IR-1 and CR-1 Visa, Immigrant Visa for a Spouse of U.S. Citizen

IR-1 CR-1 visa

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What is a CR-1 and IR-1 Visa?

A CR-1 visa is an immigrant visa issued to a spouse of a U.S. citizen who has been married to their sponsoring spouse for less than 2 years. Immigrant spouse will receive a conditional green card valid for two years and will become a “conditional resident”.

  • For example, you married your U.S. citizen spouse abroad on 01/01/2022 and applied for a spousal visa at the US embassy in your home country. Your immigrant visa was issued on 11/30/2023 and you entered the U.S. on an immigrant visa on 12/01/2023. At the time of admission to the U.S. as an immigrant you have been married to your sponsor for less than two years, so you will become a CR-1 status holder, or conditional resident.

During the two-year conditional residence period, these conditional residents have the same rights, privileges, and responsibilities as other permanent residents.

However, conditional permanent residents must take additional steps at the end of the second year to preserve their permanent resident status.

90 days before the expiration date of the two-year conditional period, the couple must file a joint petition to have the conditions removed (Form I-751).

If U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) grants Form I-751 petition and removes the conditional status, the conditional resident spouse will be issued a 10-year “unconditional” green card.

An IR-1 visa is an immigrant visa issued to a spouse of a U.S. citizen who has been married to their sponsoring spouse for more than 2 years at the time of admission to the U.S.

  • For example, you married your U.S. citizen spouse in your home country on 01/01/2022 and your immigrant visa was issued on 12/30/2023. If you entered the U.S. on your immigrant visa on 01/02/2024, you will become an IR-1 status holder, or unconditional resident. 

If you received an IR-1 green card, you do not need to remove conditions and file Form I-751 with USCIS.

CR-1/IR-1 Requirements 

CR-1 and IR-1 visas are issued to spouses of U.S. citizens.

If you are married to a green card holder and want to apply for a green card, refer to our Married to a Green Card Holder and Living Abroad guide.

The spousal relationship must be legally valid and recognized in the place where the marriage was registered.

It must not be a sham marriage, meaning entered primarily for immigration purposes. 

In addition, even if the marriage is valid in the foreign country, it must not violate federal or state public policy. For example, polygamous and incestuous marriages are not recognized for immigration purposes. 

Some states recognize common-law marriages. The marriage must be in existence, meaning not legally terminated – at the time the spousal visa application is approved.

CR-1/IR-1 How to Apply

Obtaining CR-1/IR-1 visas will consist of three steps: 

  • Step 1 – Filing Form I-130 petition with USCIS
  • Step 2 – Filing DS-260 and Form I-864 with National Visa Center (NVC)
  • Step 3 – Immigrant visa interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate

Step 1. Filing Forms I-130 & I-130A

The process begins with the filing of Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, and supporting documentation with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). 

The filing fee for the I-130 petition is currently $535. Always check the

USCIS website for the latest fee schedule.

Form I-130 and its supporting documentation are used to establish that:

  • Petitioner is a U.S. citizen, and 
  • The claimed marital relationship to the foreign-national beneficiary is a legally qualifying one.

For purposes of completing the Form I-130, the “Petitioner” is the U.S. citizen who is petitioning for their foreign national spouse.

The foreign national spouse is the “Beneficiary.”

Who Files Form I-130A?

If the I-130 petition is based on a spousal relationship, the beneficiary must complete Form I-130A, Supplemental Information for Spouse Beneficiary. 

The I-130A is used to collect background information on the beneficiary, such as address and employment history for the last five years, last physical address outside the United States, and information about parents.

If a spouse resides overseas, the Form I-130A must still be completed, but the a spouse located abroad does not need to sign the form.

It can take up to 12-13 months for the USCIS to review and approve your Form I-130 petition. Once USCIS approves your petition, you will move to the next step – NVC application.

Step 2. Filing DS-260 and Form I-864

Applicants for a CR-1 and IR-1 immigrant visa will apply at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in their country of residence.

This process is handled by the Department of State (DOS) and is performed by the National Visa Center (NVC) and the immigrant visa sections at U.S. consulates or embassies.

After the I-130 petition is approved, USCIS sends notice of the approval to the petitioner and forwards the approved petition to the National Visa Center (NVC).

