It is not uncommon for a U.S. citizen to want to marry someone from another country. These couples are faced with the choice of remaining in the foreign country or immigrating and beginning the process of becoming permanent residents of the United States. In this case, the foreign spouse must apply for a green card or permanent resident visa.
In order for the foreign spouse to obtain a green card through marriage and immigrate to the United States, a spousal visa is required. This article explains what a spouse visa is, its requirements, how to apply for it, and other relevant details.
What is a Spouse Green Card?
A spousal green card allows a foreign national married to a U.S. citizen to immigrate to the United States to live permanently.
This includes being allowed to attend school in the United States and work in the United States. This immigrant visa gives the couple the opportunity to live in the same country as a couple. They can immigrate and start their life anywhere in the United States.
The foreign spouse will be allowed to obtain U.S. documents, travel to and from the U.S. for a specified period of time, obtain a driver’s license, and open a bank account. After a certain period of time has passed and the foreign spouse has met all the requirements for a green card, he or she can apply for U.S. citizenship. If the couple has a child, that child automatically becomes a U.S. citizen.
What Are the Types of Marriage Green Cards?
There are marriages that are only for domestic immigration status, as many people want to live permanently in the United States for work reasons. This type of marriage with a green card is not recognized or recommended by the U.S. government. However, to prevent couples from marrying just to get a green card, the U.S. government has created two types of marriage green cards.
- Conditional Spouse Visa (CR1).
- Visa for the spouse of a close relative (IR1)
If you are a newly married foreign spouse applying for a spouse green card, you must apply for a Conditional Resident Spouse Visa (CR1).
This visa allows the foreign spouse to enter the U.S. in immigrant status with a green card, provided the couple remains married for at least two years.
After two years of marriage, the foreign spouse may change to a relative (IR1) visa, which provides more permanent status than a visa that is only valid for two years If the couple divorces or separates before the end of the CR1 visa’s two-year validity period, the foreign spouse’s status If the couple divorces or separates before the end of the CR1 visa’s two-year validity period, the foreign spouse’s status becomes invalid and the couple must return to their home country.
What Are the Requirements for the IR1 visa?
There are a number of requirements for couples wishing to apply for an IR1 visa. If these requirements are not met, the foreign spouse cannot apply for an IR1 visa.
Be legally married
The main requirement is that the couple must be legally married. This is because a sham marriage for the purpose of obtaining a green card does not qualify for an IR1 visa. Even simple cohabitation is not considered a marriage under U.S. laws and regulations.
Be a US citizen
Another requirement is that one of the spouses must be a U.S. citizen, have a valid U.S. address, and be able to support the spouse from abroad until both are able to support themselves financially.
Documents Needed to Apply for a Green Card Through Marriage
Supporting documents must be sent to NVC and the file must include the following.
- A valid passport that is at least six months old at the time of intended entry into the United States.
- Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, signed by the U.S. petitioner (applicant’s spouse).
- Form DS-260, Verification Page.
- Documentation of medical examinations and immunizations.
- Proof of Marriage. This may include the following.
- A certificate proving that the marriage is genuine.
- Wedding album
- Honeymoon destinations
- Receipts from the wedding party or organization.
- In accordance with U.S. visa photo regulations, two photos per person are required.
- Court records, criminal records and/or police certificates.
- If you have served in the military, you must bring your military service record.
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How to Apply for an IR1 visa?
The application process for the IR1 visa follows a similar pattern to other family-based visas. The application is divided into two parts.
- The U.S. citizen submits a petition for a spouse to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
- Once the petition is approved, the spouse must file an application with the U.S. embassy or consulate in his or her home country.
This means that the application process must begin in the United States, with the U.S. citizen filing a petition with the authorities. If the petition is not approved, the spouse cannot apply for a visa at the U.S. Embassy.
Filing the Petition
A petition can be created by filing a Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. This petition must be completed by a U.S. citizen and filed with USCIS. There is also a fee that the U.S. citizen must pay to process the petition.
The petition then goes through the Department of Homeland Security and is processed within a few months. Once the processing is complete, the U.S. citizen is notified of its status. If the petition is denied, USCIS will notify you of the reason for the denial. If the petition is approved, it will be forwarded to the National Visa Center (NVC), which is the main point of contact for IR1 visas.
The NVC sends a packet of information and instructions to the foreign applicant. This packet also includes a case number and a billing ID number that will be used when applying at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad.
Applying for the IR1 visa
There is no annual cap on the number of immediate relative visas issued, so applicants do not have to wait for their priority date to be updated. The application can be submitted at any U.S. embassy or consulate.
File Form DS-260
The Electronic Application for Immigrant Visa (Form DS-260) is a document that must be submitted by immigrant visa applicants.
This form can be accessed through the NVC case number and is linked to your case and approved petition. IR1 visa applicants or those assisting the applicant must complete all required fields with questions regarding the applicant’s information, background, and purpose for immigrating to the United States.
Form DS-260 must be submitted by the applicant. Once Form DS-260 is submitted, a confirmation page and number will be issued and should be included with the documentation.
Complete medical examination and vaccination
In the United States, there are requirements for medical examinations and immunizations that must be completed by citizens and immigrants. Any person wishing to immigrate to the United States must undergo the required medical examinations and vaccinations.
The NVC packet that the applicant receives after the petition is approved indicates what medical procedures and immunizations the applicant must receive.
These documents and medical examinations must be completed and signed by a licensed physician. These documents will be attached to the petitioner’s support file and sent to NVC.
Compile documents file
In addition to the application, you must attach various documents and explain to the NVC why you are eligible to immigrate to the United States on an IR1 visa.
Applicants for immigration to the United States must be interviewed at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where they are applying; the NVC will first verify that all required documents have been submitted and then schedule an interview.
Receive NVC packet and travel to the US.
Once the IR1 visa is approved, the foreign spouse is free to travel to the United States. Your passport will be stamped with the visa and the Embassy will give you a packet to bring with you when you first enter the country. This package must not be opened under any circumstances. Only a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officer at the point of entry into the U.S. can open the package and decide whether or not the applicant will be admitted.
What are the IR1 Visa Fees?
The fees that an IR1 applicant must pay are as follows.
- $535 for the petition.
- $325 for the visa application fee (Form DS-260 fee).
- Fees for supporting documents and translations.
How long is the IR1 visa processing time?
Since there is no annual cap on IR1 visas, the processing time is much shorter than for family preference visas. Depending on individual circumstances, it can take anywhere from eight to ten months total.
How to get a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status?
The next step after obtaining an IR1 visa is to obtain lawful permanent residence in the United States. This is usually referred to as obtaining a green card.
To change status from an immigrant visa to LPR, your petition must first be approved by USCIS, you must obtain a visa, and you must reside in the United States.
You must then file a Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status) with USCIS. This form will be processed and if approved, you will receive your green card in the mail in a few weeks.