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K-3/K-4 Visa

What is a K-3 or K-4 Visa?

A K-3 Visa is a non-immigrant visa that may be issued to the alien spouse of an American citizen. These visa classifications were created to alleviate the physical separation between an alien spouse who resides in foreign country and a U.S. citizen spouse who resides in the U.S., and allow them to reunite in America while the alien spouse awaits approval of the immigrant visa petition.

In the past, if an American citizen perhaps working or travelling abroad met, fell in love, and chose to marry a foreigner outside of the U.S., the American citizen’s new spouse would not have been able to immigrate to the U.S. until their immigrant visa was approved. The process of awaiting an immigrant visa for a family member can take between 1 and 2 years, which is certainly not an ideal situation for newlyweds. Of course, physical separation such as this can put an undue strain on a new relationship, as these families lose valuable time with each other and their children. Thus, the Legal Immigration Family Equity Act (the LIFE Act) rectified this situation on December 21st, 2000, by creating new K-visa classifications to shorten the physical separation between the foreign and U.S. citizen spouses and lessen the emotional and financial burdens placed upon these families.

Often, the foreign born spouse has children from a prior relationship, and will naturally want to bring his or her children with him or her to the U.S. The minor children of the foreign born spouse are eligible for K-4 visas, which are derivatives of the K-3 visa. This means that the child need only show that they are in fact the foreign spouse’s child, under 21 years old, and are unmarried. However, if their parent’s K-3 should become invalid, the K-4 is automatically invalid as well. The children will be admitted for 2 years, which is the same period of time as that of their parents, or until their 21st birthday, or their own marriage, whichever occurs first. K-3 and K-4 visa holders are also eligible to work, with application and approval of an EAD, and are free to travel outside the U.S. without advance parole documents, which are also beneficial advantages for these reuniting families.

Who May Apply for a K-3 or K-4 Visa?

In order to be eligible for a K-3 visa one must already be spouse of a United States citizen and have a pending I-130, Petition for Alien Relative form, and an approved I-129F petition, filed on his or her behalf by the U.S. citizen. A spouse is defined as a legally married husband or wife; other untraditional relationships between couples are not generally recognized by USCIS. The alien spouse may apply for a K-3 visa from a U.S. Embassy or consulate abroad.

In order to be eligible for a K-4 visa, one must be the legal child of the K-3 visa applicant, must be under 21 years old, and unmarried. Generically speaking a K-4 child is the step-child of the U.S. citizen spouse, due to the fact of the marriage between the U.S. citizen and the foreign born spouse. However, immigration laws do have specific requirements to meet the legal definition of child for immigration benefits. In order to be eligible to immigrate as a relative of the U.S. citizen parent (through the processes of either an immigrant visa abroad or through an adjustment of status) and qualify as the legal child of the U.S. citizen for the purposes of immigration, the marriage between the U.S. citizen spouse and the foreign born spouse must have occurred before the child’s 18th birthday.


For more detailed information on K-3/K-4, including minimum requirements and USCIS policies, please click on the relevant links on this page: