Integrity Legal

1st Nov 2009

Many married couples seeking United States immigration benefits submit an I-129f application for the K3 visa as a supplement to the filing of an I-130 petition for a IR1 or CR1 visa. Essentially a K3 application is a supplemental application because in order to obtain K3 benefits the couple must file a second application. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has two service centers where K3 visa applications are adjudicated. The I-130 application is submitted to a different USCIS location. During the USCIS processing phase the two petitions are adjudicated in a similar manner, but once the petitions are approved, the I-129f application for a K3 visa processes in a different manner from the I-130 application for a CR1 or IR1 visa.

The K3 visa process sees the I-129f quickly processed through the National Visa Center in New Hampshire (NVC) and sent to the US Embassy abroad.  Once at the US Embassy the couple will need to gather documentation and prepare for the K3 visa interview. However, this phase of the process begs the question: is it better to adjust status in the USA or wait for the CR1 visa application to process through the NVC and obtain a CR1 visa from the US Embassy abroad? The CR1 visa takes longer to process as packet 3 is sent to the NVC rather than directly to the Embassy. NVC processing of an Immigrant visa (CR1/IR1) can take a great deal of time. However, the benefit of entering in CR1 status is that the Beneficiary enters with Lawful Permanent Residence upon arrival in the USA. Where the Beneficiary enters the US in K3 visa status,  she is not stamped in with lawful permanent residence. Instead she must submit an application for adjustment of status sometime after her arrival in the USA.

In general, it takes approximately 6 months to process an adjustment of status application in the United States. However, the K3 visa beneficiary is entitled to depart from, and return to, the USA while the adjustment is processing because the K3 visa is a multiple entry visa and, once granted, it has a validity of 2 years. However, the adjustment of status process can be costly which is why some couples opt to forego the K3 visa application and simply wait for the approval of the I-130 application for a CR1 or IR1 visa.

It may be possible to have it both ways. A K3 visa beneficiary could go to the USA and return to Thailand to have the CR1 visa interview at the US Embassy in Bangkok. This method is often utilized where a couple wishes to briefly be reunited in order to celebrate the holiday season or an anniversary. Upon the foreign national’s subsequent entry into the USA in CR1 or IR1 status lawful permanent residence will begin and the K3 visa will be effectively nullified.

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