Notice of Action, indicating that the I-130 has been received by the USCIS.
Next, the U.S. Citizen files a Form I-129F on behalf of the alien spouse and any children, along with a copy of the Form I-797, Notice of Action (receipt of the Form I-130) and supporting documents are sent in.
Will I Get a Work Permit?
Persons in K-3 or K-4 status are eligible to apply for a work permit while their cases (Form I-130 or Form I-485) are pending. To apply for a work permit.
Can I Travel Outside the United States?
Persons in K-3 or K-4 status may travel using their unexpired K-3/K-4 nonimmigrant visa to travel outside of the U.S. and return, even if he/she is applying for adjustment of status simultaneously.
Persons who obtained K-3/K-4 status while in the U.S. should not travel outside of the U.S. if they were out of status for more than 180 days (aggregate total) prior to obtaining K-3/K-4 status. If this applies to you, or you think it may apply to you, please consult with an attorney before making any travel plans.