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Everything You Need to Know About the IR1 Visa
Many foreign individuals marry American citizens. This category of couples can settle in the U.S., in which case, one of the partners will be immigrating to the U.S. The United States government allows citizens of foreign countries to become American citizens by marrying an American. They are then offered a permanent immigrant visa and green card.
In this article, we’ll explain the process and other details of obtaining this type of visa.
Types of Marriage Green Cards
While most marriages genuinely take place, some are staged just so someone could get immigration status within the country. These types of marriages are illegal and discouraged by the U.S. government. To curb this practice, the USCIS issues two types of marriage-based green cards:
- Conditional Resident Spouse Visa (CR1)
- Immediate Relative Spouse Visa (IR1)
What Is a CR1 Visa?
This is the first of the two visas granted to the non-U.S. partner after marriage. If they are applying for a green card, then they have to apply for the Conditional Resident Spouse visa or CR1. With this visa status, the spouse will be able to move to the U.S. on the condition that the marriage should last at least two years. Then, if either partner files for divorce within that time period, the spouse will be deported since the visa will not be considered valid anymore.
What Is an IR1 Visa?
This visa is granted to the immigrant spouse after a period of two years. This grants them permanent status in the U.S. and has a longer period of validity than the CR1 visa.
The Difference Between the IR1 Visa and the CR1 Visa
Marriage-based green cards are a two-stage system. First, the IR1 visa is issued, followed by a CR1 visa after fulfilling the proper requirements. The main difference between the two visas is that the CRI visa is conditional, while the IR1 is not. Another difference between the two visa types is how long they are valid. The CR1 visa is valid for two years, while the IR1 visa is valid for ten years.
Requirements of the IR1 Visa
All couples who are genuinely married hope to obtain the IR1 unconditional visa which makes the foreign partner a permanent resident. To get an IR1 visa, here are the eligibility criteria:
Must Be Legally Married
The first requirement is being legally married. At the time of applying for the IR1, the couple should be able to provide sufficient evidence confirming their marriage. Government-issued marriage certificates and photographs of the wedding are such documents. Please note that live-in relationships or simply staying together are not considered legal marriages under U.S. laws and regulations.
Must Be Married to a U.S. Citizen
Next, the foreign partner should be married to a U.S.-based citizen. The U.S. citizen should possess a valid address within the United States and can provide documentation to prove it. Additionally, the individual should be financially able to support a foreign spouse.
How to Apply for an IR1 Visa
After cross-checking the eligibility requirements, the application process can begin. In this section, we’ll explain the step-by-step process for getting an IR1 visa granted by the USCIS.
Filing the Petition
Before you start the application process, you need to file a petition with the Department of Homeland Security. This has to be submitted by the U.S.-based spouse, who will be sponsoring their foreign spouse. Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, needs to be submitted. For complete information on this topic, visit the USCIS website here.
Applying for the IR1 Visa
Once you’ve filed the petition and it is accepted, you can then proceed to apply for the visa. Since there is no cap in place for IR1 Visas, there’s no wait time either. This application has to be done at a U.S. embassy. Here are the steps involved:
File Form DS-260
Form DS-260 is the Immigrant Visa Electronic Application, which must be included with all immigrant applications. You can access it on the government’s official website for visas using your NVC case number that was provided with your petition. All fields are mandatory, and you need to follow the instructions correctly. Relevant documents asked for must be submitted.
Complete Medical Exam and Vaccination
The U.S. government has certain health requirements which foreigners must meet in order to become citizens. Post-approval of your petition, you will receive an NVC package detailing the medical procedures which you must complete. Most of these involve getting checked by a licensed doctor and submitting the documents for verification.
Collect Required Documents
Along with the application form, you need to prepare and gather relevant documents asked for during the application process. This will be cross-checked when you attend interviews at the embassy. All of these should be valid and original. If you cannot provide any documents for whatever reason, you may be asked to create an affidavit.
Attend the Interview
After the application is submitted, the USCIS will schedule an appointment with you at the U.S. embassy in your country. Make sure you have submitted all the proper documents before scheduling the interview. Attend the interview either by yourself or with your spouse and answer every question truthfully.
Receive NVC Packet
Once your IR1 visa is approved, the USCIS will send you an NVC package which you need to carry into the U.S. This packet shouldn’t be opened under any circumstances because your entire visa status might get jeopardized. It is opened only by the U.S. immigration officials who make the final call on whether or not to allow you to enter the U.S.
Travel to the U.S.
Finally, you can travel to the U.S. with the visa, documents, passport, and the NVC packet.
IR1 Visa Fees
Here are the fees that need to be paid by the applicant:
- $535 petition fee
- $325 visa application fee (for processing DS-260)
- Fees for processing your documents and translations, if any
You can either pay by credit card or money order.
IR1 Processing Time
The processing time for IR1 visa applications is comparatively lower. This is because there is no cap system as to how many applicants are considered for a particular time period. However, the processing time can range from eight to ten months.
IR1 Visa to Green Card
An IR1 visa opens up the door to a green card since you have already proven the legitimacy of your marriage. To become a lawful permanent resident of the U.S., you must file a petition with the USCIS and be present in the U.S. for a specific amount of time. Then you have to change your status by filing another application, namely, Form I-458, Application to Register or Adjust Status. Once it is verified, processed, and approved, you will get your green card.
Marrying someone and being able to live with them is a dream-come-true for anyone. Even if this is tough for a U.S. citizen marrying a foreign national, the effort is worth it. When filing this application, it’s also important to get proper legal advice from an experienced attorney.