CR-1 Visa Requirements
What is a CR-1 Visa?
Start your CR-1 Visa for your Thai fiancée in Thailand. When a US citizen marries a foreign fiancée in the USA or in Thailand, the foreign fiancée goes back to their country; the US citizen applies to the Service Center for an I-130 spousal visa petition.
When the US citizen receives the notice of receipt from the service center for the I-130 petition, the US citizen files an I-129F petition to their Processing Center (In either California or Vermont depending upon petitioner's location) for a CR-1 visa. The Processing Center sends this to the National Visa Center, and after approval, it is forwarded to the foreign US consulate.
The processing time at the USCIS and NVC usually takes more time for the CR-1 than for either of the K Visas. The reason for this: the CR-1 is an immigrant visa and the NVC will scrutinize the Beneficiary of a CR-1 more than for the K visas because the K visa holder must adjust status at a later date. The upside of this: the CR-1 visa holder gets to enter the US as a conditional permanent resident and does not need to change status once in the US.
Who is eligible for a CR-1 visa?
The CR-1 visa is specifically intended for use by US citizens who are sponsoring their foreign national spouse for immigration. Unlike the K-3 visa, the CR-1 is an "immigrant" visa, meaning that receipt of a CR-1 visa results in the spouse becoming a legal permanent resident immediately upon their arrival in the US However, being a permanent resident is "conditional", for the first two years that a couple is married. 90 days prior to the 2nd anniversary of attainment of conditional resident status, the US citizen and his foreign national spouse should file to have the "conditional" status lifted.
CR-1 holders can also bring their unmarried children who are under 21 along using a derivative visa of the CR-1 (however, please note that ordinarily it will be necessary for the US citizen to file separate I-130 petitions for those minor children at some point in order for them to become legal permanent residents).
The basic eligibility of the CR-1 Visa is as follows:
- The sponsoring husband or wife must be a US citizen, and the beneficiary must be their spouse.
- There must be a pending immigration petition naming the foreign spouse as a beneficiary on file with the USCIS.
- The marriage between the US citizen and foreign spouse must be valid, meaning that they have met all requirements to have a valid marriage in the country/jurisdiction where they married, and were not subject to any impediment (such as a non-terminated prior marriage) to their ability to marry at that time.
After obtaining a CR-1 visa, the foreign spouse (and their unmarried minor children, if applicable) can travel to the US and live with their spouse. As stated above, 90 days prior to the 2nd anniversary of attainment of conditional resident status, the US citizen and his foreign national spouse can file to have the "conditional" status lifted.
The CR-1 Visa is the "best" visa that a couple married less than two years can get (if married for longer than 2 years, the couple can file for an IR-1 which doesn't have a "conditional" period of residence, but instead confers immediate permanent residence to the holder).
However, given the lengthy processing times at most USCIS service centers, it is a protracted process that can be frustrating. The upshot of this is that all of the adjustment of status work is done before the foreign spouse enters the US. Thus, from the moment the foreign spouse enters the United States he or she is legally entitled to work and will not have to adjust his or her status in order to remain in the United States.
Overview of the CR-1 Visa Process
The process for applying for a CR-1 visa is somewhat complicated. The first step is to file an immigration petition for the foreign spouse. This will involve gathering substantial amounts of information about both the foreign spouse and the US citizen spouse.
The immigration petition should be filed with one of the two (2) USCIS regional service centers responsible for processing such petitions: the Vermont Service Center or the California Service Center. Which service center you should file the immigration petition with depends on the state where you live.
After you receive a formal USCIS receipt or equivalent proof that you have filed the immigration petition, you can then file a CR-1 visa petition with the USCIS' National Benefits Center ("NBC"). Unlike other immigration petitions (including K1 visa petitions), the National Benefits Center processes all CR-1 visa applications in the United States, so your CR-1 visa petition will go there regardless of where you live in the United States.
After the NBC processes and approves your CR-1 visa petition, it will forward it to the National Visa Center ("NVC"). The NVC will in turn forward it onto the relevant consulate. Your spouse (and their/your minor children) will have to attend a visa interview at that consulate (technically, you do not have to attend the interview, although it is best if you do).
At the consular interview, the interviewing officer usually will focus on verifying the bona fide nature of your relationship with your spouse and on your ability to support your spouse and their/your children if they are admitted to the United States. However, other issues can arise if your spouse has ever had any immigration issues in the United States or if they have any kind of criminal history.
Once your spouse has been granted a CR-1 visa, they will be able to come live with you in the United States, and because the CR-1 is a "multiple-entry" visa, they can travel using it.
Can a CR-1 Visa spouse work?
Yes, the CR-1 Visa Spouse will be able to work upon entry into the United States. In fact, their stamped passport acts as a temporary, "green card", until a permanent one is issued 2-3 months later.
Can a CR-1 Visa spouse travel outside the US?
Yes, you are free to travel outside the US. No advance parole necessary for travel outside the US CR-1 visas are valid in perpetuity.
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