The CR1 and IR1 Spouse Visas are immigrant visas designed for the foreign spouses of U.S. citizens to enable them to live and work in the United States. These visas provide a path for the foreign spouse to obtain a marriage-based Green Card, signifying permanent residency in the U.S. Obtaining a CR1 (Conditional Resident) or IR1 (Immediate Relative) visa is an important step for families who wish to be together in the United States and build a life together.
Spouses of lawful permanent residents (LPRs), commonly known as green card holders, have a separate visa category called the F2A visa. The F2A visa is specifically designated for spouses and unmarried children (under 21 years old) of LPRs, providing an opportunity for them to join their permanent resident spouses in the United States.
The CR1 and IR1 visa process aims to ensure that only genuine, bona fide marriages are granted permanent residency, while preventing immigration fraud and safeguarding the interests of U.S. citizens and LPRs.
This comprehensive guide outlines the steps involved in obtaining a marriage-based Green Card through the CR1 and IR1 spouse visa processes:
Difference Between CR1 and IR1 Visas
As you begin the process of applying for a spouse visa, it is important to understand the distinctions between the CR1 and IR1 visas. These differences primarily revolve around the duration of the marriage and the associated immigration status granted to the foreign spouse upon arrival in the United States. Here are the key differences between CR1 and IR1 visas for obtaining a marriage Green Card.
Further Reading – Learn the difference between a Green Card and a Visa
Immediate Relative (IR1) Visa
The Immediate Relative (IR1) visa is issued to the foreign spouses of U.S. citizens when the marriage has lasted for more than two years at the time the visa is granted. The IR1 visa grants the foreign spouse full permanent residency without any conditions attached. This means that the foreign spouse has all the rights and privileges of a Green Card holder, including the ability to work, study, and eventually apply for U.S. citizenship.
Conditional Resident (CR1) Visa
The Conditional Resident (CR1) visa is issued to the foreign spouses of U.S. citizens when the marriage is less than two years old at the time the visa is granted. The CR1 visa grants the foreign spouse a conditional Green Card for a two-year period. This is a provisional status designed to ensure that the marriage is genuine and not entered into solely for immigration purposes.
Removal of Conditions for CR1 Visa Holders
CR1 visa holders must file a joint petition (Form I-751) to remove the conditions on their Green Card within the 90-day period before the two-year anniversary of obtaining their conditional status. Both the U.S. citizen and the foreign spouse must submit the petition together, along with evidence proving the ongoing, genuine nature of their marriage. If the petition is approved, the foreign spouse’s status will be adjusted to that of a full permanent resident (similar to an IR1 visa holder), and they will receive a new Green Card with a 10-year validity.
Further Reading – How to sponsor family members for a Green Card in the U.S.
Eligibility for CR1 and IR1 Visas
Before applying for a CR1 or IR1 visa, it is essential for couples to understand the eligibility criteria that must be met for a successful application. These criteria ensure that the marriage is genuine and that the foreign spouse will be adequately supported upon arrival in the United States. Here are the key eligibility requirements for both the U.S. citizen spouse and the foreign spouse, including legal marriage, bona fide relationship, financial support, and the absence of legal obstacles for obtaining a marriage-based Green Card.
U.S. Citizen Spouse
To apply for a CR1 or IR1 visa, the petitioner must be a U.S. citizen. They must be able to prove their citizenship status through the appropriate documentation, such as a U.S. passport or naturalization certificate.
Legally Valid Marriage
The couple must have a legally valid marriage, recognized in the jurisdiction where it took place. This can include religious or civil ceremonies, but common-law marriages or informal arrangements are generally not recognized for immigration purposes. The couple must provide evidence of their legal marriage, such as a marriage certificate, and may also need to provide additional documentation if the marriage took place outside the United States.