The NVC creates a case for the beneficiary and assigns a case number.

Once a case is created, NVC sends out an initial notice to Petitioner and Beneficiary on case processing via email that includes instructions on logging on to the DOS’s Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC). 

Applicants are instructed to use CEAC to check the status of the case, pay the government filing fees, and continue with the next steps in processing. 

Currently, the fee for the Affidavit of Support (Form I-864) processing is $120 and the immigrant visa application (Form DS-260) fee is $325. Check the NVC website for the most up-to-date filing fees.

Once the fees are paid, the applicant must complete Form DS-260 and upload the necessary documents (also known as “civil documents”).

You can find civil documents requirements for each country on the U.S. Department of State website.

Each civil document must strictly meet the requirements described on the U.S. Department of State website. Failure to provide a civil document that doesn’t meet the requirements will result in your application processing being delayed.

After the required forms and documentation are submitted, the NVC forwards the case to the appropriate U.S. Embassy or Consulate and schedules the visa interview. This process is explained in detail below.

Beneficiary’s immigrant visa application will be processed by NVC if the petitioner indicated on the I-130 that the beneficiary will be applying for a visa abroad. This process is called “Consular Processing”.

The beneficiary can apply for an immigrant visa at one of the following U.S. Embassy or Consulates: 

  • Embassy/Consulate in the country where the applicant is residing or last resided; 
  • Embassy/Consulate in the country where the applicant is physically located and intends to remain throughout the processing; or
  • Any other Embassy/Consulate that will accept jurisdiction of the case as a matter of discretion.

Affidavit of Support

Besides submitting Form DS-260, the U.S. citizen must complete and submit the Form I-864, Affidavit of Support under Section 213A of the INA, and proof of income (most recent tax return and W-2) to the NVC for review. 

If requested forms or documentation do not meet the requirements, the NVC will send a message through CEAC explaining what is wrong and request correction and resubmission.

Form DS-260

After the necessary fees have been paid, all applicants must complete and submit the Form DS-260

DS-260 form is completed and submitted online through the CEAC website. 

To access the form you need to input your NVC case number and invoice ID number. 

All of the information entered online is accessible by the NVC and consular posts, and the applicant is not required to submit a paper version to the NVC. 

The Form DS-260 collects biographical data on the visa applicant such as name, address history, employment history, information about parents, social media accounts, etc.

Once all of DS-260 fields are completed, the applicant submits the form by clicking on the “Sign and Submit Application” button.

Visa applicants must save the DS-260 confirmation page and bring it to their immigrant visa interview.

Once DS-260 is submitted, the visa applicant is unable to access the form without requesting assistance from the NVC through the Public Inquiry Form.

Applicants should also be sure to inform the consular officer if any corrections or changes need to be made. 

At the time of the interview, the applicant will be required to swear under oath that the information entered on Form DS-260 is true and correct.

Immigrant visa applicants upload and submit their civil documents (passport, birth certificate, marriage certificate, etc.) online through CEAC. 

Applicants can either scan or take a photo of their documents, and then upload them to their online CEAC application.

Applicants will not be able to upload civil documents in CEAC until they have completed and submitted the DS-260 immigrant visa application. 

CEAC creates a list of required documents for each applicant individually based on information provided on the DS-260. 

All scanned documents must meet size, type, and quality specifications to be uploaded successfully.

If NVC determines a submitted document is incorrect, a notice will be sent to the applicant that the status of their case has been updated and instructing them to log back into CEAC to review messages. 

If a new document needs to be submitted, the applicant should delete the rejected document and upload and submit a new one.

When applicants submit documents online through CEAC, they must be prepared to present the original physical documents, plus a photocopy of each, at the time of the visa interview. 

Once all of the required documents have been reviewed by the NVC, the applicant will receive an email that the case is “documentarily qualified” and that the NVC will contact the appropriate embassy or consulate to schedule the immigrant visa appointment.

Applicants can add joint sponsors and household members to Form I-864, Affidavit of Support.

Keep in mind that logging into CEAC is considered a contact with the NVC to avoid termination of registration for a visa. 

Step 3 – Immigrant visa interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate

Approximately four to six weeks before the scheduled immigrant visa interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate, the applicant will receive an appointment letter that contains the date, time, and location of the visa interview.

