Here are 4 facts about the CR1 visa, an immigrant visa for newly-wed spouses of US Citizens, that could affect your immigration planning:
#1: The CR1 Visa is one of two options for marriage-based immigration for spouses located outside the US
People located abroad obtain US lawful permanent residence (LPR) by traveling to the US on an immigrant visa. Spouses of US Citizens are issued one of two immigrant visas – the CR1 visa or the IR1 visa. While the processing for both visas begins with filing Form I-130, the longevity of the marriage at the time of visa issuance will ultimately determine the type of visa the spouse receives. If the couple has been married for 2 years or more, the spouse will be issued an IR1 visa. If the couple has been married for less than 2 years, the spouse will be issued the CR1 visa. Although the US government limits the number of visas issued in some immigrant visa categories, such as the F3 adult child visa, marriage-based visas for US Citizens are not capped, and approximately 18,000 CR1 visas are issued each year. Prior to COVID, the annual number of CR1 visas was closer to 29,000. This dramatic reduction in annual issuance is due to government delays; many more couples have now already reached their 2nd wedding anniversary by the time the visa is issued as compared to 2019.
#2: Children of the foreign national spouse may not be able to immigrate to the US at the same time as the parent
While other family-based visas, such as the F3, allow for dependent immigration, petitions for spouses of US Citizens are for the spouse only. If the child independently qualifies to immigrate as the child of their new US Citizen step-parent, the US Citizen can simply file a petition for each of them. However, if the child is too old to qualify, they must wait until the foreign national parent becomes a lawful permanent resident (LPR) or US citizen themselves so that the parent can petition for the child. Foreign national spouses who have older children that still reside with them in the foreign country will need to consider this issue prior to deciding to move to the US. It is extremely important to discuss these issues prior to embarking on the CR1 visa path to avoid complications and delays down the line.
#3: After living in the US for two years, many CR1 visa holders will need to undergo the removal of conditions process to obtain a permanent green card
It is no secret that the US government is skeptical of marriage visa applicants. It is up to the couple to convince the officer that the relationship is real and not fraudulent. One factor that officers look at to determine the authenticity of the marriage is the length of the marriage at the time the foreign national spouse obtained permanent residence. If the foreign national was married for less than two years on the day he or she became an LPR, a “conditional” green card will be issued. The “condition” is that they can only remain an LPR if they can convince US immigration, after two years in the US, that the marriage is real. This is called the removal of conditions process and it starts with the filing of form I-751. Not all CR1 visa holders will undergo this process, however. CR1 visa holders who reached their two year wedding anniversary prior to entering the US, but after the CR1 visa was issued, will be exempt from the process.
#4: The CR1 Visa Process Is Not Fast…But Neither Are Any of the Alternatives
Although a CR1 immigrant visa is considered “immediately” available to the spouse of a US Citizen, the process can currently take between 18 and 24 months from the day the I-130 petition is filed to when the spouse is issued the CR1 visa by the US Embassy. There are three stages to a CR1 visa application – the I-130 petition process, the NVC document process and, finally, the Embassy interview. Each part is handled by a different government agency, each of which has their own standards for adjudication and timing. Further, issues such as uneven staffing levels, public health emergencies (COVD-19) and level of cooperation of other US and global government agencies can all have an impact on processing times.
If you or your spouse is interested in obtaining a CR1 visa, or other type of green card through marriage, please feel free to contact us for a free phone consult.