Immigrants

11 min read

August 26, 2021

The CR-1 Visa: Everything You Need to Know

A comprehensive guide to eligibility, alternatives, the application process, and fees for you and your immigrant spouse.

We know that obtaining a visa to enter the United States isn’t particularly easy. However, an immediate relative of a US citizen or Green Card holder can immigrate to the US based on their family relationship with the said citizen. One way to do this is by applying for a marriage visa.  

If you and your foreign national spouse wish to live together in the United States, there are two ways in which you could bring them to the country: 

  1. Through a non-immigrant visa: K-3 visa
  2. Through immigrant visas: CR-1 visa or IR-1 visa.

You must note that the spouse that is a citizen or permanent resident of the United States must be the one to sponsor either of the visas for their immigrant spouse. The CR-1 and IR-1 visas are currently the most popular visas because the application process is simpler than that of a K-3 visa.

What is a CR-1 Visa?

The CR-1 visa is an immigrant spousal visa granted to a foreign national married to a citizen or legal permanent resident (LPR) of the US. The beneficiary of the CR-1 visa and their spouse must be legally married for two years or less to qualify for this visa.  

The ‘CR’ stands for conditional permanent resident. Being a conditional resident means that your Green Card is temporary and only valid for 2 years, after which you can apply for a permanent one. Even though your Green Card has CR-1 written on it, you share the same rights and privileges as a legal permanent resident.

That is, you can treat the CR-1 visa as a stepping stone to a permanent Green Card!

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K-3 Visa vs. IR-1 Visa vs. CR-1 Visa: What's the Difference?

Now, this is where most immigrants and their US sponsors get confused. The difference between the three is very subtle but important to know regardless. The K-3 visa, as mentioned before, is a non-immigrant visa. This means that a K-3 visa holder can apply for a conditional legal permanent resident status after arriving in the United States.

The CR-1 and IR-1 are immigrant visas. ‘IR’ stands for immediate relative, and this visa is granted to couples married for more than 2 years. The IR-1 visa is very similar to the CR-1 visa, with the primary difference being that an IR-1 visa holder is given unconditional permanent resident status when they arrive in the US, while the CR-1 visa gives you conditional permanent resident status.

If you and your spouse have been married for a period of less than 2 years, then the K-3 and CR-1 visas are your only marriage visa options. But CR-1 is generally preferred over the K-3 because it fulfills all its objectives in fewer steps and with less complexity.

Who is Eligible for a CR-1 Visa?

The sponsor must meet the following requirements to be eligible for a CR-1 visa:

  1. They must be a United States citizen or permanent resident
  2. They must be legally married to the foreign beneficiary of this visa
  3. They must meet the income requirements.

Although there is no set minimum age for a US sponsor to apply for a CR-1 visa, you must be at least 18 years of age to sign the Affidavit of Support (Form I-864 or I-864EZ), which is a required document for an immigrant visa. 

Also, note that common-law spouses, i.e., if a person is married to someone and doesn't have it registered with a civil authority or solemnized by a religious ceremony, such spouses may qualify as spouses for immigration purposes, depending on the laws of the country where the common-law marriage occurs. In cases of polygamy, the USCIS only considers the first spouse as an eligible spouse for immigration.

How to Apply for a CR-1 Visa: The Process

  1. File a petition: Form I-130: Petition for Alien Relative must be filed by the spouse who is a US citizen or lawful permanent resident. It can either be filed electronically or directly by post. Submitting Form I-130 is the first step in helping an eligible relative apply to immigrate to the United States and get a Green Card. The filing or approval of this petition does not give your relative any immigration status or benefit. 
  1. Once approved, complete Form DS-261: After your petition is approved by the USCIS, it is sent to the National Visa Center (NVC). The NVC collects forms and fees for the US embassies and consulates. The NVC will begin processing the petition once all fees have been paid and will also send out a packet detailing the various forms and documents that will have to be produced. You will then be assigned a case number for the petition and will be asked to complete Form DS-261, which is a simple online form that tells the State Department how to communicate with you during your Green Card application process.
  1. Pay fees and submit documents: You need to pay the NVC the required fee along with the requested documents, after which the processing will start.
  1. Complete the Interview.

