IR1/CR1 Visa (Marriage Green Card)

The IR1/CR1 (Marriage Green Card) 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. After three years of living in the U.S. under this marriage-based visa, the spouse will become eligible for U.S. citizenship.

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    What is the Marriage Green Card?

    The IR1/CR1 visa (Marriage Green card) is an immigrant visa for legal spouses of U.S. citizens and/or U.S. green card holders that allow them to legally enter and settle in the United States. This type of family-based green card falls into the immediate relative category and therefore is not subject to any yearly cap. This spouse visa is specifically designed for those foreign nationals who are legally married to U.S. citizens or green card holders and wish to become permanent residents.

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    What can you do with this type of spouse visa?

    Under the spouse visa, foreign-born spouses enjoy a permanent resident status in the United States. With this status they are eligible for the following privileges:

    • Travel in and out of the U.S. (provided they travel on a valid spouse visa)
    • The ability to obtain a driver’s license
    • The ability to open a bank account
    • The ability to legally work in the U.S.
    • The ability to study at higher learning institutions or other educational programs

    What is the difference between the IR1 and CR1 visa?

    Marriage green cards fall into 2 categories: IR1 and CR1. The type of visa issued to a spouse will depend on the length of time the couple has been married. If a couple has been married for more than 2 years, they will be given an IR1 visa.

    If a couple has recently wed and/or their marriage is less than 2 years old, the spouse is only eligible for a conditional residence visa, also known as a CR1 visa. This visa is granted on the condition that the couple stays married for at least 2 years. After 2 years of marriage have passed, the spouse will be eligible to apply for an IR1 visa.

    What are the requirements for an IR1 visa?

    In order to be eligible for a marriage-based green card, the couple must have a legally recognized marriage.  A valid marriage certificate should be provided in the IR1/CR1 visa application.  Furthermore, they must have a spouse who is a U.S. citizen or green card holder who also has a valid address within the United States.

    couple holding hands

    How do I apply for the IR1/CR1 visa?

    In order to apply for an IR1/CR1 visa, the American spouse must first petition for sponsorship of their foreign-born spouse. To do this, the U.S. spouse must first fill out and submit Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relatives) and send it to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The petition is usually processed within a few months.

    After a decision is made, the USCIS will inform the U.S. spouse (aka, the petitioner) of their decision. If the petition is rejected, the petitioner will be informed of the reasons for the refusal. Depending on the reasons for the refusal, you can resubmit the petition after making the necessary changes.

    If the petition is approved, the next stage of the application process can begin. Instructions for how to begin the application process along with the ID invoice number and case number will be sent to the foreign-born spouse (aka, the applicant) in a packet sent to them by the National Visa Center (NVC).

    What happens during the application stage?

    After the NVC has approved the petition, the foreign-born spouse must proceed with the application. To do this, the applicant must complete the following steps:

    • Completes Form DS-260 (Immigrant Visa Electronic Application)
    • Schedule and undergo a required medical examination where they receive any necessary vaccinations
    • Compile the necessary documents into a portfolio of evidence
    • Attend a visa interview at their local U.S. Embassy or consulate
    • Receive another NVC packet (which must remain unopened) and travel to the United States

    Since there are no yearly caps for these types of visas, the application process can begin as soon as the petition is approved. They do not have to wait for a spot to become available.

    The DS-260 (Immigrant Visa Application 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. Once completing this form, a confirmation page and number will be given to you. It is important to print out this confirmation page as it needs to be included in the portfolio of evidence which you must submit to the NVC. When you send off the application packet to the NVC, be sure to include your ID invoice number and a case number that you will have received in the first packet sent to you by the NVC.

    Necessary Medical Examination and Vaccinations

    In order to be approved for a U.S. visa, all applicants must first complete a medical evaluation proving that they are healthy enough to enter and live in the United States without posing a risk to the general public. In addition to this medical examination, the applicant must also receive the required vaccinations.

