Integrity Legal

8th June 2009

The K-3 Visa Process: A Closer look at a Hybrid Visa

The K-3 Visa is a very misunderstood and probably often misused visa for American Family Immigration. A great deal of false information is present all over the internet as the K-3 is trumpeted as THE US marriage visa. In reality the K-3 visa, although in certain instances effective, probably has limited utility particularly where the Thai-American couple has yet to register a marriage in Thailand.

The K-3 Process Explained

The K-3 visa was created at a time when I-130 petitions (the underlying petition of the CR-1 visa and the IR-1 visa) were taking as long as 3 years or more to process through USCIS. Congressmen and Senators, feeling pressure from their constituents, made the decision to create an alternate visa for bi-national married couples. The result was the K-3 Marriage Visa.

Step one of the K-3 Visa Process:

File an I-130 petition for a CR-1/ IR-1 Visa. The I-130 petition creates the foundation for the rest of the K-3 process.

Step 2 of the K-3 Visa Process:

File an I-129f petition. Those who have kept up with this blog will recall that the I-129f is the K-1 visa application. In the case of the K-3, the visa process is essentially the same as the K-1 from this point except for the fact that now the K-3 petition is processing at the same time as the CR-1 or IR-1 petition.

Step 3 of the K-3 process:

The I-129f petition, upon approval, leaves USCIS and is sent to the National Visa Center. From there, it is forwarded to the US Embassy in Bangkok.

Step 4 of the K-3 Visa Process:

The K-3 interview at the US Embassy: the K-3 Visa beneficiary is interviewed by the Consular Officer and provided there are no 221g denials, the K-3 visa will be approved.

While this process is transpiring, the I-130 petition is also pending simultaneously. From a practical standpoint, this means that the couple has a choice regarding which visa application they will use to obtain the visa. Should they opt to simply use the K-3, then the Thai wife will enter the USA with a 2 year multiple entry visa, but NOT lawful permanent residence (Green Card). In order to obtain permanent residence and therefore finish the K-3 visa process, the K-3 spouse must either adjust status in the USA or leave the US and travel back to Thailand and re-interview for the underlying IR-1/CR-1 visa.

One of the probable reasons for a great deal of misinformation regarding the K-3 is the fact that “visa agents” do not understand the visa process. Also, a particular issue with regard to Thailand is the fact that unlicensed “Immigration Consultants” and “Law Firms,” cannot submit a US Immigration petition at the local USCIS office in Bangkok. If a US Citizen is qualified, a local filing can garner an immigrant visa for a Thai spouse in as fast as six months and the Thai spouse is conferred permanent residence upon arrival in America. USCIS will only allow a licensed attorney to represent clients before their officers and as a result non-licensed individuals seem to prefer to mail petitions to the USA in an effort to avoid being detected in the unlicensed practice of law.

(This post is for general information only. It is not a sufficient alternative to private legal advice from a licensed attorney. This post should not be misunderstood: merely reading this post does not create an attorney-client relationship between author and reader.)


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