In light of current and looming processing delays due to COVID, US Citizens filing for their foreign national spouses through the consular process may want to explore the K-3 Visa for their loved ones. In general, marriage visas filed by US Citizen petitioners normally take anywhere from one year to one and a half years to process. However, we have noticed that USCIS has been operating at a very sluggish pace recently. For example, a look at current processing times for the Vermont Service Center reveals that USCIS is estimating 10.5 months to 13.5 to adjudicate the I-130 alone. Bear in mind, the I-130 is only the initial application of the process. Given these delays, the K-3 visa may be of some utility.
What is the K-3?
The K-3 visa is a non-immigrant visa that ameliorates the separation that married couples experience by allowing the foreign national spouse to enter the US while awaiting approval of the I-130 petition for alien relative. Eligible children under 21 would also qualify to accompany their parents on a K-4 visa. If a foreign national enters on the K-3 visa, he/she would essentially detour from the traditional consular process and file for adjustment of status within the US once certain eligibility requirements are satisfied. The benefit of all this is that the couple would be able to physically reunite sooner than a regular consular processing case, and remain together in the US while the green card process is pending. Additionally, the K-3 holder would be authorized to work as incidental to status. In other words, the foreign national spouse would not need to apply for a work permit and could begin working as soon as he/she arrives in the US.
There are some requirements to qualify for a K-3. The applicant has to be married to the US Citizen petitioner. Spouses of Lawful permanent residents are not eligible. Secondly, the I-130 Petition for Alien Relative must be filed with USCIS. The catch to all this is that if USCIS approves the I-130 before the K-3 petition, the parties must continue along the consular processing route. The K-3 will no longer be an option.
Ironically, while the K-3 visa has been around for quite a while, it was very underutilized given that USCIS would historically approve the I-130 before the K-3. (Remember that since the I-130 must be filed first, the I-130 always had a head start.) However, with all the delays caused by Covid, government shutdowns, and staffing shortages, this option is definitely something to consider discussing with your attorney. It could potentially get your spouse here earlier, if not expedite processing of the I-130. Either way, filing could potentially speed things up as long as applicants understand the process and that there are separate costs involved with the K-3 application process.
If you are looking to file for your spouse who is living abroad, contact our firm for an in-depth consultation. We will sit down with you, explain the different avenues available to you, and help you to determine which route is appropriate for you and your spouse. With over twenty five years experience in the field and thousands of satisfied clients, we are ready and prepared to help you through the immigration maze.