Once the NVC has determined that all required documents have been collected, an interview shall be scheduled with the foreign spouse. The CR-1 visa applicant must bring their valid passport and any other documents or forms the NVC has asked for (that have not already been submitted). It is the visa interview that decides if the CR-1 visa will be granted or denied. 

CR-1 Visa Document Checklist: US Sponsor  

Forms:

  1. Form I-130 used to petition for your spouse;
  2. Form G-1145, to request an e-notification of your application;
  3. DS-260, an electronic application for an immigrant visa. (everyone applying for a US immigrant visa must fill in this form);
  4. Affidavit of support (such as Form I-864);

Proof of being a US citizen or permanent resident: 

  1. Birth certificate or naturalization certificate;
  2. Valid US passport;
  3. Green Card.

Proof of marriage:

  1. Marriage certificate;
  2. Translated copy of marriage certificate (if applicable);
  3. Additional proof like a joint lease, joint bank account statements, pictures together;
  4. Passport photos of both spouses;
  5. Divorce document (in case any previous marriage of either spouse has been terminated).

Cover letter (if you’re facing exceptional circumstances):

  1. A brief description of your petition (name of the sponsor, beneficiary, and the petition you’re filing);
  2. List of documents enclosed with the letter;
  3. Separate sheet addressing any additional details;
  4. Sponsor’s signature and date.

Medical examination forms:

  1. Immunization records;
  2. Medical history;
  3. Drug and alcohol screening test reports;
  4. Physical and mental health evaluation results.

The US consulate-approved panel physicians might either send your medical reports to the embassy or hand you a sealed envelope. In case of the latter, you must not open the envelope and submit it as it is to the consular officer.

Note: You must carry legible photocopies of all the documents mentioned for your visa interview.

How Much Does a CR-1 Visa Cost?

The CR-1 visa costs more than the K-3 visa. The government fees amount to $1,200, with the USCIS filing fee claiming $535, NVC fee $445, and you’ll have to pay $220 as your immigrant fee. You may also have variable charges in the form of medical exams, travel, and any assistance or attorney charges.

But since you get a Green Card directly, it might actually be a relief for your wallet in the long run! 

How Long Does the CR-1 Visa Take to Process?

The processing time varies between 7 and 10 months.

Some factors that can affect your timeline are:

  1. The country of nationality of your spouse;
  2. The current USCIS and NVC workload;
  3. Natural disasters and unforeseen circumstances.

You may shorten it as much as you can by submitting the right information and complete forms. It is important to follow all instructions for every form so that you don’t risk rejection. 

The CR-1 Visa: Frequently Asked Questions

Can CR-1 visa holders work in the US?

Yes, they can! Foreign spouses that receive a CR-1 visa can work in the US as soon as they receive their Green Card.

Can same-sex couples apply for the CR-1 visa?

USCIS recognizes same-sex marriages for the purpose of immigration. So yes, you can absolutely apply for a CR-1 visa in this case as well.

How do you apply for a permanent Green Card later?

You can fill in Form I-751, the Petition to Remove Conditions, jointly with your spouse to make your CR-1 visa permanent and live in the US as a Green cardholder.

Can I travel outside the US as a CR-1 visa holder?

Yes, you can travel outside the US while holding a CR-1 visa. A CR-1 visa holder enjoys the same privileges as a permanent resident. However, spending too much time outside the US might cause you to lose your Green Card. Long separations from your spouse might be a signal to the authorities that your marriage is not legitimate.

Working with visa and immigration documents is undoubtedly a tedious task. It’ll be helpful to take some time out and collect every proof and form mentioned above, and maybe even seek assistance for an even more risk-proof immigration process. Congratulations on the wedding, and see you in the US!


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Akash Kalra
Akash Kalra is a writer, podcaster, and first-generation entrepreneur, as the founder of Izart Content Services: Home of Data Driven Storytellers.

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