Bona Fide Relationship
The couple must demonstrate that their marriage is bona fide, meaning it was entered into in good faith and not solely for the purpose of obtaining immigration benefits. They will need to provide evidence of a genuine relationship, which may include:
- Joint financial documents (bank accounts, tax returns, property ownership)
- Proof of cohabitation (lease agreements, utility bills)
- Photos of the couple together, with family and friends
- Travel records showing shared trips
- Letters or other communication between the couple
- Affidavits from friends and family attesting to the genuineness of the relationship
The U.S. citizen must demonstrate that they have sufficient financial resources to support the foreign spouse and prevent them from becoming a public charge. This typically involves submitting an Affidavit of Support (Form I-864) along with proof of income, assets, or a combination of both. The petitioner must meet the minimum income requirement, which is at least 125% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines for their household size.
No Legal Obstacles
The U.S. citizen spouse and the foreign spouse must not have any legal barriers to obtaining a CR1 or IR1 visa. This can include previous immigration violations, criminal convictions, or other factors that may make the foreign spouse inadmissible to the United States. In some cases, immigration waivers or other forms of relief may be available, but this will depend on the specific circumstances of each case.
Cost of CR1 and IR1 Visa Process
Applying for a CR1 or IR1 spouse visa involves several fees associated with different stages of the application process. It’s essential to be aware of these costs to budget accordingly and avoid any unexpected expenses. The primary costs involved in the CR1 and IR1 visa process for Green Card include:
- Filing Fee for Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative): The USCIS charges a filing fee for processing the Form I-130. This fee is subject to change, so it’s essential to check the USCIS website for the most up-to-date information.
- Affidavit of Support Fee: The U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident sponsoring their spouse must complete Form I-864 (Affidavit of Support). There is a fee associated with this form, which is paid directly to the National Visa Center (NVC).
- Immigrant Visa Application Fee: The immigrant visa application fee is charged by the Department of State for processing the visa application at the U.S. embassy or consulate. This fee is paid after the NVC has approved the I-130 petition and the applicant is directed to complete the DS-260 form (Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application).
- Medical Examination Fee: All applicants for a CR1 or IR1 spouse visa must undergo a medical examination by an authorized panel physician. The cost of the medical examination varies by country and physician, so it’s crucial to check with the designated physician for specific pricing information.
- Translation and Document Fees: If any required documents are not in English, they must be translated by a certified translator. Translation fees can vary depending on the length and complexity of the documents.
- Travel Expenses: Applicants may need to travel to attend their visa interview at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. Travel expenses, including transportation, lodging, and meals, should be considered when budgeting for the spouse visa process.
Please note that these fees are subject to change, and it’s essential to verify the most current fees on the USCIS and Department of State websites. Additionally, working with an immigration attorney may involve additional costs for their services.
Application Process for CR1 and IR1 Visas
The application process for both CR1 and IR1 visas follows a series of steps, involving petition filing, document collection, interviews, and potential wait times. The CR1/IR1 visa category is intended for spouses and the CR2/IR2 visa category is intended for accompanying unmarried children under 21 years old.
F2A Visa Category: The F2A visa category is specifically designated for spouses and unmarried children (under 21 years old) of legal permanent residents, commonly known as green card holders. The F21 visa is for the spouse, while the F22 visa is for the child. If you’re not married to a U.S. citizen, you may have to wait a while before a visa becomes available. This is because the availability of visas for spouses of lawful permanent residents (LPRs) is subject to visa availability limitations set by the U.S. government. To get a sense of the potential wait times, you can check the USCIS Visa Bulletin, which provides information on the priority dates and visa availability for various categories, including the F2A visa category for spouses of LPRs.
Here are the key stages of the application process for obtaining a CR1 or IR1 visa.
Step 1. Filing Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative
The U.S. citizen spouse must file Form I-130 with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on behalf of their foreign spouse. This petition establishes the relationship between the petitioner and the foreign spouse and is the first step in the marriage-based Green Card application process.
Step 2. National Visa Center (NVC) Processing
Once the I-130 petition is approved by USCIS, the case is transferred to the National Visa Center (NVC). The NVC assigns a case number and provides further instructions to complete the visa application process. The petitioner and beneficiary must submit various forms and documents, including the DS-260 Immigrant Visa Application form, civil documents, and financial support evidence.
