It is not an unusual scenario for those US citizens that are wanting to have a legal matrimonial partner coming from another country. This U.S citizen together with his or her spouse has the choice either to stay in a foreign country or begins in the process of immigrating and moving for a permanent stay in the US. When this happens, the spouse coming from another country is required to obtain a Green Card or a permanent immigrant visa.
Various types of visas are included in US immigration system, but the main categories are as follows:
- Immediate Relative Visas
- Family-Based Immigrant Visas
- Employment-Based Immigrant Visas
- Diversity Visa
- Returning Resident Visa
The visas under the Family Based category are subjected to those visas that can be granted to people who are mainly the immediate family member of a US citizen or U.S Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR). The immediate family members to attain the visa are limited to the spouse, child, parent and or sibling.
To be granted for a Green Card, the foreign spouse, through marriage and immigrating to the US, they would need a spouse visa.
In this article, we will take a look at what is a spouse visa, its requirements needed, how to apply for it and other relevant information that will help us to understand more of this specific type of visa.
What is a Spouse Green Card?
The Spouse Green Card permits the spouse from another foreign country who is legally married to a US citizen to move to the US for a permanent stay. The conditions under this called card include going to an educational institution in the US, obtaining US documents and a work in the country, traveling in and out of the US in a specific period, getting a driver’s license, open a bank account and others. This card, as an immigrant visa, would give an opportunity to the couple to be noted and reside in the same country to continue their marriage life. They can as well move anywhere in the country if they wish.
After a specific time period has passed and the foreign spouse has compiled all the requirements of their Green Card, together with his or her partner as a couple will now be also eligible to apply for US citizenship. In addition, when the time comes that the couple has already a child, the child will become a US citizen automatically.
What are the Types of Marriage Green Cards?
In the fact that many people have the interest to move to the US permanently for employment reasons, there are some instances that marriage will be set as a legal alibi to only get an immigrant status within the country. Unfortunately, the US government never tolerated this kind of Green Card marriage. The government has come up with two types of marriage Green Cards to avoid such situation which is marrying only for a US citizen just to be granted a Green Card:
- Conditional Resident Spouse Visa (CR-1)
- Immediate Relative Spouse Visa (IR-1)
A couple will have to apply for the Conditional Resident Spouse Visa or CR-1 if they are just been married and the foreign spouse is still in the process of applying for a spouse Green Card. This visa permits the foreign spouse to move to the US on an immigrant status with a Green card in following the condition of staying married for at least two years.
On the other hand, if the couple’ marriage is in good condition after two years, the foreign spouse can then go ahead and upgrade their status to an Immediate Relative Spouse Visa or IR-1 that will give more permanent status and will not limit a validity period only for two years, meaning this visa will be valid up to years more. However, this validity condition would depend on the status of the couple’s marriage, since in the event that they will get divorced before the two years on the CR-1 visa are completed, it will break off the validity status of their visa and that the foreign spouse will be forced to return to his or her country.
Since the procedures of the application for the CR-1 visa and IR- visa are both similar, this article will focus more on describing the process IR-1 visa.
What Are the Requirements for the IR-1 visa?
The main requirement for obtaining an IR-1 visa is that the couple should be legally married. With this, they must able to provide documents that will serve as proofs of their marriage that includes a marriage certificate, wedding photos, honeymoon destinations documentation, receipts from the wedding planner and other supporting documents. This proof is being subjective to avoid fake marriages just for the purpose of getting a Green Card to proceed with an IR-1 visa. Moreover, if the case is the couple is only living together, then it is not being considered a kind of marriage under US laws and regulations.
The other requirement is also that either of the two spouses must be a US citizen who has a valid address inside the US and is able to support from a foreign country until both of them already have a financial means to support their living.
Without meeting all the above-mentioned requirements, the spouse from a foreign country will not be eligible to apply for an IR-1 visa.
How to Apply for an IR-1 visa?
The application procedures of the IR-visa follows a similar pattern to other types of family-based visas which is being divided into two parts:
- The U.S citizen petitions for their spouse to U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
- When the petition is approved, the spouse must apply to a U.S Embassy or Consulate in their home country
The process shows that the application procedure must start within the US, with the US citizen files a petition to the authorities. Of course, the petition shall be approved, otherwise, the spouse will be unable to start applying to the US Embassy for their visa.
Filing the Petition
The filing of the petition is through Form I-130, the Petition for Alien Relatives. The US citizen will be the one filling out the form in its necessary sections and will then submit to USCIS. A fee is included in filing the petition for the process which must be paid by the US citizen.
The petition will be forwarded to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and will be processed within a few months. The US citizen will be sent a notification about the status when the processing is completed. There are only two results that either of them will be received, approved or denied. If the petition is approved, it will be hand over to the National Visa Center (NVC) for review and they will be the US citizen’s final contact for the IR-1 visa. On the other hand, if the petition gots denied, USCIS will indicate the reasons for the denial and can be used for future reference for reapplying.
After the review, NVC will send a package to the applicant from the foreign country. The package will include the relevant information and instructions with the case number and the invoice ID number which will be used for the application starting the procedure to the U.S Embassy or Consulate in the foreign country.
Applying for the IR-1 visa
It would not be necessary for the applicants to wait for their priority dates in getting their Immediate Relative Visa since it does not have a cap on the number issued each year. In an immediate action, after the petition is approved by USCIS, the applicant coming from the foreign country can proceed with their application to his or her home country’s US Embassy or Consulate.
Filing Form DS-260
Form DS-260, Immigrant Visa Electronic Application is the form that the immigrant visa applicants must submit. The NVC case number will be used in accessing the application which links to the applicant’s case and the approved petition. The form must be filled out with all the necessary information indicated in each section. The questions included are usually related to the applicant’s information and background and the purpose of immigrating to the U.S as well. Upon submitting the DS-260 form, the applicant will get a confirmation page and number which must be attached to their supporting documentation in applying.
Completing the Medical Examination and Vaccinations
The US has its own medical and vaccination requirements that applicants should pass. It is a must to anyone who wants to immigrate to the US to have the necessary check-ups and vaccines as one of the application procedures. The NVC which is sending a package to the applicant after the petition’s approval includes information as to what specific medical check-ups and vaccines are needed to that person. A licensed doctor is the one who will review the medical check-ups and documents of the
applicant and sign those right after. These documents shall be attached to the applicant’s supporting file which will be sent to the NVC again.
Compiling Documents File
Other application procedures will be compiling of documents file besides the application form. This is to give the NVC a better reason as to why that applicant should be allowed to immigrate to the US with an IR1- visa. This documents will be handed to NVC and should contain the following:
- Applicant’s valid passport for more than 6 months after their planned entry into the U.S
- A signed Form I-864, Affidavit of Support from the U.S petitioner (applicant’s spouse)
- Form DS-260 confirmation page
- Medical examination and vaccination documents
- Proof of marriage documents
- Two photographs per individual according to the Photo Requirements
- Court and criminal records and/or police certificate
- If they served in the military, they must bring your military records
Attending the Interview
As an immigrant applicant, they should be able to attend an interview at the US Embassy or Consulate where their application will be submitted. The NVC will first assure that all submitted data are complete and will be the one who will set a schedule for the interview.
Receiving NVC Packet and Travel to the U.S.
Lucky to those applicants who will receive an approved IR-1 visa as they are now allowed to travel and live in the US. the Embassy will then give them a package, The applicant is advised not to open the package under any circumstances and it is only the US immigrant officials at any US point of entry who are allowed in opening the package who will thereafter decide if that applicant is allowed to enter the country or not. Their judgment is the last conclusion of the applicant’s entry to the US.
What are the IR-1 Visa Fees?
The IR-1 applicant must pay the following fees for processing:
- The fees for the petition
- The fees for the visa application (Form DS-260 fees)
- The fees for the supporting documents and translation
How Long is the IR-1 Visa Processing Time?
Considering that the IR-1 visa does not have caps in a year, the period of processing is much that shorter than the Family Preference Visas. The processing time can take from 8 to 10 months, in total that would depend on the individual circumstances
How to Get a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) Status?
If the citizen granted already with the IR-1 visa, then their next step is to become a Lawful Permanent Resident of the U.S. In usual terms, this is now getting the Green Card. They must first have an approved petition from USCIS and the visa, as well as living in the U.S in order to change their status from their immigrant visa to an LPR.
Eventually, Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence they must file or Adjust Status to USCIS. This form will be processed and once approved the immigrant applicant will definitely get their Green Card in the mail after a few weeks.
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