This notice is usually sent to Petitioner and Beneficiary via email and instructs applicants to visit the DOS website to review consulate-specific instructions. 

You can find the list of each consulate-specific immigrant visa interview instructions on the Department of State website. Choose your specific U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

The website provides information to the visa applicant on preparing for the medical examination and reminds the applicant of all the necessary original documents that must be available at the time of the interview.

Additionally, applicants are provided with a number of important notices:

  • Failure to bring a copy of the appointment letter to the interview may delay the interview;
  • Applicants should not make any travel arrangements or give up employment or property prior to issuance of the visa;
  • It is possible that the applicant will have to wait several days before a decision is made on the application. Should complications arise, the applicant may not receive a visa on the day of the appointment and may have to return to the consulate at a later date; and
  • No assurances can be given in advance that a visa will be issued.

Applicants must review the specific instructions provided by the individual consulate to determine if there are other requirements or documents needed. 

For example, many embassies and consulates require applicants to register for courier services used to return applicant passports and visas after interviews.

Once the NVC has completed the administrative processing and scheduled the visa interview, it will send the case file along with electronic data to the appropriate U.S. consulate abroad.

How to Contact NVC

For information on the status of a case still pending at the NVC, applicants can use the NVC public inquiry form

The form asks for the NVC case number, USCIS receipt number, the principal applicant’s name and date of birth, the petitioner’s name, and an e-mail address. 

You can check the NVC average processing times on their website.

The Medical Examination

All applicants for an immigrant visa must complete a medical examination prior to their interview.

The examination must be conducted by a designated doctor, called a panel physician, located in the country where the interview takes place.

Each consulate website provides a list of the panel physicians authorized to conduct the medical examination in that location. 

Applicants must contact one of the physicians to schedule a medical examination and to obtain information on the cost of the examination and necessary lab testing. 

In all cases the applicant must bring the visa appointment letter, their passport, and vaccination records to their medical examination appointment.

Following the medical examination, the panel physician will either forward the results directly to the consulate or provide the applicant with a sealed envelope for the applicant to bring to the interview.

The Consular Interview

During the interview, the consular official will:

  • confirm the information contained in the Form DS-260 application
  • screen for any applicable ground of inadmissibility
  • review the supporting documents
  • ensure that the medical examination does not reveal any health-related problem that could prevent approval or require a waiver, and 
  • determine whether the applicant is likely to become a public charge.

If visa is approved

When an immigrant visa is issued, it can be valid for up to six months.

To become a permanent resident, the immigrant visa holder must travel to the United States before the visa expiration date.

If visa is refused

If an immigrant visa is refused, the consular officer will inform the applicant of the reasons for the denial, including the provision of law or regulation on which the refusal is based.

If the reason for the refusal may be overcome with the submission of additional documents, and the applicant indicates an intention to submit the additional evidence, the application will remain open for up to one year.

Once the applicant has obtained the necessary documentation, the interview should be rescheduled. 

However, if no action is taken on the case for one year after the interview, the case may be terminated.

Beneficiary has the right to have the registration reinstated within one year by demonstrating that the failure to act was due to circumstances beyond their control.

How to Avoid Termination of Visa Application

The Department of State is authorized to terminate the registration of anyone who fails to apply for an immigrant visa within one year of notification of the availability of the visa. 

The case will be terminated in the following cases:

  1. Applicant fails to contact the NVC after being notified of visa availability
  2. Applicant fails to appear for a scheduled interview and does not contact the consulate within a year of the missed appointment
  3. Applicant fails to submit evidence to overcome the basis for a visa denial within one year after visa refusal.

Applicants can apply for application reinstatement within one year of notification by establishing that the failure to apply for an immigrant visa within was due to circumstances beyond the applicant’s control (such as illness, inability to obtain travel documents, etc.)

CR-1/IR-1 Checklist of Documents

Each step of CR-1/IR-1 visa application requires submission of documents to USCIS, NVC or U.S. Embassy/Consulate. See below the checklist of documents required for each step.