Step 3. Affidavit of Support
The U.S. citizen spouse must submit an Affidavit of Support (Form I-864) to demonstrate their ability to financially support their foreign spouse. This form ensures the foreign spouse will not become a public charge in the United States.
Step 4. Medical Examination and Vaccination
The foreign spouse must undergo a medical examination and receive the required vaccinations. This examination must be conducted by a designated panel physician in the foreign spouse’s home country. The results will be sealed and must be submitted unopened during the visa interview.
Step 5. Visa Interview and Consular Processing
The foreign spouse will be scheduled for an interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in their home country for consular processing. The consular officer will review the application, documents, and medical examination results to determine the foreign spouse’s eligibility for the visa. The officer may ask questions about the relationship to verify its authenticity.
Step 6. Visa Issuance and Travel to the United States
If the visa is approved, the foreign spouse will receive a visa packet and a CR1 or IR1 visa will be stamped in their passport. The foreign spouse must enter the United States before the visa expiration date.
Step 7. Arrival in the United States and Removal of Conditions
Upon arrival in the United States, the foreign spouse will be granted either conditional permanent resident status (for CR1 visa holders) or permanent resident status (for IR1 visa holders). CR1 visa holders must apply to remove the conditions on their Green Card within the 90-day period before their second anniversary as a conditional resident by filing Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence.
Please note that processing times for CR1 and IR1 visas can vary depending on factors such as the workload at USCIS, NVC, and the U.S. Embassy or Consulate, as well as the individual case’s complexity. It is important to remain patient and follow all instructions provided by the relevant authorities throughout the application process.
Further Reading – How K-1 Fiancé(e) Visa Process Works?
Timeline for CR1 and IR1 Visa Process
The timeline for obtaining a CR1 or IR1 spouse visa can vary significantly based on several factors, such as the processing times at USCIS, the National Visa Center, and the U.S. embassy or consulate handling the case. It’s essential to be aware of the general timeline involved in this process to set realistic expectations and plan accordingly. The following is a general outline of the timeline for obtaining a CR1 or IR1 visa after marriage:
- Filing Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative): The U.S. citizen spouse files the I-130 petition to start the process. USCIS processing times for this form can vary, usually taking between 5 to 12 months. However, these processing times are subject to change, and it’s crucial to check the USCIS website for the most up-to-date information.
- National Visa Center (NVC) Processing: Once the I-130 petition is approved by USCIS, the case is forwarded to the NVC. The NVC will process the case and collect the required fees, supporting documents, and the Affidavit of Support. NVC processing times can range from 3 to 5 months.
- Scheduling the Visa Interview: After the NVC has completed its processing and deemed the case documentarily complete, it will forward the case to the appropriate U.S. embassy or consulate. The embassy or consulate will then schedule the visa interview. The timeline for scheduling the interview can vary based on the workload and availability at the embassy or consulate, typically ranging from a few weeks to a few months.
- Medical Examination and Visa Interview: Prior to the marriage visa interview, the applicant must undergo a medical examination by an authorized panel physician. After completing the medical examination, the applicant attends the visa interview. If the consular officer approves the visa application, the applicant will receive their visa within 1 to 2 weeks, depending on the embassy or consulate’s processing times.
The entire process of obtaining a CR1 or IR1 spouse visa, from filing the I-130 petition to receiving the visa, can take anywhere from 12 to 24 months. This timeline can vary based on individual circumstances and the workload of the agencies involved. It’s essential to be patient and stay informed about any changes in processing times throughout the journey to obtaining a Green Card through marriage.
Post-Approval and Arrival in the United States
After the approval of the CR1 or IR1 visa, there are several important steps and considerations for the foreign spouse upon arrival in the United States. This section outlines the key aspects of settling in and adjusting to life as a new Green Card holder.
