CR1 and IR1 visas are for spouses of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents who want to travel and move to the United States. If an IR1 or CR1 visa is approved, you can apply for a marriage green card and become a lawful permanent resident (LPR). The following guide is an overview of these visas, how to apply for one, and what happens after you get approved.
Written by Jonathan Petts.
Updated September 1, 2022
What Is an IR1 Visa?
An IR1 visa, or immediate relative visa, is for foreign spouses who have been married for more than two years when they enter the United States on an immigrant visa. Because the couple has already been married for a more extended period, there are no conditions on the IR1 visa. The recipient also has 10 years before they need to renew their green card.
What Is a CR1 Visa?
The CR1 visa, or conditional resident visa, is for immigrant spouses who have been married for less than two years when they enter the United States with their visa. With this status, the spouse can move to the United States on a “conditional” basis. They will need to stay married for at least two years. After this period, the visa holder must apply to remove conditions from their permanent resident card. They will then receive the IR1 visa, which lasts for 10 years.
If either partner divorces the other in the two-year period, the visa is no longer valid. The foreign national spouse could face deportation if they do not return to their home country.
What Is the Difference Between a CR1 and IR1 Visa?
The CR1 and IR1 visas have different requirements. The IR1 visa is for spouses who have been married for at least two years, while the CR1 visa is for spouses who have not yet been married that long.
Furthermore, the CR1 visa has conditions: the couple must stay married for the two-year period. The IR1 visa does not have this requirement. Finally, the CR1 visa is valid for two years, while the IR1 visa is valid for 10 years.
Who Can Apply for CR1 and IR1 Visas?
There are several requirements for the CR1 and IR1 visa applications. These requirements include:
The sponsoring spouse must be a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident.
The sponsor must be at least 18 years old.
The sponsor must have residence or domicile in the United States. These terms mean they must primarily live in the United States and plan to live there for the foreseeable future. Or, the sponsor must prove they plan to return to the United States with their spouse.
The couple must be legally married and able to provide a valid marriage certificate.
The marriage must be authentic and supported by evidence. For example, you may have to show photographs, flight itineraries, and more.
The sponsor must legally agree to support the spouse financially. This support includes filing an affidavit of support. The sponsor must have a household income of 125% of the federal poverty level or use a joint sponsor to meet this requirement.
How Do You Apply for an IR1 or CR1 Visa?
The immigrant visa application process involves filing multiple forms with the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). You will then complete a medical exam and fingerprinting and attend a visa interview. The IR1 visa process and CR1 visa process are mostly the same.
In either case, you will need to go through consular processing. Consular processing means applying and interviewing at a U.S. consulate or embassy in your home country. If you already reside in the United States, you would follow the adjustment of status process.
Overall, the processing time can take 27 to 46 months. The entire application process usually costs a total of $1,400.
Step 1: File Form I-130
First, your spouse with U.S. citizenship or permanent resident status must file Form I-130: Petition for Alien Relative, which establishes your eligibility for a green card. In other words, this application form proves you are the spouse of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident.
Your spouse is the sponsor or “petitioner.” As the foreign national, you are the applicant or “beneficiary.”
Your spouse will need to complete the form and mail it to USCIS. This form also requires a $535 filing fee. Once USCIS receives your form, they will send a receipt notice by mail within two weeks. USCIS may send a request for evidence (RFE) within two to three months if they need more documents. Usually, it takes seven to 10 months to process this application.
Step 2: Wait for a Visa Number
If your sponsor is a U.S. citizen, under immigration law, a visa number is automatically available for you once USCIS approves your Form I-130. However, if your sponsor is only a lawful permanent resident, you will need to wait for a visa number to become available. The length of the wait depends on your home country. It could take anywhere from a few months to a few years.
Step 3: File Forms DS-260 and DS-261
USCIS sends your required documents to the National Visa Center (NVC) after approving your Form I-130. NVC will then send you a letter with your case number, beneficiary ID number, and invoice number. You will use this information to complete the rest of your forms online.
