The Complete Guide to the CR1 Visa in the U.S.

Updated on August 14, 2023
At a Glance: A CR1 visa, also known as an IR1 spousal visa, is an immigrant visa issued to an individual married to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident who wishes to live in the U.S. with their spouse. The CR1 visa is granted to couples married for less than 2 years, while the IR1 visa is for couples married for more than 2 years. The CR1 visa replaces the obsolete K3 visa and allows spouses to immediately obtain a conditional green card. The petitioner must be a U.S. citizen or green card holder and meet income requirements. The application process involves filing the I-130 form and providing various supporting documents. The cost of a CR1 visa includes government fees, additional expenses, and possibly attorney fees. Processing time can take between 7 and 10 months, depending on various factors. CR1 visa holders can work and travel outside the U.S. but must be mindful of maintaining their green card status.

Is your spouse a U.S. citizen? Does your spouse hold a green card? Do you want to move to the U.S. to stay together with them? If you answered yes to all these questions, you can go ahead and enter the U.S. with the help of a CR1 visa.

So what exactly is a CR1 visa? Who can get it? What are the documents required? We will find answers to all these questions and more in this article.

What Is a CR1 Visa?

A CR1 visa, also called IR1 spousal visa, is an immigrant visa issued to an alien who is married to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and wishes to live in the U.S. with their spouse.

The CR in CR1 stands for “conditional resident.” That is because this visa is only provided to couples who are married for less than 2 years. Similarly, the IR in IR1 stands for immediate relative and this visa is granted to couples who are married for precisely more than 2 years.

What Is the Difference Between a K3 Visa and CR1 Visa?

The K3 visa used to serve the same purpose as the CR1 does now, but this visa is obsolete and no longer serves a purpose. The K3 visa used to be the non-immigrant visa that allowed spouses of U.S. citizens to enter the U.S. and then give them the opportunity to change their status to obtain a conditional green card.

All these objectives are now fulfilled by CR1 spouse visa, at a lower cost, and in fewer steps. The CR1 visa allows spouses to have a conditional green card immediately.

Who Is Eligible for a CR1 Visa?

It is important to mention that the CR1 visa can only be initiated by your U.S. petitioner. Thus, it is essential that the petitioner:

  • Is a U.S. citizen or in possession of a green card.
  • Must be legally married to the person this process is initiated for.
  • Must meet the visa income requirements.

It is also important to mention that the most common reason behind the denial of a CR1 visa is the unavailability of enough documents like tax returns and pay stubs.

Documents Required for a CR1 Visa

As with any visa, your success rate depends on the availability of the correct documents. To help you put the right foot forward, here is a list of major documents needed:

  • Form I-130—which is used to petition for your spouse.
  • Form G-1145—which is an e-notification of application.
  • DS-260—which is an electronic application for an immigrant visa.
  • Cover letter.
  • Proof of marriage (essentially a marriage certificate).
  • Additional proofs of marriage (like a joint bank account).
  • Passport photos.
  • Proof of permanent residency.
  • Evidence of the end of any previous marriages.
  • Medical examination forms.
  • Affidavit of support (like form I-864).

How to Apply for a CR1 Visa?

The first step to getting a CR1 visa is to file a petition. You need to fill form I-130 and send it to the USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service).

Once your petition gets approved by the USCIS, it is sent to the NVC (National Visa Center). You will then be provided with a case number for the petition and will be asked to complete form DS-261 and provide your choice of address.

You need to pay them the required fee along with the requested documents, after which processing will be started.

Once your file is declared completed by the NVC, you will be scheduled for an interview.

How Much Does a CR1 Visa Cost?

The cost involved with the CR1 visa is significant. In addition to the fixed government costs, you might also have to incur additional costs which vary depending on your situation.

The total government fee comes out close to $1,200 including $535 for a USCIS filing fee, $445 for an NVC fee, and $220 for a USCIS immigrant fee. Add to this, you might also have to take care of travel costs and take a medical exam which might cost close to $200, and if you choose to hire an attorney to streamline things, you will have to pay for the attorney services as well.

However, the good news is that once your visa is approved, you won’t need to apply for a green card which will definitely be a relief for your wallet.

CR1 Visa Processing Time

The processing time of a CR1 visa was much faster prior to 2018 than it is now. After new rules introduced recently, the processing of all visa types takes a considerable amount of time.

As of now, it takes between 7 and 10 months from the initial application to the time the visa is granted. It is important to mention here that the processing time varies depending on certain factors like:

  • The country the alien belongs to.
  • The current workload of the USCIS and the NVC.
  • Unforeseen events like natural disasters.
  • The accuracy and completeness of the petition that you have submitted.

CR1 Visa Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the answers to a few questions that you might have in mind about the CR1 visa:

Can a CR1 Visa Spouse Work?

Yes, the CR1 visa spouse can work upon entering the U.S. Under a CR1 visa, your passport is stamped and acts as a temporary green card. A permanent green card is then issued 2-3 months later.

Can a CR1 Visa Spouse Travel Outside the U.S.?

Yes, a CR1 visa spouse can travel outside the U.S. Essentially, you enjoy all the rights and responsibilities as a U.S. permanent resident. However, there is a catch. If you tend to spend too much time outside the U.S., you might end up losing your green card, especially when you have obtained your conditional residence based on the grounds of marriage. Long separations with your spouse might signal to the authorities that your marriage is not a real thing.

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The Wrap Up

Getting a CR1 visa will not only enable you to stay with your spouse, but it can also help you in entering the U.S. and attaining a green card. However, obtaining a conditional residence visa is not as simple as it sounds. Thus, take the right steps in the correct way and seek the help of an attorney if needed.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.