Step of the application process Required documents Who provides it
Step 1 – Filing Form I-130 petition
  • Petitioner’s evidence of U.S. citizenship, at least one of the following:
    • birth certificate if born in the United States; 
    • certificate of naturalization; 
    • certificate of citizenship; 
    • valid unexpired U.S. passport; or 
    • Consular Report of Birth Abroad of a U.S. Citizen)
Petitioner
Petitioner and Beneficiary
  • Divorce decrees (if Petitioner and/or Beneficiary were married before)
Petitioner and Beneficiary
  • Proof of marriage:
    • joint ownership of real property or joint tenancy; 
    • joint ownership of personal property or commingling of financial resources; 
    • birth certificates of children born from the relationship; 
    • declarations from persons who have known the married couple who can attest that it was bona fide)
    • Personal photographs
    • Proof of the wedding
    • Insurance forms naming the other spouse as a beneficiary
Petitioner
  • U.S. passport-style photograph
Beneficiary
  • Legal name change (if applicable)
Petitioner and Beneficiary
Step 2 – Filing DS-260 and Form I-864 
  • Photocopy of the biographic data page of the applicant’s valid, unexpired passport;
  • Photocopy of applicant’s birth certificate;
  • If the applicant has served in the military forces of any country, a copy of their military record;
  • If the applicant has been convicted of a crime, a certified copy of each court disposition; 
  • If the applicant is age 16 or older, they must submit a police certificate, if available, from the appropriate country.
  • Evidence of the termination of each prior marriage, such as a final divorce decree, death certificate, or annulment papers;
  • Applicant’s digital U.S. visa photograph
Beneficiary
  • If a petitioning spouse was previously married, a certified copy of a final divorce decree, death certificate, or annulment papers for each prior marriage;
  • Petitioner’s most recent U.S. federal tax return
  • Petitioner’s most recent W-2 and/or 1099 forms
Petitioner
Step 3 – Immigrant visa interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate Applicant must bring the following original documents to the interview:

  • Interview appointment letter
  • DS-260 confirmation page
  • Passport that is valid for at least 6 months 
  • Applicant’s birth certificate
  • If the applicant has served in the military forces of any country, their military record;
  • If the applicant has been convicted of a crime, a certified copy of each court disposition; 
  • If the applicant is age 16 or older, they must submit a police certificate, if available, from the appropriate country.
  • Evidence of the termination of each prior marriage, such as a final divorce decree, death certificate, or annulment papers
Beneficiary

CR-1/IR-1 Fees

You can expect to pay the following government filing fees when applying for CR-1/IR-1 visa:

  • Step 1: $535 fee (Form I-130)
  • Step 2: $445 fee (Forms DS-260 and I-864)
  • Step 3: $220 fee (Immigrant visa fee)
  • Medical exam fee: varies (check country-specific instructions)
  • Total fees: $1,200, plus medical exam fee

How to Pay USCIS Immigrant Fee

Immigrant visa holders are required to pay a USCIS immigrant fee after they receive the visa packet from the consulate or embassy. 

This fee covers the cost of producing and delivering the permanent resident card once the visa holder is admitted to the United States. 

The fee must be paid online through the USCIS website with a debit or credit card or a checking account from a U.S. bank.

Once the fee is paid, the payer should print a confirmation and keep it for their records. 

If the USCIS immigrant fee is not paid, the visa holder will still be admitted to the United States and will receive a passport stamp valid for one year evidencing the permanent resident status. However, the new resident will not receive a Form I-551, Permanent Resident Card, until the required fee is paid.

CR-1/IR-1 Processing Time

It can take anywhere between 13.5 months to 20 months to obtain a CR-1/IR-1 visa. The exact processing time depends on the USCIS and U.S. Embassy backlogs.

Average processing time for each application step is provided below:

  • Step 1 (Form I-130) – 12 months
  • Step 2 (DS-260 and I-864) – 2 weeks
  • Step 3 (Interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate) – anywhere between 1 month to 6 months

When can CR-1/IR-1 Apply for U.S. Citizenship?

You are eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship 2 years and 9 months after entering the U.S. on a CR-1 or IR-1 visa. 

You must meet the U.S. citizenship requirements, such as continuous residence in the U.S., proof of your continuous marriage to your U.S. citizen spouse, good moral character (payment of federal income taxes, filing federal tax returns, etc.) You can learn more about U.S. citizenship requirements in our guide.

Note for conditional residents. If you are a conditional resident awaiting for your Form I-751 to be approved, you can still apply for U.S. citizenship 2 years and 9 months after entering the U.S. on a CR-1 visa.