K-1, K-2, K-3 & K-4 VISAS: The Big K

We had quite a few inquiries this past week about K visas. Clients often mix the different K categories. Here is a brief summary for our confused readers.

On December 21, 2000, President Bill Clinton signed into law the Legal Immigration Family Equity Act (LIFE Act). The Life Act made K status available to spouses and children who are the beneficiaries of pending or approved Form I-130 immigrant relative petitions.

Subsequently, the Life Act was amended, thereby expanding the K category to include spouses and spouses’ children of U.S. citizens who are waiting outside the United States after filing of an immigrant relative petition. The spouses of U.S. citizens under K status are now classified as “K-3”, and the children of such spouses as “K-4”. The K-3 and K-4 visas have specific requirements for filing due to the different nature of the petitions.

A fiancé of a U.S. citizen may receive a K-1 visa to enter the country for the purposes of getting married to a U.S. citizen within 90 days of his or her arrival. If the marriage does not occur within this 90 day window, the K-1 alien must depart the country. The child of a K-1 status alien may be granted a K-2 visa. The cut-off date for receiving a K-2 visa is one year after the K-1 visa has been issued.

When it comes to K-3 visas, lawmakers have sought to make immigration law responsive to the real world needs of alien spouses of U.S. citizens. To qualify for K-3 status, the spouse of the U.S. citizen must meet the following criteria:
1. The spouse must be the beneficiary of a previously filed Form I-130 immigrant relative petition;
2. The spouse must be outside the United States;
3. The U.S. citizen spouse must have filed Form I-129F for a K-3 visa on behalf of the alien.

The K-4 is a derivative nonimmigrant classification for the children of those who are eligible for K-3 classification. A child cannot qualify for a K-4 visa unless the U.S. citizen parent or step-parent files a K-3 petition for the child’s alien parent. K-4 aliens must be under 21 years of age and unmarried to meet the definition of a child. The K-3 and K-4 visas are valid for two years, and can be extended.

Like most engagements and marriages, processing K-1, K-2, K-3, and K-4 applications can sometimes result in a good or bad situation. Often, unexpected circumstances can occur when the beneficiary finally gets to the consulate. Therefore, it is crucial to consult with an immigration attorney in order to be made aware of the worst case scenarios and what sort of red flags to spot when filing these applications. This will ultimately aid with determining what legal strategies can be employed.