If you are a UK citizen married to an American national, you may be eligible for the IR1/CR1 (Marriage Green Card). This spouse visa is a family-based green card that allows the spouse of a U.S. citizen or U.S. green card holder to live and work in the United States under permanent resident status.
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- What is a Marriage Green Card?
- What is allowed under this type of spouse visa?
- What is the difference between the IR1 and CR1 visas?
- What are the requirements for a Marriage Green Card?
- How do I apply for a spouse visa?
- What happens during the application stage?
- Necessary Medical Examination and Vaccinations
- What are the required documents for the spouse visa?
- What happens during the Marriage Green Card interview?
- What are the fees for the spouse visa application?
- How long does it take to get a marriage green card?
What is a Marriage Green Card?
The IR1/CR1 visa (Marriage Green card) is an immigrant visa for foreign-born spouses who are legally married to U.S. citizens or green card holders and would like to become permanent residents. This green card allows foreign national spouses to legally enter and settle in the United States.
This type of spouse visa falls into the immediate relative category of family-based green cards which means that it is not subject to any yearly cap. After three years of living continuously in the U.S. under the IR1 visa, the marriage green card holder will become eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship.
What is allowed under this type of spouse visa?
Under this type of spouse visa, green card holders have legal permanent resident status in the United States. As a result, spouse visa holders can do the following:
- Travel freely in and out of the U.S. (provided they travel on a valid spouse visa)
- Obtain a U.S. driver’s license
- Open a bank account in the U.S.
- Legally work without an employment permit
- Study at higher learning institutions or other educational programs
What is the difference between the IR1 and CR1 visas?
If a foreign-born spouse applies for a marriage-based green card, they will either be given an IR1 or CR1 visa. The type of visa issued will depend on how long the couple has been married. If the marriage is over 2 years old, the foreign spouse will receive an IR1 visa.
If a couple has recently wed and their marriage is under 2 years, the foreign spouse will be given the conditional residency visa (CR1). When the couple has been married for over 2 years, the foreign-born spouse can then transition to an IR1 visa.
What are the requirements for a Marriage Green Card?
In order to apply for a marriage-based green card, the marriage must be legally recognized by the United States with a valid marriage certificate. If a couple is unable to get legally married abroad, the U.S. citizen can apply for a K1 Fiancée visa in order to bring their future spouse to the United States for the purposes of legal marriage.
Furthermore, in order to be eligible for a marriage-based green card, the foreign spouse must be married to a U.S. citizen or a U.S. green card holder who maintains a valid address in the United States. In addition, the foreign-born spouse must be at least 18 years old and their U.S. citizen spouse must be able to meet the specific income requirements.
How do I apply for a spouse visa?
The first step in applying for a spouse visa is the petition stage. At this stage, the U.S. citizen spouse petitions for green card sponsorship of their foreign-national spouse. To do this, the U.S. citizen must complete Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relatives) and submit it to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) who will then process the petition within a few months.
Once a decision has been made regarding the petition, the USCIS will then inform the petitioner (U.S. spouse) of their decision. If the request is denied, the petitioner will be informed of the reasons why it was refused. Usually, if the petition was denied due to a minor mistake that can easily be fixed, the petition can be resubmitted after making necessary changes. Of course, this will depend on the circumstance and reason for refusal.
If the petition is approved, the foreign-born spouse can then start the application process. Instructions for how to begin this process will be sent to the couple in an informational packet sent by the National Visa Center (NVC). Along with the instructions and information provided, the packet will contain a case number and ID invoice number for the visa application.
What happens during the application stage?
Once the sponsorship petition is approved by the NVC, the foreign spouse can then start the application process. In order to do this, the applicant must complete the following steps:
- Complete Form DS-260 (Immigrant Visa Electronic Application)
- Undergo a medical examination and receive any required vaccinations
- Collect the necessary documents complete with certified translations and include them into a portfolio of evidence
- Schedule and attend a visa interview at their local U.S. Embassy or consulate (if abroad) or at a nearby USCIS office (if in the U.S.)
The DS-260 (Immigrant Visa Application Form) can be completed online. This form will ask a series of questions related to the applicant’s background and the reasons why they are seeking to relocate to the United States. After this form is completed and submitted, you will receive a confirmation page and number. It is important to print out this confirmation page and include it in your portfolio of evidence that you will later send to the NVC.
Necessary Medical Examination and Vaccinations
Anyone looking to immigrate to the United States will need to undergo a valid medical examination. This exam is meant to determine if an individual is healthy enough to enter and live in the United States without posing as a medical risk to the general public. In addition to undergoing a medical evaluation, a visa applicant will also need to be administered with the necessary vaccinations.
