The United States provides a special visa for a person who is engaged to a United States citizen to come to the United States to get married. However, the process works a little differently when the spouses marry abroad.


I-130 Petition

The process begins with the I-130 petition, which is filed with the United States Custom and Immigration Services office.

K-3 Visa or Consular Processing

After the I-130 petition is filed, the couple may choose to pursue a K-3 visa or may await approval of the I-130 petition and proceed with consular processing. In many cases, this decision is simply made for them. Once the I-130 petition is approved, the need for the K-3 visa disappears.

K-3 Visa

The K-3 visa is a special visa for spouses of United States citizens. It permits the spouse to enter the United States to wait for approval of the I-130 petition and for a visa to become available. Some spouses use this visa so that they can stay together in the United States, rather than face possible separation with the USC living in the United States and the spouse living abroad. This visa is sometimes used as a backup if the I-130 process is taking too long.

Once the United States citizen receives the issuance of receipt notice for the I-130 petition, he or she files an I-129F with the same USCIS office. In turn, the USCIS forwards both petitions to the National Visa Center. The visa must be filed and issued in the country where the marriage occurred. If the National Visa Center receives the approved I-130 before the processing of the I-129F is completed, the K-3 visa is administratively closed. Then, the National Visa Center processes the application for the immigrant visa only.

If the I-130 has not been approved and received at the consulate, the spouse applies for the K-3 visa at the consulate. Once approved, the spouse applies for inspection at a port of entry. K-3 status is valid for two years. During this time, the spouse applies for an adjustment of status to a permanent resident by filing Form I-485.

Consular Processing

Once the I-130 is approved, the National Visa Center assigns a case number for the petition. The spouse completes a form that shows the choice of address and agent. This step is typically skipped if the spouse has a lawyer who completed the I-30 for him or her.

The National Visa Center sends the United States citizen and his or her spouse instructions regarding where to pay the visa processing fee and instructions regarding the documents that are necessary for processing. The petitioner and spouse complete the necessary documents and gather other documents. Applicable documents include the affidavit of support, application forms, identifying documents and civil documents. The spouse should have a valid passport and passport photographs.

The affidavit of support is a legal contract required by United States law. It is between the United States citizen sponsor and the United States government. It demonstrates that the USC spouse has adequate means to financially provide for the spouse whom he is bringing into the country. The USC spouse may need to gather additional financial documents to include with the affidavit of support, including tax returns.

Additionally, the spouse will need to undergo a medical examination and receive documents from the physician who performs such examination. The spouse may also have to receive vaccinations. Instructions regarding the requirement for a medical examination should be sent by the National Visa Center to the spouse.

Visa Interview

Once the National Visa Center determines that it has the necessary documents in hand, it schedules an appointment for the spouse and sends his or her file to the consulate where the spouse is interviewed. Additional instructions are provided at this point. During the interview, the spouse will have his or her fingerprints scanned.

At the visa interview, the spouse must provide original documents of all necessary documents. If there are any documents in another language, they must be translated to English. The medical examination and any vaccinations must be taken care of before the visa interview.

If the spouse is approved for the visa, he or she must pay the immigrant visa fee before he or she can travel to the United States.

Arriving in the United States

If the consular officer approves the visa, he or she provides the spouse with his or her passport with an immigration visa included in it. He or she also provides a packet to the spouse that is opened by an immigration official at a port of entry. The spouse must enter the United States before the expiration date on the visa.