This update is dedicated to the US Citizen spouses who are Navigating the CR1 Visa Process in Fall 2023 and eagerly awaiting approval of a CR1 visa, otherwise known as a Conditional Resident visa, at a US Embassy or Consulate abroad.
The CR1 Visa is one of the few ways that new spouses of US Citizens can move to America to live and work permanently. Unfortunately, the process of obtaining a CR1 Visa at a local US Embassy has never been quick or easy. Since COVID, however, the process has become excruciating for those waiting to be reunited with their loved ones. Not only have US Embassies that issue the CR1 Visa not returned to pre-COVID operating capacity, which reduces the number of visa applications that can be processed in any given month, but USCIS is also taking an extraordinarily long time in approving initial I-130 petitions, which is the first step in the process.
The good news is that the CR1 visa outlook for Fall 2023 is trending positive – nothing earth shattering, but positive nonetheless. In this blog post, I’ll provide an overview of the current status of CR1 visa processing, recent trends, and offer some tips to help you navigate this important process.
Current Processing Times
As of September 2023, the processing times for CR1 visas vary depending on factors such as the applicant’s country of origin and the workload of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). However, it’s important to note that these times are subject to change, and applicants should monitor the USCIS website for the most up-to-date information on I-130 wait times. Both USCIS and the various US consular posts have decreased the projected wait time for the CR1 visa and the trend continues downward.
Many USCIS offices that process the I-130 for CR1 cases have reduced their pending application backlog which, in my experience, has taken the typical waiting time for petition approval across all offices down from 14 months to 11 months. Once the petition is approved, the applicant must then navigate through the backlog of applications at the US consular post in their country.
USCIS’s processing of the I-130 petition is the first stop in CR1 visa processing. A CR1 visa cannot be issued until the I-130 petition has been approved. While USCIS strives to process applications efficiently, several factors can lead to delays in the CR1 visa process. These may include:
- Increased Application Volume: Changes in immigration policies, geopolitical events, or even seasonal fluctuations can lead to a surge in I-130 applications, which may result in longer processing times.
- Document Verification: USCIS officers meticulously review all submitted documents to ensure compliance with immigration laws. Adjudication of the application will be delayed if the officer needs to examine discrepancies or request missing information through and RFE (Request for Information).
- Background Checks: The USCIS conducts thorough background checks on all applicants, which can be time-consuming, especially if an applicant’s history requires additional scrutiny.
- Administrative Backlogs: Occasionally, the USCIS may face administrative challenges that lead to processing delays. These can range from technical issues to staffing shortages.
The good news is that the I-130 part of the CR1 visa process continues to speed up. However, keep in mind that this is an aggregate picture of processing across all USCIS I-130 processing centers (California Service Center, Potomac Service Center, etc.) and your particular experience may differ. The wait time for individual offices is not standard across the board but, if you are lucky enough to be assigned to the fastest office, your total wait will likely be less as of September 2023 than it was six months ago.
Tips for CR1 Visa Applicants
While waiting for your CR1 visa to be processed, here are some tips to consider:
- Thoroughly Prepare Your Documentation: Ensure that all required documents, such as marriage certificates, birth certificates, and supporting evidence, are accurate, complete, and organized.
- Stay Informed: Regularly check the USCIS website for updates on processing times and any changes to visa policies or requirements.
- Communicate Promptly: If USCIS requests additional information or documentation, respond promptly to avoid further delays in the process.
- Consider Legal Assistance: An immigration attorney can provide valuable help in navigating any complexities.
As of September 2023, the CR1 visa processing times are subject to various factors, and applicants should be prepared for potential delays. By staying informed, diligently preparing your documentation, and being proactive in your communication with USCIS, you can navigate this important step toward reuniting with your loved ones in the United States. Remember to remain patient and resilient throughout the process, and consider seeking professional advice if you encounter any challenges.