What is the F3 visa?
It is designed for the married children of U.S. citizens. The spouse and children of the U.S. citizen’s married child are also allowed to move to the U.S.
The F3 is one of the popular U.S. family visas because it allows the whole family of the F3 visa holder to freely live, work and study in the U.S.
However, the number of F3 visas issued is not unlimited. The U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services, USCIS releases a maximum of 23,400 each fiscal year.
F3 visa requirements and eligibility
The F3 visa is designed for married children of U.S. citizens who are at least 21 years old.
F3 visa applicants must meet the following three criteria:
- They must have a parent who is a U.S. citizen – this needs to be evidenced by a birth certificate or adoption documents
- They must be over 21 years in age
- They must be married – this needs to be evidenced by a marriage certificate
F3 visa sponsor requirements
The U.S. sponsor starts off the F3 application by submitting a petition for their married child to join them in the United States.
Here are the eligibility requirements for an F3 visa sponsor:
- They must be a U.S. citizen
- They must be living in the U.S. with a valid address
- They must have a married child in a foreign country
- They must be able to prove the relationship (through providing a birth certificate or adoption papers)
How to apply for an F3 visa
As with many U.S. family visa applications, the process of submitting an F3 visa application can take time, due to the limits on the number of F3 visas issued each year. If the quota has been filled for the current fiscal year, then you’ll need to wait for a slot to open up.
After the petition has been accepted, you can proceed to the F3 visa application stage. However, before making a start on the application, the F3 visa quota should be checked. If the quota has been reached for the year, then you’ll need to wait for the following fiscal year to check for an open slot, before beginning the visa application.
The NVC (National Visa Center) will inform you when your date becomes ‘current’. This means that the F3 visa backlog has been cleared and you are now at the front of the queue.
At this point, you will need to complete the Immigrant Visa Electronic Application, Form DS-260. This form requires detailed answers to questions such as about your background and your reasons for wanting to move to the U.S.
Once this form is completed, you will see a reference number on the confirmation page (online). This page must be printed out and submitted along with the other required documents.
Note that if you are applying with your family, each family member must complete a visa application.
Here’s a summary of the F3 visa application process:
- Petition is filed with USCIS by U.S. sponsor
- USCIS approves the petition and sends the application to the National Visa Center, NVC
- NVC sends a package of instructions to the applicant
- Applicant waits for an application spot to open
- Applicant reaches top of visa queue
- Applicant starts the visa application process by completing form DS-260, the Immigrant Visa Application
- Medical examination and any vaccinations take place
- Supporting documentation is collated
- Visa interview at Embassy or consulate takes place and visa is approved
- Applicant receives NVC package
- Applicant and family travel to the U.S.
F3 visa petition
The petition is the first step in the F3 application process.
The sponsor must complete the petition form, Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative and pay the fee of $535.
The petition should include all family members who will be going through the F3 visa process.
The sponsor must then send the petition to the USCIS. The petition is then sent to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security where it is processed.
If the F3 petition is rejected, the sponsor will be informed of the reasons for this. They will then have the opportunity to adjust the petition for any mistakes or omissions in the original petition, and to add any required or further information. The petition should then be resubmitted.
Required documents for an F3 visa application
The documents required for an F3 visa application are similar to the application requirements of other US family visas.
An F3 visa application must contain the following documentation:
- A valid passport for each family member applying (it must be valid for more than six months after your planned U.S. entry date).
- Medical examination and vaccination documentation
- A signed affidavit of support from the U.S. sponsor, Form I-864
- Two photos for each applicant
- A valid marriage certificate
- A divorce certificate if you are divorced
- A death certificate for your former spouse, if you are a widow
- Form DS-260 confirmation page
- Birth certificates or adoption documents for any children applying
- Any court or criminal record documentation, and/or police certificate
- Army records if you served in the military/army
If any documents are not in English you must provide translated documents and the translator must be an accredited translator.
Once all documents are compiled, and the necessary medical examinations and vaccinations have been taken, you can then send your application and documents to the NVC.
If the NVC is satisfied that your application meets all the requirements of the F3 visa, you will then be invited for an interview at a local U.S. embassy or consulate.
Medical examination and vaccinations
A required stage of the F3 application process is medical examinations and vaccinations. Every member of the family who is also applying must undergo the medical examination and vaccinations.
Details are sent to the applicant by the NVC in the package of information.
F3 visa embassy interview
The interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate is the last and vital stage of the F3 visa application process. The NVC will arrange an interview for you at the U.S. embassy or consulate in your current home country.
It will be the embassy or consulate that will decide if the F3 visa application will be approved or rejected.
If the application is approved, the applicants’ passport will be stamped with the F3 visa.
You will also be given a sealed NVC package, which will need to be given to the U.S. immigration official when you land in the United States. This package must not be opened.
F3 visa costs
There are several costs and fees when going through the F3 application process, including:
- Fee for Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative
- Processing fee for Form DS-260, immigrant visa electronic application
- Fees for medical examination and vaccinations
- Any translation fees (to have documents translated)
- USCIS immigrant fee – this is payable after you receive your visa and before travelling to the U.S.
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It takes a few months to receive a decision on the petition.
As for the F3 application itself, unfortunately, it is not possible to predict for processing and decision timescales. This is because it is unknown exactly how long it will take for an applicant to reach the top of the queue due to F3 visa quotas versus the number of applications received in any given year, and also any backlogs.
As a very broad timescale, it could take anything from one year to as long as 10 years for your F3 visa application to be processed.
Here are the main requirements for an F3 visa:
- The parent sponsor must be a U.S. citizen
- The parent sponsor must have a valid address in the U.S.
- The applicant must be living outside the U.S. at the point of applying
- The applicant must be at least 21 years of age. (If you are younger and unmarried you may instead petition for a Second Preference F2A Visa)
- The applicant must be married
You need to submit several documents in support of your F3 visa application:
- Your passport, which must be valid for more than six months after the date you plan to enter the U.S.
- Each family member’s passport
- An affidavit of support on Form I-846 signed by your sponsoring parent. This is to show you can sustain yourself financially
- Medical examination and vaccination documents
- Two photos for each person listed in your petition
- A valid marriage certificate (and certificates of divorce if there were previous marriages)
- Birth certificates or adoption documents for your eligible children (they must not be married and must be under the age of 21)
- Court and criminal records of each person applying for the visa
- Any military records (if applicable)
The F3 visa process starts with one of your parents who is a U.S. citizen submitting a petition for you to be able to join them. The petition form is the Alien Relative Form I-130. A fee must be paid.
After the petition is approved, then you can move on to applying for the F3 visa once your priority date has become due.
If your spouse and children will also be moving to the U.S. with you, they will need to submit an application each.
Each applicant will need to go through a medical examination and any required vaccinations.
Then it’s an interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your home country, who will make a decision to accept or reject your application.
With the F3 visa, as with other U.S. family-based Green Cards, you cannot move forward with your F3 visa application until you reach the top of the queue in respect of the visa quota for the year.
The number of F3 visa applicants is increasing each year so it is becoming increasingly harder to obtain a visa. In some cases, it may even take ten years or more.
Therefore, to avoid unnecessary delays, it is important to make sure your F3 visa application is comprehensive and error-free, so that you have the best chance of success.
To receive help with preparing and submitting a strong petition and F3 application, our immigration lawyers can assist. Your dedicated immigration adviser will:
- Assess your case and check your eligibility
- Check the F3 Visa Bulletin
- Help gather together your F3 supporting documents
- Liaise with the USCIS in the event of delays