Entry into the United States
Upon receiving the CR1 or IR1 visa, the foreign spouse must enter the United States before the visa expiration date. At the port of entry, a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer will review the visa packet, stamp the passport, and admit the foreign spouse as a conditional permanent resident (CR1) or a permanent resident (IR1).
Receiving the Green Card
After arriving in the United States, the foreign spouse will receive their physical green card by mail within a few weeks. This card serves as proof of their lawful permanent resident status and allows them to work and travel freely.
Social Security Number (SSN)
The foreign spouse should apply for a Social Security Number (SSN) at their local Social Security Administration office if they did not request one during the visa application process. The SSN is required for employment, tax filing, and accessing various government benefits and services.
As a conditional or permanent resident, the foreign spouse is authorized to work in the United States. They can use their green card as proof of employment eligibility when seeking a job.
Removal of Conditions (for CR1 visa holders)
CR1 visa holders must file Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence, within the 90-day period before their second anniversary as a conditional resident. This step is crucial to obtain a 10-year green card and maintain lawful permanent resident status.
After residing in the United States for the required period (usually three years for spouses of U.S. citizens and five years for others), the foreign spouse may be eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship through naturalization. They must meet eligibility requirements, including continuous residence, physical presence, good moral character, and knowledge of U.S. history and government.
It is essential for the foreign spouse to be aware of their rights and responsibilities as a lawful permanent resident and to comply with all U.S. laws and regulations. Building a life in the United States can be both exciting and challenging, but with proper planning and support, the transition can be smooth and successful.
Common Challenges and Issues
Applying for a CR1 or IR1 spouse visa can be a complex and time-consuming process, with several potential challenges and issues that applicants may encounter. This section outlines some of the most common difficulties during marriage Green Card process and provides guidance on how to address them:
Lengthy Processing Time
One of the primary challenges for CR1 and IR1 visa applicants is the long wait times, which can take several months or even years in some cases. This may cause emotional and financial strain on the couple. To minimize delays, ensure that all required documents are submitted promptly and accurately, and respond to any requests for additional information as quickly as possible.
Documentary Evidence of a Bona Fide Marriage
Spouse visa applicants must provide substantial evidence to prove the authenticity of their marriage. This can be challenging for some couples, especially those with limited documentation or who have not spent much time together in person. Collect a variety of evidence, such as photographs, correspondence, joint financial records, and affidavits from friends and family, to strengthen the case.
Incomplete or Incorrect Forms and Documentation
Errors or omissions on application forms and supporting documents can lead to delays, requests for additional information, or even denial of the visa. Thoroughly review all forms and documents before submission, and consider seeking assistance from an immigration lawyer or qualified professional to ensure accuracy.
Public Charge Concerns
Applicants must demonstrate that they are not likely to become a public charge, or a burden on the U.S. government for financial support. This can be an issue if the U.S. citizen petitioner has a low income or unstable employment. In such cases, the couple may need to provide additional evidence of financial resources or find a joint sponsor to meet the income requirements.
The consular interview can be a source of stress and anxiety for applicants. To prepare for the marriage Green Card interview, review all application materials, practice answering common interview questions, and gather any additional evidence that may be requested during the interview. Honest and consistent answers are crucial for a successful outcome.
Medical Examination and Vaccinations
Applicants must undergo a medical examination and receive required vaccinations. Some individuals may face difficulties with scheduling appointments, obtaining records, or addressing health issues that arise during the exam. Plan ahead and consult with a healthcare professional to address any concerns.
Facing these challenges can be daunting, but with proper preparation, understanding of the process, and professional assistance if needed, visa applicants can overcome these obstacles and successfully obtain their CR1 or IR1 spouse visa.
How an Immigration Lawyer Can Help
Navigating the complex CR1 and IR1 spouse visa process can be challenging, but an experienced family Green Card lawyer can provide valuable guidance and support. Here are some ways an immigration lawyer can help with your CR1 or IR1 visa application:
Expert Advice and Guidance
An immigration lawyer can provide expert advice on the eligibility criteria, required forms and documentation, and the overall application process. They can help you understand your rights and responsibilities and guide you through each step of the process, increasing the likelihood of a successful outcome.
