Spouse Visa Overview

Spouse Visa CR1/IR1
IR1 Visa Example

A CR1 or IR1 spousal visa, is an immigrant visa issued to an alien who wishes to enter the U.S. to live and stay with their U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse. The “CR” from CR1 stands for conditional resident and is applicable to couples who’ve been married fewer than 2 years. The “IR” from IR1 stands for immediate relative and is applicable for couples who’ve been married 2 years or longer.

The obsolete K3 visa was another spouse visa option, but has been mostly done away with in practice.

The CR1 and IR1 visa comes with a permanent residency card (green card), unlike K visas.

The CR1/IR1 Visa Process

There are a few phases and steps to the CR1 process that span several months.

The basic steps to the spouse visa process are as follows:

  1. USCIS Filing – Petition is mailed to the USCIS.
  2. Notice of Action 1 (NOA1) – Petition is received by USCIS.
  3. Notice of Action 2 (NOA2) – Petition is approved or denied by USCIS.
  4. NVC Phase – USCIS forwards case to NVC and collects fees & documents
  5. NVC to Embassy – NVC forwards your case to the U.S. embassy in the nation of origin.
  6. Embassy Letter – Embassy contacts you with further instructions.
  7. Medical Exam – Alien schedules and completes required medical exam.
  8. Embassy Interview – Alien is interviewed by consular officer at the U.S. Embassy.
  9. Visa Issued – The visa is placed into the passport and passport returned to alien.
  10. Immigrant Fee – Immigrant fee is paid online
  11. Travel to U.S. – Alien has 6 months to enter the U.S.
  12. Green Card Issued – Green card is mailed to home address within 2 to 4 weeks after arriving in the U.S.

Timeline

Currently, as of 2017, the average timeline from the initial application to the time the visa is granted is between 6 and 7 months. The time can be shorter or longer depending on your situation.

Some of the factors that can affect your timeline are:

  • The alien’s country
  • The current USCIS & NVC workload
  • The quality of the petition you submit
  • Natural disasters/war/terrorism

Eligibility Requirements

CR1 coupleTo petition your spouse for a CR1 or IR1 visa, you must:

  • Be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident aged 18+
  • Be legally married to your spouse
  • Meet the visa income requirements

For full details about the  CR1 visa requirements, go here.

Cost & Fees

The cost of the spouse visa process is not insignificant. Government fees are fixed, but other costs will vary depending on your unique situation.

Government Fees

Variable Costs

Everyone pays these. Varies based on your situation.
USCIS Filing Fee: $535 Travel Costs
NVC Fee: $445 Medical Exam (Usually around $200)
USCIS Immigrant Fee: $220 Assistance (ie. RapidVisa or an attorney)
Total Government Fees: $1,200

Unlike the K1 visa, you won’t need to adjust status with a spouse visa, as the green card is included.

Forms Required

There are several forms that are submitted/filed at different times to different government agencies along the way. Some people choose to DIY. It can be quite cumbersome to navigate all the CR1/IR1 visa forms yourself, which is why many people opt for assistance.

Form

Purpose

I-130 Petition for Alien Relative
G-1145 e-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance (Optional)
DS-260 Immigrant Visa Electronic Application
DS-261 Online Choice of Address and Agent
I-864 Affidavit of Support

Embassy Interview

At the end of the process, the alien spouse will be required to take an embassy interview with a consular officer. This will be conducted at a U.S. embassy or consulate that processes immigrant visas, often in the alien’s country.

The consular officer will ask a few interview questions which will allow them to make a final determination of visa denial or approval. The interviewer’s goal is to make sure there is no potential immigration fraud. If the officer approves the visa, the passport will be returned with the granted visa within a few days.

After Visa Issuance

The CR1 visa is valid for 6 months after it’s granted. But unlike the K1 visa, the CR1 visa comes with a green card. This nullifies the need for adjustment of status. This option can be beneficial if the alien spouse intends to work legally in the U.S. shortly after arrival. It also helps if the spouse wants or needs to exit the U.S. unexpectedly, as there would be no need to acquire future visas to reenter the United States.