Applying for a Marriage Visa USA
There are two marriage visa USA options for non-US nationals married to US citizens: the K-3 temporary, nonimmigrant visa for a foreign spouse or civil partner of a US citizen and the permanent, immigrant visa as a qualifying relative of a US Citizen (IR-1 or CR-1).
In basic terms, the K-3 marriage visa allows non-US spouses living overseas to travel to the US to join their spouse on a temporary basis while their Green Card (IR-1 or CR-1) immigrant visa petition to become a lawful permanent resident is pending approval by US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
K-3 visa requirements
To be eligible for a US marriage visa, you will need to meet the following eligibility criteria:
- Be legally married to a US citizen
- Meet the requirements set in the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act of 2005
- You have a residence in the US
In addition, in order to apply for the K-3 visa you must show:
- Your US spouse has already filed on your behalf Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, and
- You are seeking to enter the US to await USCIS’s decision on the Form I-130
Applicants will also be assessed against general grounds for admission which considers criteria relating to criminal convictions, overstaying or previous immigration issues or submitting fraudulent documents to the US immigration authorities.
If you are concerned about any circumstances that may impact your eligibility, take professional legal advice. You may for example be required to apply for a waiver of admissibility.
Filing for a marriage visa USA if living outside the US
The first step to a K-3 visa is for your US spouse to file Form I-130. This establishes a qualified relationship for the purposes of a family-based permanent residence application. USCIS will then send a Notice of Action (Form I-797) receipt notice to inform your spouse that it has received the petition.
Your US spouse must next file Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé(e). Please note that despite the description given to this petition, in addition to being used for a foreign citizen to come to the United States to marry their US fiancé(e), it can also be used for a foreign spouse and their children to come to the US to apply for lawful permanent resident status.
After USCIS approves these petitions, they will each be sent to the National Visa Center (NVC) for processing.
If the NVC receives the approved I-129F petition before it receives the I-130 petition, the NVC will process the I-129F petition and send this to the US Embassy or Consulate in the country where the marriage took place.
Importantly, a foreign citizen who marries a US citizen outside the United States must apply for the K-3 visa in the country where the marriage took place.
Where the marriage took place in the United States, the NVC will send the petition to the US Embassy or Consulate that issues visas in your country of residence.
To make the K-3 visa appication, you, together with any eligible children applying for a K-4 visa, will need to complete Form DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application.
Thereafter, you will be given specific instructions by the relevant US Embassy or Consulate, including where to attend for your mandatory medical examination.
Although vaccinations required under US immigration law for immigrant visa applicants are not required for K-3 visa issuance, they will be required when adjusting status to that of a legal permanent resident. You may, therefore, want to consider getting these vaccinations at the time of your medical examination.
You will also be required to attend a K-3 visa interview, where you will be asked questions by a Consular Officer and digital fingerprint scans will be taken.
Please note that some visa applications will require further administrative processing, which takes additional time after your interview. However, once the visa process has been completed, and the visa is issued, you can travel to the United States to wait for the processing of your immigrant visa case.
Supporting documentation for the K-3 visa
When attending a K-3 visa interview you will be required to take various documents with you to your interview, including the following:
- The DS-160 printed confirmation page
- A passport valid for travel to the United States and with a validity date at least six months beyond your intended period of stay, unless exempt
- The original or certified copies of your birth certificate, marriage certificate, divorce or death certificate(s) of any previous spouse(s), as well as police certificates from your present country of residence and all countries where you have lived for 6 months or more since age 16
- Proof of your medical examination
- Proof of financial support. Here the Consular Officer may request Form I-134, Affidavit of Support, be submitted by your US spouse
- Two 2×2 photographs
- Evidence of your relationship with your US spouse.
The Consular Officer may also ask for additional information, such as wedding photographs and other proof that the marriage to your US spouse is genuine.
If you are living in the US
As a non-US spouse with lawful status in the US, you should apply to adjust your status to a Green Card, using form I-485 and supporting documents such as evidence of the marriage. At the same time, Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative must be filed by your US spouse with the relevant USCIS post evidencing the marriage is genuine.
What are the differences between a K-3 visa and a K-1 visa?
As the fiancé(e) of a US citizen, you may also be eligible to come to the United States to get married and set up a new life with your prospective spouse, under what’s known as a K-1 visa.
This is again a nonimmigrant visa, although this visa will only allow you to enter the United States for a period of up to 90 days for the purpose of getting married. Once you are legally married, you would then need to apply to adjust your status from with the US to that of a lawful permanent resident by way of a Green Card.
Please note, however, in the event that your wedding is delayed beyond 90 days, your K-1 visa will automatically expire and cannot be extended. Equally, if you decide not to get married at all once you are in the United States, you will again be required to leave the country before its expiry.
In circumstances where both the I-130 and the I-129 petitions have been approved by USCIS and sent to the NVC or, alternatively, when USCIS approves the I-130 prior to the I-129F, the need for a nonimmigrant K-3 visa will effectively come to an end.
If this happens, you will need to wait for the NVC to contact you and your US spouse/sponsor with instructions for processing the IR-1 (or CR-1) immigrant visa. Indeed, it is for this reason that for many the K-3 process is not worthwhile, namely because USCIS will generally approve Form I-130 as quickly as a K-3 visa.
Taking advice will ensure you follow the correct route and file the appropriate petitions.
NNU Immigration are London-based US immigration attorneys, working with individuals from across the globe to make the move and join their loved ones in the US.
Contact us for advice with your US marriage visa application.
US marriage visa FAQs
How long does US marriage visa take?
The CR1 visa is currently taking around 15 months for applicants who are married to a US citizen, or between 28 and 40 months if the applicant is married to someone with US permanent residence.
Can I stay in America if I marry an American?
Marrying an American citizen does not confer any automatic immigration or citizenship rights to the foreign national spouse. To live with your American husband or wife in the US, you will need to apply for a spouse visa.
Can a UK citizen marry in the US?
Yes, British citizens are able to get married in the USA, provided they have the relevant visa or permission. For example, two British citizens can travel to the US as tourists visa-free under ESTA to get married in the US. If marrying a US citizen, you will need a fiance visa but this does not allow you to stay in the US long terml; to live in the US as the spouse of a US citizen, you need a spouse visa.
This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.