1. USCIS Filing
The United States citizen or permanent resident sponsor files the CR1 visa petition with the USCIS by mailing the completed I-130 petition package along with a check for $535.
2. Notice of Action 1 (NOA1)
After mailing your petition, you will receive a notice of action (NOA1) in the mail indicating the USCIS has received your petition. You do nothing at this step.
3. Notice of Action 2 (NOA2)
Between 6 and 8 months after mailing your petition, you will receive a notice of action (NOA2) in the mail indicating the USCIS has approved, denied or requests additional evidence for your petition. If approved, you do nothing at this step. If you receive an RFE, you need to respond to it with the evidence requested.
4. NVC Phase
NVC sends an email message with NVC case number, instructions and invoices for fees. At this time, you will choose an agent, pay NVC fees, submit visa application form, collect requested documents and send them to the NVC.
5. NVC to Embassy
Within 4 weeks, if your spouse’s security check comes back clean, your approved CR-1/IR-1 visa petition will be routed to the Bureau of Consular Affairs. The Bureau of Consular Affairs will send your file to the U.S. Embassy in your spouse’s country via DHL. You do nothing at this step.
6. Embassy Letter
About a week after receiving your visa petition, the U.S. Embassy (usually in the country of origin) sends your spouse a letter with instructions for scheduling the medical exam and interview. You (the U.S. citizen) do not have to attend the embassy interview.
7. Medical Exam
The alien spouse must have a medical exam. The package sent by the U.S. Embassy will explain how to schedule the medical exam. You must pay a fee for the medical exam. The fee is usually paid in the local currency and varies depending on the facility. You (the U.S. citizen) do nothing at this step. This fee can’t be paid from the United States.
8. Embassy Interview
The alien spouse must attend an interview at the U.S. Embassy. All applicants must bring their passport, including children of all ages. If children are joining on a CR-2 visa, they must also attend the interview.
After your interview has been scheduled, you will need to carefully review the information sent by the NVC. There may be additional instructions to follow unique to your situation, so review it closely.
At the interview, consular officer will ask a series of questions to determine the marriage is genuine and there is no immigration fraud suspected.
9. Visa Issued
The alien spouse may be able to pick up the actual visa the same day. However, there will usually be a wait of up to one week. The visa will be delivered via courier. The actual CR1 spousal visa is a self-adhesive decal that is placed in the beneficiary’s passport. At this point, airline tickets can be purchased for travel to the United States.
10. Immigrant Fee
The applicant will pay the $220 immigrant fee online.
11. Travel to U.S.
The spouse has 6 months to use the visa to enter the United States. He or she will be given a package of documents by the U.S. Embassy which he or she will surrender at the Point of Entry (POE) into the United States. The sponsor does not need to travel with the beneficiary when they travel to the United States.
12. Green Card Issued
The green card is issued shortly (2-4 weeks) after arriving in the U.S. The alien now is authorized to work legally in the United States. Additionally, they can exit and re-enter the U.S. without the need to apply for further visas.
Additional Items Related to the CR1/IR1 Process
Children of CR1/IR1 Spousal Visas (CR2/IR2 Visa)
If you married the alien spouse before their children turned 19, and intend to bring them over before they are 21, they may be eligible to come over on a CR2 or IR2 visa. It usually saves a lot of time, headache and money if you file the child(ren) along with the parent rather than separately.
Working in the U.S. with a Spousal Visa
Shortly after arriving in the USA, the alien spouse will receive his/her green card and be able to legally work in the United States.
Spousal Visa and HIV/AIDS
HIV is no longer a ground of inadmissibility. This rule was changed on January 4, 2010. Applicants are no longer required to file Form I-690 if HIV infected.
CR1/IR1 Visa if in the United States Illegally
The alien spouse will not be able to apply for permanent resident status (get a green card and get legal) while in the United States illegally. A person who enters illegally may be banned from returning to the United States for up to 10 years. If this is your situation, you should talk to an immigration attorney before you leave the United States.
Same Sex Spousal Visas
Same sex couples are eligible to apply for the CR1/IR1 visa the same way heterosexual couples are. The process is the same.