What is the F3 visa?
The F3 visa is one of the Family Based Green Cards. Along with the F2A visa, F2B visa and F4 visa, the F3 visa is a Preference Relative visa. It is designed for the married child of U.S. citizens. The U.S. sponsor must be at least 21-years-old.
The whole family of the U.S. citizen’s child is permitted to join them in the United States. This makes it a popular Preference Relative visa. Whoever is granted an F3 visa is able to freely live, work and study in the U.S.
Every fiscal year, the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services, USCIS, releases a certain number of these permits. The cap is 23,400 per year.
F3 visa eligibility and requirements
The F3 visa is designed for married children of a U.S. citizen who are over 21-years old.
Any F3 visa applicant must fulfil the following three criteria. They must:
- Have a parent who is a U.S. citizen. This must be proved via a birth certificate or adoption documents
- Be over 21 years in age
- Be married. This must be proved via a marriage certificate
F3 visa sponsor requirements
The U.S. sponsor is the one who starts off the F3 application by completing a petition for their child to join them in the United States.
To be eligible to be a sponsor a person must:
- be a U.S. citizen
- be living in the U.S. with a valid American address
- have a child in a foreign country
- be able to prove the relationship with the child via a birth certificate or adoption papers
F3 visa application process
As with many U.S. family visa applications, the process of completing an F3 visa application can take some time.
After the petition has been successfully accepted, the next stage is the F3 visa application. However, whether you can start the application process at this point depends on whether the F3 visa quota for that year has been reached or not. If it has, then you will have to wait till the following fiscal year to start the visa application process.
You will be informed by the NVC, National Visa Center, when your date becomes current. This means that there is no F3 visa backlog, you have reached the front of the queue and a spot is available for you.
It’s important to remember that each applying family member must complete a visa application, not just the child of the U.S. citizen.
At this stage, the Immigrant Visa Electronic Application, Form DS-260 will need to be completed. This form requires detailed information about the applicant’s background and reasons for wishing to immigrate to the U.S.
Once the form is completed, a reference number will be shown on a confirmation page. This page needs to be printed out and submitted with the other F3 visa required documents.
Here’s a summary of the steps in a typical F3 visa application process:
- Petition is completed by the U.S. sponsor and sent to the USCIS
- Upon approval, the USCIS sends the application to the National Visa Center, NVC
- The NVC sends a package with instructions and documents to the applicant
- Wait for an application spot to open
- Start the visa application process
- Complete form DS-260
- Complete medical examination and take any vaccinations
- Compile required documentation
- Attend visa interview at Embassy or consulate
- Receive NVC package
- Travel to the U.S.
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F3 visa petitioning process
The petition is the first stage of the F3 application process.
The sponsor must complete the petition form, Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. They must also pay the fee of $535.
It’s important that the sponsor includes any spouse or children of their child in the application if they are also applying to move to the U.S.
The sponsor needs to then send the petition to the USCIS. The petition is then sent to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security who processes the application upon the sponsor paying the required F3 petition fee.
In the event the F3 petition is rejected, the sponsor will be informed of the reasons for rejection.
They will have an opportunity to adjust the petition for any mistakes that were made in the original petition, and to add any required or additional information. The sponsor can then resubmit the petition.
Required documents for an F3 visa application
The documents that need to be submitted for an F3 visa application are very similar to those needed for other US family visas.
Your F3 visa application must contain the following documents:
- A valid passport for each applicant (your spouse and children), which must be valid for more than six months after planned entry to the United States
- Medical examination and vaccination documents
- A signed Form I-864, affidavit of support from the U.S. sponsor
- Two photos for each individual
- A valid marriage certificate
- If you are divorced, a divorce certificate
- If you are a widow, a death certificate for your former spouse
- Form DS-260 confirmation page
- Birth certificates or adoption documents for your children
- Any court or criminal records, and/or police certificate
- Military records if you served in the military
Note that you must provide translated documents for any documents which are not in English. Translations must be by an accredited translator.
Once you have compiled together all your documents, and have taken the necessary medical examinations and vaccinations, the next step is to send your application, with all documents, to the NVC.
The NVC will then consider whether your application meets all the requirements of the F3 visa, and if they are satisfied, then you will be invited for an interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country.
Medical examination and vaccinations
Medical examinations and vaccinations are a required step in the process of immigrating to the United States.
Details of these will be sent in the packet of information sent to the applicant by the NVC.
The medical examination and vaccinations are required to be taken by every member of the family who is applying for an F3 visa.
Embassy interview for F3 visa
The interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate is the last stage and a very vital part of the F3 visa application process. The NVC will arrange for an interview date at the U.S. embassy or consulate in the country where you currently reside.
The Embassy or consulate will decide if the F3 visa application will be approved or rejected.
If the application is approved, the passport of the applicant will be stamped with the F3 visa.
You will also be given a sealed package from the NVC. This package will need to be given to the U.S. immigration official when you land in the United States. You must not open this package.
F3 visa application cost
There are various costs involved when applying for an F3 visa, including:
- Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative)
- Form DS-260 (immigrant visa electronic application) processing fee
- Medical examination and vaccination fees
- Fees for any documents that need to be translated into English
- USCIS immigrant fee – to be paid after you receive your visa and before travelling to the U.S.
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In terms of a decision about the petition, you should receive a response within a few months.
In terms of the F3 application itself, unfortunately, it is not possible to predict how long an F3 Visa application will take to process and complete.
You might need to wait for some time for your visa application date to become current (after the petition stage) depending on F3 quotas for that year. In other words, you will receive a current date when a visa for your category will be available.
Each year the USCIS receives a large number of petitions, and when the maximum number of available permits has been reached, the remaining applicants must wait for a visa slot to become available.
This means that a wait of a year is not uncommon before your F3 application is processed, but in some cases, applications can take up to ten years to process.
In order to successfully apply for an F3 visa, one of your parents must be a U.S. citizen and you as the applicant, must be living outside the U.S. when you apply. Additionally, you must also:
- Be at least 21 years or older. If you are younger and unmarried you may instead petition for a Second Preference F2A Visa
- Be married and be able to prove the authenticity of your marriage with a valid marriage certificate
- Have a U.S. parent who has a valid address in the country
In general, the spouse and minor children of an eligible F3 visa holder are able to apply for the same visa.
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)
Your F3 visa application process starts with one of your parents who is U.S. based, submits a petition to request permission for you to enter the country. The form they use for this is Alien Relative Form I-130, and a fee must be paid. If the petition is approved, then you move onto the next stage of submitting the F3 visa application when your priority date becomes due.
If you will be traveling with your spouse and minor children, they must also submit an application.
Everyone wishing to settle as a permanent resident of the U.S. must go through a medical examination, including your family if they will be travelling with you.
The next stage is an interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your country of residence. The consular officer will ask you several questions to determine your eligibility. They will then approve or reject your application.
As with other U.S. family visas, your F3 visa application cannot be progressed until your priority date is reached.
Every year, the number of F3 visa applicants increases significantly which makes it increasingly harder to obtain your visa. In some cases, it can even take ten years or more.
Therefore, it is vital to ensure your F3 visa application is robust and free from any errors, so that it has the best chance of being approved when your priority date is reached and your application is considered.
If you would like some help with submitting your petition for an F3 visa category or the application itself, one of our immigration attorneys can remove the stress from the whole application process. Your dedicated immigration adviser will:
- Assess your case to determine your eligibility
- Periodically check the F3 Visa Bulletin
- Help you compile your F3 supporting documents
- Liaise with the USCIS if there are delays in your application.