Document Preparation and Review
An immigration lawyer can help you prepare and review all necessary forms and documentation, ensuring accuracy and completeness. They can also help you gather the appropriate evidence to support your case, such as proof of a bona fide marriage and financial documents.
Overcoming Challenges and Issues
An immigration lawyer can help address common challenges and issues that may arise during the application process, such as public charge concerns, documentary evidence, and consular interview preparation. They can offer tailored solutions and strategies to overcome these obstacles.
Communication and Representation
An immigration lawyer can communicate with the USCIS and consular offices on your behalf, ensuring that all inquiries and correspondence are handled promptly and professionally. In the event of any issues or complications, a lawyer can advocate for your interests and work to resolve the matter.
Peace of Mind
Working with an experienced immigration lawyer can provide peace of mind throughout the process, knowing that your case is being handled by a knowledgeable professional who is familiar with the intricacies of the CR1 and IR1 visa application process.
Learn about our Green Card lawyer, Pepper Glenn.
While it is not required to hire an immigration lawyer for a CR1 or IR1 spouse visa application, their expertise and support can be invaluable in ensuring a smooth and successful outcome. Investing in professional assistance can save time, reduce stress, and minimize the risk of delays or denials.
Are you ready to begin your journey towards obtaining a marriage-based Green Card through a CR1 or IR1 visa? Don’t wait any longer! Contact our experienced marriage Green Card lawyers in Atlanta at Glenn Immigration LLLC today for personalized guidance and assistance throughout the entire process. Let us help you and your spouse navigate the complexities of the immigration system and bring you closer to your dream of building a life together in the United States.
CR1 and IR1 Spouse Visa FAQs
Applying for a CR1 or IR1 spouse visa can be a complex process, and applicants often have numerous questions about eligibility, requirements, and the overall process for obtaining a marriage-based Green Card. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) regarding CR1 and IR1 spouse visas, providing valuable information and guidance to help applicants better understand the complexities of these visa categories.
What is the main difference between CR1 and IR1 spouse visas?
The primary difference between CR1 and IR1 visas lies in the duration of the marriage at the time of visa approval. CR1 visas are issued to spouses in marriages that have lasted less than two years, while IR1 visas are for those in marriages lasting two years or longer. The CR1 visa grants conditional permanent resident status, whereas the IR1 visa grants immediate permanent resident status.
Can I work in the United States on a CR1 or IR1 spouse visa?
Yes, once you have entered the United States on a CR1 or IR1 visa, you are authorized to work. Upon arrival, you will receive a temporary work authorization stamp in your passport. Afterward, you will receive your physical Green Card, which serves as proof of your permanent resident status and work authorization.
Can I travel to the United States on a visitor visa while my CR1 or IR1 spouse visa application is pending?
While it is possible to travel to the United States on a visitor visa (B1/B2) during the CR1 or IR1 visa application process, it is essential to understand that you must maintain the intention to return to your home country after your temporary visit. The immigration officer at the port of entry has the discretion to deny entry if they believe you intend to immigrate permanently during your visit.
Can my children also get visas through my CR1 or IR1 application?
Yes, your unmarried children under the age of 21 can be included as derivative beneficiaries in your CR1 or IR1 visa application. They will be eligible for a CR2 or IR2 visa, depending on the duration of your marriage.
Can I apply for a CR1 or IR1 visa if my spouse is a U.S. permanent resident, not a U.S. citizen?
No, CR1 and IR1 visas are specifically for the spouses of U.S. citizens. If your spouse is a U.S. permanent resident, they can file a Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, on your behalf, but you will need to wait for a visa number to become available in the F2A preference category for spouses and minor children of U.S. permanent residents. The waiting period may vary depending on your spouse’s country of origin and the current demand for visas in that category.
What if my marriage ends before I remove the conditions on my CR1 visa?
If your marriage ends before you can remove the conditions on your CR1 visa (i.e., through divorce or annulment), you may still be eligible for a waiver of the joint filing requirement for Form I-751. To qualify for the waiver, you will need to prove that your marriage was entered in good faith and not for immigration purposes, and that you would suffer extreme hardship if removed from the United States.
What happens if my CR1 or IR1 visa is denied?
If your CR1 or IR1 visa application is denied, the consular officer should provide you with a written explanation of the reason for denial. Depending on the reason, you may be able to address the issue and reapply, or you may need to explore alternative options for immigrating to the United States.
Can my CR1 or IR1 visa be revoked?
Yes, a CR1 or IR1 visa can be revoked under certain circumstances. For example, if it is discovered that the marriage was entered into fraudulently or for the sole purpose of obtaining an immigration benefit, the visa may be revoked, and the visa holder may be subject to removal from the United States.
Can I sponsor my spouse for a CR1 or IR1 visa if I have a criminal record?
Having a criminal record does not automatically disqualify you from sponsoring your spouse for a CR1 or IR1 visa. However, certain criminal convictions, especially those involving violence or sexual offenses, may trigger additional scrutiny and require you to submit an I-864W waiver request.
Can I apply for a CR1 or IR1 visa if my spouse and I are not currently living together?
Yes, you can still apply for a CR1 or IR1 visa even if you and your spouse are not currently living together. However, you will need to provide evidence that your marriage is bona fide and that you intend to establish a life together in the United States upon approval of the visa. This may include documentation of your ongoing communication, visits, joint financial accounts, and plans for the future.
What if my spouse has children from a previous relationship? Can they also obtain a visa?
Yes, your spouse’s unmarried children under the age of 21 may also be eligible for derivative visas (CR2 or IR2) based on your spouse’s CR1 or IR1 visa application. You will need to include the children in the initial visa petition and provide necessary documentation to establish the relationship between your spouse and the children.
What happens if my CR1 or IR1 visa expires before I can use it to enter the United States?
If your CR1 or IR1 visa expires before you can use it to enter the United States, you will need to contact the U.S. embassy or consulate that issued the visa to inquire about the possibility of extending the visa validity. Keep in mind that the extension is not guaranteed and may be granted at the discretion of the consular officer.
Can I apply for a CR1 or IR1 visa if I have previously been denied a nonimmigrant visa?
Yes, you can still apply for a CR1 or IR1 visa even if you have been previously denied a nonimmigrant visa, such as a tourist or student visa. The eligibility criteria and requirements for immigrant visas like CR1 and IR1 are different from those for nonimmigrant visas. You will need to provide sufficient evidence to demonstrate that you meet the eligibility requirements for a CR1 or IR1 visa and that your marriage is bona fide.
Can I sponsor my same-sex spouse for a CR1 or IR1 visa?
Yes, same-sex marriages are recognized for immigration purposes in the United States. As long as your marriage is legally valid in the jurisdiction where it was performed, you can sponsor your same-sex spouse for a CR1 or IR1 visa following the same process as opposite-sex spouses.
Can I change my CR1 or IR1 visa to another type of visa after I enter the United States?
Once you enter the United States with a CR1 or IR1 visa, you become a lawful permanent resident (Green Card holder) with either conditional or unconditional status, depending on the length of your marriage at the time of visa approval. As a Green Card holder, you generally do not need to change your visa type to work, study, or live in the United States. However, if you become eligible for another immigration benefit, such as U.S. citizenship, you may apply for that benefit following the appropriate process and requirements.
How can I check the status of a CR1 or IR1 spouse visa?
To check the status of a CR1 or IR1 spouse visa, you can monitor two stages: the petition and the visa application. Firstly, visit the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website and use the “Case Status Online” tool to track the progress of your family petition by entering the provided receipt number. Once the petition is approved, you can check the status of the visa application by visiting the U.S. Department of State’s Visa Status Check website and entering the case number provided for the visa applicant.