CR1 or IR1 Visa: How can a spouse come live in the United States?

An immigrant visa for the spouse of a citizen can be easily obtained as long as certain requirements are met

African American manager putting seals on visa document
An immigration officer stamps a visa document.mediaphotos (Getty Images)
Alonso Martínez

The formal partner of a U.S. citizen can become a U.S. citizen with an Immigrant Visa for a Spouse of a U.S. Citizen (IR1 or CR1), which can be applied for with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

The CR1 (Conditional Resident) Visa is given to persons who have been married to a U.S. citizen for less than two years. These are granted on a “conditional” basis and, after two years of entering the country, both the beneficiary and his or her spouse must apply to remove the conditions and subsequently receive a permanent resident card with a 10-year duration.

The IR1 (Immediate Relative) Visa is given to those who have been married for more than two years since their Green Card was approved and will have 10 years before having to renew their permanent resident card.

The process to obtain either visa is similar, however, the first one is valid for two years and you get a conditional marriage Green Card, and the second one for 10 years, with a permanent marriage Green Card.

How to apply for the CR1 or IR1 Visa?

The petition for a foreign-born relative, Form I-130, must first be filed with the USCIS in order for the spouse to immigrate to the country. The form is for the U.S. citizen or legal resident to demonstrate a relationship with an eligible relative who wishes to immigrate or remain permanently in the country, and obtain a Green Card.

The Form can be filed online through the USCIS platform with a user account, which can be created with the U.S. citizen’s personal information.

The process to file the petition must be done from within the United States. However, USCIS notes that in certain circumstances, a U.S. citizen living abroad may file a visa petition outside the country.

For the process, some fees must be paid and a list of documents must be submitted to create a dossier. Once completed, the National Visa Center (NVC) will schedule the applicant’s interview appointment.

The applicant must also read the Rights and Protections pamphlet, which informs them of their rights in the U.S. “regarding domestic violence, sexual abuse, child abuse” and the protections they have from the state.

What are the requirements?

The U.S. sponsor (the petitioner) must be at least 18 years of age and have U.S. residency, which is required in order to file the Affidavit of Economic Sponsorship.

In terms of documentation, the immigrant’s passport, which must be valid for 60 days after the expiration date on his or her visa, the sponsor’s Affidavit of Economic Sponsorship, Form DS-260 in English, two photographs, civil documents for the applicant, and medical examination forms are required.

CR1 or IR1 Visa Fee

For the process, the applicant must pay to file Form I-130, and process Form DS-260 (immigrant visa application). There are also costs for medical examinations and possible vaccinations required to enter the country. All current fees are available on the U.S. Department of State website.

There may also be other costs involved in the process, including fees for documents such as passports or birth certificates, which are required for the immigrant visa application, as well as possible travel expenses to the U.S. embassy or consulate for the interview.

How long does it take?

According to the Department of State, the time varies on a case-by-case basis, and can often be delayed due to the applicant not following the processing instructions or not meeting the requirements. Also, some applications require additional administrative processing, which may take longer.

Protection for undocumented spouses

In June 2024, President Joe Biden’s administration announced that it would ban asylum for migrants crossing into the United States as part of its strategy to address the border crisis. However, according to reports, a policy is being contemplated to protect undocumented spouses of U.S. citizens from being denied work permits and from being deported. This policy —which would affect about 1.1 million undocumented spouses— would be called “parole in place” and is intended to make it easier for these immigrants to acquire a Green Card and thus eventually obtain citizenship.

No further details have been announced at this time.

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