K-3 Marriage Visa Is “Dead” -- Long Live the Old Marriage-Based Immigrant Visa

A hybrid visa meant to speed up entry to the U.S. hasn't worked as planned.

If you are planning to immigrate to the U.S. based on marriage to a U.S. citizen and are coming from overseas (as opposed to living in the U.S. already), the K-3 visa might be one of the options that you are considering. The three main visa options (which are more fully described in Nolo’s products and in the marriage visa section of its website) are either:

  • a K-1 fiance visa, if you’re not yet married, which is a 90-day visa that would allow you to get married in the U.S. and then apply for adjustment of status (a green card) after the wedding
  • an immigrant visa, if you’re already married or don’t mind getting married before coming to the United States, which allows the immigrant to enter the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident, but has historically taken a little longer to obtain than the K-1 visa, or
  • a K-3 visa, which is sort of a hybrid of the two, in which you get married before applying for anything, enter the U.S. in temporary (K-3) status, then apply to adjust status and get the green card, all of which was meant to offer the speed of a fiancé visa without penalizing people for already being married.

The trouble is, the K-3 visa only makes sense if the various government agencies involved (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services or USCIS, and the U.S. State Department) actually approves them faster than regular immigrant visas. And they’re not doing that. In fact, they’re largely ignoring K-3 filings, knowing they can urge the couple to go ahead with a regular immigrant visa filing as soon as the I-130 immigrant visa petition is approved.

For those who want to hear the nitty gritty details, the main problem is that it’s taking USCIS just as long to issue approvals on I-130 immigrant visa petitions as on I-129F fiancé visa petitions, and once the I-130 is approved, an immigrant visa interview can be scheduled, making the I-129F approval irrelevant.

Meanwhile, the K-3 process is more expensive than the K-1 or immigrant visa options, because you have to double up on your visa petition filings (with both an I-130 and an I-129F). It also takes longer before you get approved for U.S. residency — you’ll have to wait some months in the U.S. before your green card is approved.

The bottom line is that most immigration attorneys will, when asked about the K-3, respond with phrases like, “Really stupid,” or “it’s dead.”  

If all that seems confusing – which immigration law definitely is -- see an immigration attorney for a full personal analysis.