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Adjustment of Status, Permanent Residency and US Citizenship
for K1 and K3 Visa Holders, Thailand

By Chaninat & Leeds

U.S. citizenship is attainable for Thai nationals entering the United States on a K1 fiancée visa Thailand or a K3 marriage visa. K1 and K3 visa holders must first apply for U.S. Adjustment of Status to become permanent residents.

The K1 fiancée must marry the US citizen petitioner within the required 90 days to be eligible for adjustment of status. If the marriage takes place outside of 90 days from when the K1 fiancée enters the U.S., then the foreign fiancée risks deportation. Additionally, if the K1 fiancée marries a U.S. citizen other than the original I-129F petitioner, then that Thai national will no longer be eligible to apply for permanent residency. 

Once married, the K1 visa holder must file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status. The K3 spouse is able to and should file Form I-485 as soon as possible upon entering the U.S. The filing fees are currently $1,010, including biometrics fees. If the K3 spouse has a pending Form I-130, it is still possible to begin the adjustment of status process by filing I-485. The U.S. citizen petitioner can file a concurrent Form I-864, which pledges financial support for the I-485 applicant. Couples also should be prepared to interview with a United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officer before Form I-485 is approved. Couples are sometimes required to sit for a second interview if the USCIS officer deems necessary.

After filing I-485, the K1 fiancée is also permitted to apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and an Advance Parole (AP). I-485 applicants can work in the U.S. before getting a green card, if they possess an EAD card (commonly known as a work permit). K3 spouses, however, do not need to wait to apply for an EAD. They can apply for one by filing Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, immediately after entering the U.S. on a K3 marriage visa. An AP allows I-485, K1 visa-holding applicants to re-enter the U.S. while waiting for a green card.  K3 visa holders do not need to apply for an AP in order to re-enter.

A U.S. green card will be issued upon approval of Form I-485; however, many people who enter on K1 visa Thailand, and some K3 spouses, receive a conditional US green card. This type of green card is issued if the marriage has not yet reached its two-year anniversary. The duration of the conditional green card is two years. Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence, must be filed during the 90 days before the two-year green card expires in order to remove conditions and receive a 10-year green card. The filing fees for I-751 are currently $545.

There is a three-year waiting period after receiving the conditional or 10-year green card before one is eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship through the naturalization process. The three years is conditional upon the former K1 fiancée visa holder or K3 marriage visa holder remaining married to the original U.S. citizen petitioner who filed Form I-129F. If no longer married to the original U.S. citizen petitioner, then it is still possible to apply for U.S. citizenship, but the waiting period increases from three years to five years.

While the U.S. citizenship candidate is awaiting the naturalization process, it is important to learn to speak, read, and write beginner-level English, and to become familiar with U.S. culture, politics, and history. These skills will be of great use for the tests and interviews required for the naturalization process. The candidate is also required to be physically within U.S. borders for 50% of the time between receiving a green card and applying for naturalization.  

Unfortunately, there is no certain timeline from the date when a K1 fiancée or K3 spouse files for U.S. adjustment of status to receiving a green card, to completing the naturalization process and becoming a U.S. citizen. However, K1 fiancée visas and K3 marriage visas often carve out the fastest path to U.S. citizenship, when the relationship between the visa holder and the U.S. citizen is genuine, familiar and supportive.

Related Articles:

K1 or K3: Which US Visa is Better for my Thai Girlfriend?

Sham Marriages and US Marriage Fraud: Thailand