First, you will submit Form DS-261: Online Choice of Address and Agent. In this form, you will choose how the NVC will communicate with you. There is no fee, and you will submit this online through the Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC) website portal. It can take the NVC up to three weeks to process this form.
Afterward, you will file Form DS-260: Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application. You will also submit this form online. This form is your main immigrant visa application and has a $325 fee.
You will also need to pay the $120 Affidavit of Support filing fee. This form is where your spouse will prove they can financially support you.
You can check your application status online.
Step 4: Complete Your Medical Exam and Fingerprinting
Before attending your visa interview, you must undergo a medical examination and fingerprinting appointment.
First, you will need to find a U.S. Department of State-approved doctor to perform your medical exam. The U.S. consulate you applied to often sends you a list of approved doctors. Usually, this exam will cost around $200. Afterward, your doctor will give you a sealed packet with your exam results and vaccination record. You will need to bring this packet to your visa interview.
Next, you will give USCIS an address where it can send your passport after they put a U.S. visa stamp in it. The U.S. embassy or consulate will again provide instructions on their website.
Finally, you must attend a fingerprinting appointment at a visa application support center. This appointment is just a procedural step. You won’t need to answer any questions or prove your green card eligibility at this appointment.
Step 5: Attend the Consular Interview
Finally, you need to attend your green card interview. The NVC will send you a notice detailing when and where your interview is happening. Your spouse usually does not need to attend this interview.
However, preparing for this interview with your spouse is essential to ensure you have all the facts about your relationship correct. USCIS uses this interview to ensure your marriage is legitimate and not for immigration benefits. If you can show that your marriage is legitimate, your visa application could be approved immediately after the interview.
You will need to bring your medical exam results, application forms, and other civil documents required by the embassy for your interview. These documents may include your birth certificate, marriage certificate, police certificates, and military records, if applicable.
What Happens After Applying for an IR1 or CR1 Visa?
If USCIS approves your application, you will receive a U.S. visa stamp on your valid passport. This stamp allows you to travel to the United States.
You will then need to pay a $220 fee online. This fee covers USCIS printing and mailing your physical green card. Usually, you will receive your green card at your U.S. address two to three weeks after arriving in the United States.
After arriving in the United States, you will need to take additional steps to maintain your status. After two years, CR1 visa holders must apply to remove the conditions from their green card with Form I-751. IR1 visa holders will need to renew their green card in 10 years using Form I-90 or apply for U.S. citizenship.
How Do You Remove Conditions After Getting a CR1 Visa?
You will file Form I-751: Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence. This application allows you to change your two-year conditional green card to a permanent 10-year green card.
Through this form, you will again explain that your marriage is genuine and not just for immigration benefits, even though you initially got your green card shortly after getting married. You will also need to prove your marriage has continued for the past two years. This evidence could include statements from a joint bank account, birth certificates for children born during that period, or property deeds with both names listed.
You must complete Form I-751, provide the supporting documents, pay the filing fee, and submit your application to USCIS.
How Do You Renew Your Green Card or Apply for Citizenship After Getting an IR1 Visa?
If you have an IR1 visa, after 10 years, you will need to renew it by filing Form I-90: Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card. You will need to complete your form, submit a copy of your green card, and pay the fee. You can either file this form online or by mail.
Alternatively, you can consider applying for U.S. citizenship three to five years after getting your green card. If your spouse is a U.S. citizen, you can apply for citizenship three years after getting your green card. If your spouse is a permanent resident, you must wait five years. You must have lived continuously in the United States for three or five years.
Getting a spouse visa can be complicated, but help is available. If you are eligible, our free web app will walk you through the green card application process and help you prepare and file your application with the U.S. government. If our app isn’t a good fit or you just have immigration questions you need answered, you can speak with an independent attorney for just $24/month through our Ask an Attorney program.