    Instructions for what specific vaccinations are needed along with the required medical examination form will be sent to the applicant in the first NVC packet. All medical forms must be signed by a licensed doctor. These will be included in the portfolio of evidence that will be submitted later.

    smiling person receives paperwork

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      What are the required documents for the IR1/CR1 visa?

      There are a number of supporting documents that you will need to submit in your spouse visa application. These may include the following:

      • A valid passport that is valid for at least more than six months after your planned entry into the United States
      • Marriage certificates. The original marriage certificate should be provided but if not wedding albums and proof of honeymoon destinations might be sufficient
      • 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 collected all of your documents together, send off your portfolio of evidence to the NVC along with your application. The NVC will then assess your application and portfolio to determine whether or not you have provided enough evidence to be approved for an IR1/CR1 visa.

      What happens during the Spouse Visa interview?

      If the NVC is satisfied with your application and its portfolio of evidence, you will then be invited to attend a spouse visa interview. This interview will take place at the local USCIS office if you are in the U.S. or your local U.S. embassy or consulate if you are abroad.

      This interview is the last stage of the application process and some would argue, the most important. In this interview, you will be asked a series of questions regarding your background, application, and relationship. If you are in the U.S. for this interview, your spouse will also attend this interview. If you are abroad, only the applicant (foreign-born spouse) will need to attend.

      If the interviewer is satisfied with the interview and believes that you are in a bona fide marriage, they will then approve you for a marriage-based green card. Your passport will be given a stamp that will act as a temporary green card while you wait for their permanent resident card to be sent to you in the U.S.

      If you are abroad, your stamp will have a time window with an expiration date. You must enter the U.S. during this window of time and before the stamp expires.

      In addition, you will be given a sealed packet containing documents important to your green card. You must submit this packet unsealed at the immigration counter when you arrive at the port-of-entry into the U.S. If this packet is opened up before submitting it to an immigration and border control official, you may be denied entry into the United States.

      What are the fees for the IR1/CR1 visa application?

      The cost for an IR1/CR1 visa will vary depending on the country from which the application was made. Overall, the application will consist of the following main fees:

      • 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 vaccinations fees: costs will vary
      • USCIS Immigrant fee: $220
      • Fees for the translation of documents: costs will vary

      It should be noted that the time it takes for you to receive your permanent residence card will depend on whether or not you paid the immigrant visa fee and when you entered the country.

      If you paid the immigrant fee before entering the U.S. then you will receive your card within 90 days of entry. If you paid the immigrant fee after entering the U.S. then you will receive your card within 90 days of payment receipt. If you have not paid the immigrant fee then the card will not be processed or sent.

      Again, the card processing will begin as soon as payment for the immigrant visa fee has been received. When fully finished, the card will be sent to you at the U.S. mailing address specified by you on the DS-260 form which you initially filled out to complete your IR1/CR1 visa.

      How long does it take to get an IR1/CR1 visa?

      The waiting time for a Marriage green card is much shorter in comparison to other family-based visas such as the preference relative F2A and F2B visas which have to wait for a spot to open up. There are no yearly limits for spouse visas which means that the application can begin as soon as the petition starts. Usually, IR1/CR1 visas are completed within 8-10 months but again, this will depend on how quickly they are processed by the NVC and if there is a backlog of visa applications to compete with.

      close up of wedding couple
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                Frequently Asked Questions

                It you are on a CR1 visa, after two years you can file for an adjustment of status which will then put you on an IR1 visa.  This visa is valid for 10 years and can be renewed indefinitely.

                The IR1 visa is valid for 10 years and provides permanent resident status.

                If your marriage green card is denied, you will be given reason why it was refused.  Normally, most reasons are fixable so you can just make changes and re-apply.  If the reason for your denial is not simply fixable, you can apply for an appeal or motion to change the decision.  If you choose to go this route, it is highly recommended that you seek legal council.

                If your spouse has been living in the United States under a valid spouse visa for at least 3 years, they are eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship.