US K3 Spouse Visa
Summary of the K-3 Visa application process in Thailand
When a US citizen marries a Thai fiancé, the US citizen must submit an I-130 spousal visa petition to the USCIS for the new Thai spouse if they wish to return to America and achieve permanent resident status with a K-3 Visa. If the marriage takes place in the US, the Thai spouse will need to return to Thailand to begin the process. If the couple is not yet married and wishes to go to the US with the express purpose of marrying and obtaining permanent residence for the Thai fiancé, then they must instead petition for a K-1 visa.
The US citizen will be notified by mail when the USCIS service center receives their I-130 petition. The US citizen then files an I-129F petition to the USCIS Dallas Lockbox for a K-3 visa application from Thailand. The USCIS forwards an approved I-129F to the State Department, which forwards it to the embassy.
The final stage of the K-3 Visa process is similar to that of the K-1 Visa process, which includes an interview stage. Once the visa is approved and issued, the Thai spouse can then travel to the US and file for Adjustment of Status.
Who is eligible for a K-3 Visa in Thailand?
The K-3 Visa is specifically intended for use by US citizens who are sponsoring their foreign national spouse for immigration. It was created to address the long processing times for immigration visas at the USCIS. The K-3 visa is therefore actually a "non-immigration" visa, meaning that receipt of a K-3 visa does not result in the spouse becoming a legal permanent resident immediately upon their arrival in the US.
However, the K-3 visa from Thailand does allow a Thai spouse to travel to the US and live with their US citizen spouse while they are waiting for their immigration application to be processed. They can also bring their unmarried children who are under 21 along using the related K-4 Visa (however, please note that ordinarily, it will be necessary for the US citizen to file separate I-130 petitions for those minor children at some point in order for them to become legal permanent residents).
Basic eligibility requirements for the K-3 Visa
- The sponsoring spouse must be a US citizen, and the beneficiary must be their legal spouse.
- There must be a pending immigration petition naming the foreign spouse as a beneficiary on file with the USCIS.
- The marriage between the US citizen and foreign spouse must be valid, meaning that they have met all requirements to have a valid marriage in the country/jurisdiction where they married, and were not subject to any impediment (such as a non-terminated prior marriage) to their ability to marry at that time.
After obtaining a K-3 visa in Thailand, the foreign spouse (and their unmarried minor children, using the K-4 visa) can travel to the US and live with their spouse for up to 2 years. Presumably, during that time the USCIS will approve the immigration petition filed by the US sponsor and the spouse will be able to apply for Adjustment of Status to become a legal permanent resident.
The K-3 visa is not as ideal as being able to quickly obtain a spousal immigration visa would be. However, given the lengthy processing times at most USCIS service centers, it is a welcome alternative to the spouse being forced to live outside the US for an extended period and has already helped many families reunite.
A detailed description of the K-3 Visa application process
The K-3 visa application process in Thailand is somewhat complicated. The first step is to file an immigration petition for the foreign spouse. This will involve gathering substantial amounts of information about both the foreign spouse and the US citizen spouse. Although it is not technically required for the spouse's children to receive a K-4 visa, it is best to go ahead and file immigration petitions for them as well. If the children are not the biological children of the US citizen spouse, then it is necessary to analyze the facts of the marriage to ensure that the US spouse can successfully sponsor them for immigration. In most cases, this will be possible, but the rules in this area can be complex.
The immigration petition should be filed with one of the two (2) USCIS regional service centers responsible for processing such petitions: the Vermont Service Center or the California Service Center. Which service center you should file the immigration petition with depends on the state where you live.
Once you receive a formal USCIS receipt or equivalent proof that you have filed the immigration petition, you can then file a K-3 Visa petition with the USCIS's National Benefits Center (NBC). Unlike with other immigration petitions (including K-1 Visa petitions), the NBC processes all K-3 Visa applications in the United States, so your K-3 Visa petition will go there regardless of where you live in the United States.
After the NBC processes and approves your K-3 Visa petition, it will forward it to the National Visa Center (NVC). The NVC will in turn forward it to the relevant consulate. Your spouse (and their minor children) will then have to attend a visa interview similar to that of the K-1 Visa at the US Embassy in Bangkok (technically, you do not have to attend the interview, although it is best if you do for moral support).
At the consular interview, the interviewing officer at the US Embassy in Thailand usually will focus on verifying the nature of your relationship with your spouse as well as your ability to support your spouse and their/your children if they are admitted to the United States. However, other issues can arise if your spouse has ever had any immigration issues in the United States or if they have any kind of criminal history in Thailand. Thankfully, these issues can be worked around with a successful I-601 Waiver.
Once your spouse successfully completes the interview and has been granted a K-3 Visa, they will be able to come live with you in the United States. As the K-3 Visa is a "multiple-entry" visa, they can travel outside of the US after arriving using their K-3 Visa, and they can obtain permission to work. However, if possible, once they arrive you should ordinarily pursue an adjustment of status application based on their pending immigration petition as soon as possible in order to ensure that they become a legal permanent resident (or at least have an application to become one pending) before their K-3 Visa expires.
It is also possible (and probably best) to secure permission for them to work and travel related to their adjustment of status application, rather than simply relying on their K-3 Visa. Similar considerations apply for any children that come with you to the US on K-4 Visas.
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