All medical evaluation forms will need to be signed by a licensed doctor and included in the portfolio of evidence submitted for the visa application. Instructions as well as all information about what specific vaccinations are required will be provided in the NVC packet sent to the visa applicant.
What are the required documents for the spouse visa?
You will be required to send a number of supporting documents in your portfolio of evidence for your spouse visa application. These may include the following:
- A passport that is valid for at least more than six months after your planned entry into the United States
- A valid and legal marriage certificate
- A signed Form I-864 (Affidavit of Support) from the U.S. petitioner
- A printout of the DS-260 application confirmation page
- Signed Medical examination and vaccination documents
- Two photographs per individual (these must conform to U.S. visa standards)
- Court and criminal records and/or police certificate
- Military records if you ever served in the military
After you have compiled all of your supporting documents together, you may then send them off to the NVC in your application packet. The NVC will then assess your application packet to determine whether or not you have provided enough evidence to be approved for an IR1/CR1 visa. If more information is needed, you will then be sent a request for more information. It is important to send the request information before the deadline given or it will not be considered and your marriage green card may be rejected.
What happens during the Marriage Green Card interview?
After your application is sent off and the NVC is satisfied with the information you have provided, you will then be asked to attend a marriage-based green card interview. If you are abroad, this interview will take place at the local U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are in the United States at this time, you will be asked to go to a nearby USCIS office for the interview.
The visa interview is the last stage of the application process. At this interview, you will be asked a number of questions regarding your background, the information provided in the application, and your relationship and marriage. If you are in the U.S. for this interview, your spouse will also attend and participate in the interview. However, if you are abroad, only the foreign spouse will need to attend.
The purpose of this interview is to assess whether or not you are in a bona fide marriage. If the interviewer finds that your relationship is genuine, you will then be approved for a marriage-based green card.
You will then be issued with a visa stamp in your passport that will allow you to enter the U.S. within a fixed time frame. You must enter the United States before the time frame expires. Once you are settled in the U.S. you will receive your permanent resident card in the mail to the address you provided in your visa application.
In addition to receiving your visa stamp, you will also be given a sealed packet. This packet contains documents important to your green card and must remain unopened until it is given to an immigration officer at a U.S. port of entry. It will then be opened and inspected by a border control official who will then inspect it. If everything is in order, you will be allowed entry into the United States.
What are the fees for the spouse visa application?
The cost of a marriage-based green card will vary depending on what country the application was made from. Overall, the main fees for an IR1/CR1 visa will include the following:
- Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relatives): $535
- Form DS-260 for visa application: $325
- Form I-864 (Affidavit of Support): $120
- Medical examination and required vaccinations: costs will vary
- USCIS Immigrant fee: $220
- Certified translation of documents: costs will vary
It is important to pay the USCIS immigrant fee as soon as you can in order to avoid any unnecessary delays in receiving your permanent resident card. This card will be sent to you via mail at the mailing address you put down on the DS-260 form.
Normally, if you paid the immigrant fee before entering the U.S, then you will receive your card within 90 days of entry into the U.S. If you traveled to the U.S. and then paid the USCIS immigrant fee, then you will receive your card within 90 days of payment receipt. It should be noted that if you do not pay the USCIS immigrant fee, then your card will neither be processed nor sent.
How long does it take to get a marriage green card?
The visa processing time for a marriage green card is much shorter in comparison to other marriage-based visas such as the preference relative F2A visa which is subject to a yearly cap. There are no yearly limits for IR1/CR1 visas which means that the application can begin as soon as the petition starts.
The IR1/CR1 visas are usually completed within 8-10 months. The length of time it will take to receive a visa will depend on the speed at which the NVC processes a visa, if there were any mistakes in the application or requests for more information and whether or not there is a large backlog to compete with.
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Frequently Asked Questions
The IR1 visa is an immigrant visa intended for foreign-born spouses of U.S. citizens. With this visa, they can live and work in the United States as a lawful permanent resident.
However, the K3 spouse visa is a non-immigrant visa intended for temporary stay in the United States that does not grant lawful permanent resident status.
The IR1 visa is valid for 10 years after which you may renew the visa or apply for U.S. Citizenship. If you have been married for less than 2 years, then you will be given a CR1 visa. This visa lasts for 2 years after which the visa then be adjusted to an IR1 visa.
If your are marriage green card is denied, you will usually be given a reason as to why you were refused. A majority of the reasons for refusal are due to minor mistakes and lack of sufficient evidence. Oftentimes, these issues can be easily fixed and your application can be re-submitted provided that you made the necessary changes and submitted the necessary information and documents.
However, if the reason for the refusal is not something that can be solved by fixing the mistakes and resubmitting the application, then you may choose to apply for an appeal or motion to change the decision. If you choose to do this however you should consult with an experienced immigration lawyer who can provide you with the necessary guidance on how to proceed.