The CR1 Visa is a popular immigration option for recently-wed spouses seeking to join their U.S. citizen partners in the United States.  Although couples who have been married more than two years at the time the visa is issued will receive an IR1 (Immediate Relative) Visa, the application process for both the CR1 and IR1 visa is identical.

Whether you are a U.S. citizen sponsoring your foreign spouse or a foreign national exploring immigration avenues, there is essential information about the CR1 Visa process that can help shorten and simplify this important life step. From eligibility requirements to application procedures and important tips, an immigration lawyer can help you achieve your goals. Our goal is to guide you through the CR1 visa journey smoothly and efficiently, ensuring a successful and stress-free reunion with your loved one.

What is the CR1 visa?

The CR1 visa is a marriage-based immigrant visa issued by a US Embassy or Consulate to a foreign spouse of a US Citizen who has been married for less than two years.

map of world in heart to show cr1 visa for those in loveThe CR1 Visa, also known as the Conditional Resident Visa, is an immigration option designed for spouses of U.S. citizens who intend to permanently live and work in the United States.  This visa category falls under the immediate relative visa classification and grants the foreign spouse lawful permanent resident (LPR) status upon entry to the U.S. However, if the couple has not been married for at least two years at the time the foreign national enters the US on the CR1 visa, he or she will have to apply to have the “conditions” removed after two years as an LPR.

Note: The CR1 visa process should not be confused with the adjustment of status (AOS) process for spouses already present inside the US – while both processes result in lawful permanent resident (LPR) status, only the CR1 visa process grants the spouse the right to live and work permanently in the US immediately upon entry, because all processing has been completed at the US Embassy or Consulate in their home country. If you are already in the US, please see adjusting status after marriage.

Eligibility Criteria for the CR1 Visa

To obtain a CR1 Visa, certain eligibility criteria must be met. These include a valid marital relationship, legal termination of any prior marriages, and proof that the U.S. citizen sponsor can meet certain financial obligations either through current employment or personal assets.

Because the CR1 visa is specifically designed for newly-married couples, a key part of the application process requires that they prove to US immigration officials that the marriage is “real” and has not been entered into just to obtain permanent residence for the foreign spouse. Couples should be prepared to prove the strength of their marital “bona fides” both at the time the initial I-130 petition is filed and at the consular interview.

If the couple fails to convince officials that they are a real couple, the foreign national will not be able to immigrate and, where officials can prove actual fraud, the US Citizen could be prosecuted for marriage fraud. A CR1 lawyer can help ensure that both the initial application and interview go smoothly in this regard.

Visa Application Process

Obtaining a CR1 Visa involves a multi-step, often lengthy, application process including preparing the I-130 and I-130A petitions, gathering supporting documents, and submitting the application to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Failure to properly prepare either the initial petition forms or the evidence package can significantly delay the entire process or result in an outright denial of immigration benefits.

Once the I-130 petition is approved, the case moves to the US Department of State’s National Visa Center (NVC) for further processing. The purpose of NVC processing is to pre-screen the case for difficulties that could be encountered at the actual Embassy interview. NVC officers require parties to submit copies of the financial documents, DS-260 visa application and applicant certificates that will be used by the consular officer on the day of the interview. In fact, an interview will not be scheduled until the NVC is confident that all required documentation will be readily available to the officer on interview day.

CR1 Visa Interview and Approval

After the I-130 petition has been approved and the NVC has deemed the case “documentarily qualified”, the foreign spouse’s US Embassy will schedule a visa interview. In most cases, the US Citizens spouse will not be required to attend the interview abroad. Prior to the interview the applicant will attend a medical exam and, in some countries, a fingerprinting appointment.

In preparation for the interview, the immigration lawyer will ensure that all documents are up to date and the applicant knows what to bring to the Embassy. If the case is approved, and the couple has been married less than 2 years, a CR1 visa will be issued. If, however, the couple has already had their second wedding anniversary, an IR1 visa will be issued. Due to current delays in visa processing at US Embassies around the world, many couples who expected a CR1 visa are pleasantly suprised to discover an IR1 visa when the passport is received back from the Embassy.

Post-Visa Approval

After the CR1 Visa is approved, the foreign spouse enters the United States as a conditional permanent resident. A lawful permanent resident card (green card) and Social Security Card will be mailed to them.  If they have been married for less than two years on the day of entry, their lawful permanent resident card will indicate that they are a conditional resident and the couple will have to file a subsequent application to have the conditions removed. If they have already been married for two years on the day of entry, they will get a “permanent” permanent resident card, good for 10 years.

Navigating the CR1 Visa process can be complex, but armed with the knowledge and guidance provided by your immigration lawyer, you will be better equipped to embark on your spousal immigration journey. Seeking professional guidance is crucial to ensuring accuracy and adherence to current immigration regulations in order to reunite with your loved one in the United States as quickly as possible.