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The Application Process for a K-3 or K-4 Visa
First, the U.S. citizen spouse must file an I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative) with the Chicago Lockbox (USCIS P.O. Box 804625, Chicago, IL 60680-4107). When USCIS receives the application, the U.S. citizen spouse will receive an I-797 form (receipt notice).
*It is important to be aware that at this time, the U.S. citizen spouse may file a separate I-130 form for children of the alien spouse if applicable. This is not a requirement for the K-4 visa; however, it is advisable to do this for the step- child of the U.S. citizen as there is the possibility that the parent’s (K-3 alien spouse) I-130 Petition may be approved and the consular processing could reach the U.S. Consulate forcing the alien spouse to immigrate as a Permanent Resident without their children. The K-4 is a derivative non-immigrant visa status based on a K-3 visa holder’s status; therefore, the child would lose their K-4 visa eligibility if their parent gained permanent residency. Moreover, this situation increases the risk of the child “aging-out” as K-4 eligibility lasts only until the K-4 holder marries or reaches 21 years old.
Second, the U.S. citizen spouse will receive an I-797 (receipt notice) indicating that the I-130 Petition was received. This notice will be needed for the following step.
Third, the U.S. citizen spouse must file an I-129F petition with the Dallas Lockbox (USCIS P.O. Box 660867, Dallas, TX 75266). The I-797 (receipt notice) regarding the I-130 Petition must be included with the filing of the I-129 Petition. If the U.S. citizen spouse has a criminal record, this must also be included as per the Immigration and Nationality Act 214 (r) (1). It is a requirement that the minor children of the alien spouse be listed on the I-129 Petition at this time. However, should the child be inadvertently left off the I-129 form, the consular officer should process the child's visa. Cable, DOS, 01-State-167548, supra at 34.
Fourth, if the I-129F petition is approved, the USCIS will send a notification to the National Visa Center (NVC). They will perform a criminal background check through the National Crime Information Center database (NCIC). Once this is cleared, they electronically send the I-129F petition to the appropriate consular or designated post (of the country the U.S. citizen and alien spouse were legally married in). The consular post will then send the K-3 applicant (alien spouse) a letter detailing the documents and medical exam required for the visa to be issued.
Fifth, the alien spouse and their children are now eligible to apply to the U.S. Consulate for K-3 and K-4 non-immigrant visas. If the marriage between the U.S. citizen spouse and the alien spouse took place in a foreign country, the alien spouse must apply for their visa in that country that the marriage took place in, or at a designated post if there is no consular post in that country. 22 C.F.R. 41.81. (b) (2).
Sixth, if the K-3 visa is issued by the U.S. Consular Offices abroad to the alien spouse, the alien spouse may enter into the U.S. with a K-3. If the K-4 visa is issued by the U.S. Consular Offices abroad to the alien spouse’s child, the child may enter into the U.S. with the K-4 visa.
For more detailed information on K-3/K-4, including minimum requirements and USCIS policies, please click on the relevant links on this page: