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CR-1 vs. IR-1 Visa: Understanding the Options for a U.S. Green Card Through Marriage, If your Spouse is Abroad

For many of us, when we think about living the lives of our dreams, falling in love with a special person and getting married is at the top of the list. Marriage is an exciting, beautiful adventure that you want to take with your soulmate. For some, marriage can be the first step to starting a life with someone, buying a home, and starting a family of your own. 

There are many things that can make a marriage or plans to marry complicated, and immigration is one such factor. It can be frightening or potentially frustrating to contemplate citizenship issues if your fiance or spouse is a U.S. citizen or green card holder and you want to also have U.S. citizenship and secure your ability to stay in America. If you are seeking U.S. citizenship through marriage in one way or another, you will want to pursue a spouse visa.

There are two types of spouse petitions that you can pursue: a CR-1 visa and an IR-1 visa. Which one are you eligible for depends on the circumstances of your relationship, including the length of your marriage. If you follow these steps, you will be able to complete the spouse petition and receive a US marriage visa. 

What Is a Spouse Petition?

A spouse petition is the process by which one spouse can fill out Form I-130 (officially called the “Petition for Alien Relative”) to begin the process for the other spouse to receive a marriage based green card. This marriage visa processing time can take several months to a year (time processing varies) and will require you to complete an application for a wife or husband. After your Form I-130 is approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), you will proceed to the next steps for a marriage visa and receive either a CR-1 visa or IR-1 visa.  

Understanding CR-1 and IR-1 Visas

There are important differences between the CR1 visa and the IR1 visa. When we compare IR1 vs CR1, what mostly you need to take into consideration is the length of time you’ve been together and what your marriage plans are, if you are not married yet. The US spouse visa you receive will vary depending on these factors. 

What Is a CR-1 Visa?

A CR-1 visa or CR-1 green card is known as a conditional relative visa. This visa is for immigrant spouses who have been married for less than two years. This is also the visa you will receive if you come to the U.S. on a K-1 visa and marry within the mandatory 90 days of arrival.

If you are filing for this visa, you need to stay married for at least two years. After two years, you must apply to remove the conditions on your green card, which is Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence, which lasts for ten years. 

If either spouse divorces the other before the two year period has ended, the CR-1 visa is no longer valid. The foreign national spouse may be deported if the marriage ends and if they do not return to their home country. 

What Is an IR-1 Visa?

An IR1 visa or IR1 green card is called an immediate relative visa. You receive this green card if you have been married for more than two years upon the approval of the green card. This has to be a completely legal marriage with a marriage license. 

Eligibility Requirements for a Green Card Through Marriage

There are several spouse visa USA requirements you or your spouse will have to meet to receive a marriage green card. First, it is helpful to understand the difference between the two parties involved in this process. There is the U.S. citizen or green-card holder, who is known as the petitioner or sponsoring spouse and will complete the application for wife or husband. There is also the beneficiary or foreign spouse. This is the spouse who is applying to receive a green card and who is married to/marrying the petitioner..

Eligibility Requirements for the Sponsoring Spouse

To receive a spouse visa in the USA, the petitioner/sponsoring spouse:

  • Must be a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident.
  • Must be at least eighteen years old.
  • Must have a residence in the United States. This also means they must be planning on living in the United States for the foreseeable future and spend the majority of their time in the United States. Alternately, they might be living abroad but planning to return to the U.S. with their spouse.
  • Must be able to support their spouse financially. To prove that you are able to support your spouse, you must file an affidavit for support and be able to live at least 125% above the federal poverty line. If this poses an issue, you can also use a joint sponsor to meet this requirement. 
  • Must show joint evidence. This means evidence from both spouses that supports the legitimacy of the marriage. USCIS will want to ensure that the marriage is not happening just to get a green card. 

Potential Grounds for Disqualification for the Beneficiary Spouse

The following are potential grounds for disqualification:

Health Issues: The beneficiary will have to take a medical exam. If you have certain communicable diseases or mental health issues or have a history of drug abuse or addiction, you could be denied a marriage green card. For certain illnesses, you can apply for a waiver.

Criminal History: Certain serious crime convictions will potentially bar you from the spousal visa. For some crimes, you can apply for a waiver to bypass the restriction, but for others (e.g., drug trafficking), there is no waiver you can apply for. Additionally, if you are a former spy, have been involved in terror organizations, or have participated in state-sponsored violence, you will not be able to receive a waiver or green card. 

Immigration History: You can be denied a marriage green card if you have lied to a USCIS employee or Customs and Border Protection official or if you falsely claim to be a citizen. Additionally, if you misrepresented your intentions, overstayed a visa, or ever entered the U.S. without a valid visa, you could be denied a green card or face a very lengthy process reapplying for one. If these items are relevant to you, it is important to seek support from an immigration lawyer.

Public Ground Charges: You may be denied a US marriage visa if the government has decided you and your spouse will not be able to support yourselves and will rely heavily on public benefits now or in the future. 

Joint Eligibility Requirements for a Spousal Visa

Together, the couple must be legally married and be able to provide a legal marriage certificate. This marriage has to be supported by evidence (e.g., photographs, communications, travel plans, etc.). 

Clearly, there can be a lot of overwhelming components to the process of applying for and receiving a U.S. marriage visa. Reaching out for help with immigration law is important as you navigate the process, you should hire an immigration expert

Application Process for a Marriage-Based Green Card, If Your Spouse is Abroad

The application for a green card through marriage does have a lengthy process which can sometimes seem challenging and complex. Throughout this process, you will file multiple forms with USCIS, or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. To receive your spousal visa USA, you will have to undergo a medical exam, get fingerprinting done, and attend a visa interview. 

Besides a few small differences, the marriage visa USA application for the CR-1 visa and IR-1 visa are more or less the same. If you do not currently live in the USA, you will also have to go through consular processing, which means interviewing at the U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country. If you already live in the U.S., you will follow the adjustment of status process.

If the foreigner spouse is in the U.S, typically, this process takes 10 to 12 months (processing times can vary) – and the current application costs come to $1,400. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by this process, don’t shy away from hiring immigration professionals to help guide you through the process. 

Step One: File Form I-130

To complete the spouse petition, your spouse with U.S. residence or permanent resident status will file Form I-130, or Petition for Alien Relative. This is the form that establishes you as eligible for the green card and proves that your marriage to the U.S. citizen/permanent resident is lawful.

This application usually takes between seven and ten months to process and requires a $675 filing fee. You may be contacted to send more evidence before the form can be fully processed.

Step Two: Wait for a Visa to Become Available via Consular Processing

Once your I-130 form is approved, if your spouse  is a US citizen, you will be automatically assigned a visa number. However, if your spouse  is only a US permanent resident, you must wait for a visa number to become available. This could take months to years. 

Every month, the US Department of State publishes a Visa Bulletin. This will give you instructions on moving forward with your U.S. marriage visa, depending on when you filed.

Step Three: File Form DS-260

USCIS will send your documents to the National Visa Center after approving Form I-130. NVC will send you your case number, beneficiary ID number, and invoice number. This will help you complete Form DS-260.  It costs $325. You will also have to pay a $120 Affidavit of Support filing fee. This is the form that proves your spouse can support you.

Afterward, you can check the status of your application online.

Step Four: Fingerprinting and Medical Exam

You will have to undergo fingerprinting and a medical examination. A US Department of State-approved doctor must perform the medical exam. This exam usually costs $200-$400. You will receive a sealed envelope from the doctor with your results and vaccination record. The medical examination can be sent with your adjustment of status application or at your visa interview at the U.S. consulate, if the beneficiary is abroad. 

USCIS will send you a passport after they put a U.S. visa stamp in it. You will also have to attend a fingerprinting appointment at a visa application support center. You won’t have to answer any questions or prove eligibility at this appointment.

Step Five: Attend Your Interview

The final step is to attend your green card interview. The NVC will send you a notice with details of when and where the interview is. Your spouse  may not have to be present at this interview if you are still living in another country. 

Do be sure you have all the correct and necessary information before this interview, so you can demonstrate to USCIS this is a legitimate marriage, not a “greencard marriage” for immigration purposes. You will be denied if the USCIS decrees you are solely getting married for greencard.

You will need to bring your medical exam results, application forms, and any required documents (e.g., birth certificate, marriage certificate, police certificates, and military records, if applicable). 

It is important to note that, depending on your circumstances, USCIS does sometimes waive these interviews. If you want to set yourself up for success in this process, an immigration professional like our team at Consulta can help. 

Afterward, if your spousal petition is approved, USCIS will send you a visa to travel to the United States. You will pay a $220 fee online to cover printing and mailing your green card. Approximately two to three weeks after your arrival in the United States, you will receive your green card in the mail and have a permanent residence card marriage. 

Find the Support You Need for a Spouse Petition

Changing your immigration status can be overwhelming and at times, frustrating. The process is long, requires a great attention to detail, and has multiple steps you have to perfectly execute. When it comes to something as important as the immigration status of your loved one, and especially your spouse, it can often be the wisest choice to seek outside counsel and ensure the green card by marriage process goes smoothly.

There are affordable, compassionate, and empathetic options out there. If you want the best possible assistance in your immigration process from a team of trained professionals with your best interests today, contact Consulta Immigration today and start your marriage visa process in the right way. 

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