Step-by-Step Guide on How to File for a IR-1 / CR-1 Visa for a Foreign Spouse
These are the basic steps required by the US Citizen. These steps should be followed as a guideline and not as specific requirements for any given case. Every case is unique and this does not address that uniqueness.
What is a IR-1 / CR-1 Visa?
IR-1 / CR-1 Visas are immigrant visas issued to foreign spouses of US Citizens. After the US citizen spouse files (and has approved) the proper petition with the USCIS, the foreign spouse will complete the visa process completely outside the US. Upon approval and once issued, the foreign spouse may enter the US with their visa and pass through the arrival Port of Entry, where they will become a Permanent Resident immediately. They will receive a Permanent Resident Card (Green Card) in the mail at their US Address within a few weeks.
Note to K3 Applicants: This process also applies to K3 Visa applicants whom have had their I-130 approved prior to their I-129f. In this case you may chose to persue the I-130 path as opposed the the K3. This will allow the immigrating relative to enter as a permanent resident as opposed to having to file for adjustment once here. If the I-129f is later approved and forwarded to the embassy then you can write them to request the approved I-130 be acted on and the K-3 process abandoned.
Who is Eligible to File?
U.S. citizens legally married to a foreign national may petition for a IR-1 / CR-1 visa. If the marriage is less than two years old, the consulate will issue a CR-1 Visa (and if longer than two years it will issue a IR-1 Visa). The primary difference between these two visas is that a CR-1 Visa will result in Conditional Permanent Residency (requiring a petition to be filed later to lift this conditional status) versus a IR-1 Visa resulting in full Permanent Residency upon arrival in the US by the foreign spouse.
Forms Needed to File for a IR-1 / CR-1 Visa:
3. G-1145 (optional)
The above forms can be filled out on your computer and printed. Make sure you sign and date them as required. Anything you cannot fit by typing, you can handwrite (very neatly) in black ink in the blank instead. You should always verify the current forms at www.uscis.gov.
Assembling the I-130 Package: Checklist
Forms and Documents (follow these assembly instructions. All supporting documents must be in English or be translated as noted here.):
Attach "E-Notification" Form (Optional)
Clip a completed G-1145, E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance, to the first page of your application (on top of the cover page). By completing this form and attaching it, USCIS will send you an email and/or text message to alert you when your application was received.
Mail the I-130 Package to the USCIS
Make TWO copies of the entire package before you send it in. This includes the money orders too. You want to have a perfect replica of the package you are sending in. All Forms that you submit must be originals with original signatures. Supporting Evidence that you submit may be photocopies. Retain ALL original supporting Evidence since the USCIS has the right to check them by issuing an RFE (Request For Evidence). If you receive an RFE, follow the direction exactly, and make two copies of what you sent back. During any future interviews the USCIS may also want to examine the original supporting evidence.
Create a VJ Timeline
When your I-130 petition is finally approved, the service center that processed your petition, will send you another Notice of Action letter indicating your approval, and the forwarding of your approved petition to the National Visa Center (NVC) in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, along with a phone number to contact the NVC with. Your case will now only be dealt with by the NVC. The service center that you filed with, will have no more knowledge on the status of your petition or case.
A few weeks after you have received your last Notice of Action indicating the approval and forwarding of your I-130 application to the NVC, the NVC will send your relative a packet of forms that you and your relative must fill out before your relative can be given an interview date with a consulate abroad. The packet will likely contain an Of-169 form, and an Of-230 part one and two forms that must be filled out by the intending immigrant. An I-864 form is also included that must be filled out by the petitioner (living in the US). The I-864 is the Affidavit of Support form that requires copies of the petitioners past 3 U.S tax returns (or tax transcripts which are free from the IRS) as well as any bank or financial records available (see the I-864 for exact requirements based on your case). The petitioner must make at least 125% above the U.S federal poverty to indicate to the U.S government that the intending immigrant will not become a federal charge to the government when he/she arrives in the U.S.. If the petitioner cannot meet these requirements, then he/she must still file an I-864, and find a joint sponsor who can meet the requirements on his/her own. When a joint sponsor is needed ,proof of their U.S citizenship or permanent residency is required. (i.e. copy of birth certificate, immigration status etc). The joint sponsor must be residing in the U.S, and he/she must also submit his/her past 3 years U.S tax returns along with bank or any other financial records available. The joint sponsor must submit his/her own I-864 form to accompany the petitioner's I-864 form.
Forms that may be either sent back (or requested to be gathered and kept for the interview) to the NVC or the consulate abroad (depending upon which consulate you are going through) before an interview date with a consulate abroad can be scheduled are as follows:
Pre-Interview Forms / Items:
After the NVC or Consulate Abroad receives the above forms and supporting documents (which may not all be required to mail back at that time), an interview date will be scheduled for the intending immigrant at a consulate abroad. The NVC or the consulate abroad will send your relative a letter indicating at what time and day the interview is scheduled for, and of required forms that must be brought to the interview. Make two copies of each original document or piece of evidence below and bring them with you. Documents needed are:
Interview Forms / Items:
On The day of your relatives (or spouses) interview, he/she must bring EVERY document listed above that applies to your case, and should be prepared for a long wait. There may be additional forms required. The interview appointment sheet will contain a list of everything you must bring. It will also tell you the payment amount due and the forms of payment accepted.
The interview can
last for as littles as 10 minutes or up to an hour depending upon your
specific case. You relative will take an oath under US law to tell the
truth, and it is very important that your relative answer every question
as truthfully as possible. In general, it is a good idea that your relative
bring documentation to prove strong ties and a relationship with you,
the petitioner. (i.e. phone bills, letters etc.) If the consulate officer
approves your relative's immigrant visa application, your relative will
be issued an immigrant visa that allows your relative to become a US permanent
resident. Your relative will become a U.S permanent resident only when
he/she enters the U.S at a port of entry, until this time, he/she only
has an immigrant visa that is valid up to 6 months from the interview
date. If your relative cannot immigrate to the U.S within the 6 month
allotted time, then his/her immigrant visa will expire, and the I-130
process must start all over again.
As a general note, please see the I-130 FAQs here.