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Guide to the Immigrant Visa (IR-1, CR-1) for a Spouse of a U.S. Citizen

Guide to the Immigrant Visa (IR-1, CR-1) for a Spouse of a U.S. Citizen

The process of obtaining an immigrant visa for a spouse involves several steps and can be complex and time-consuming. It is important to have a thorough understanding of the eligibility requirements, forms involved, costs involved, and the timeline for the process. An experienced family immigration attorney can guide you through the process and ensure that all steps are completed correctly and efficiently.

The Overall Process Includes the Following Key Steps:

  • U.S. citizen spouse files an I-130, Petition for Alien Relative with United States USCIS (for a lawful permanent resident (LPR) filing for their spouse (F21, C21), please see our additional resources);
  • Once I-130 petition is approved, USCIS transfers the application to the National Visa Center (NVC);
  • The NVC sends filing fee invoices to the applicants.  Once paid, the petitioner and applicant can begin the visa application process by completing the DS-260 form, I-864 Affidavit of Support form, and submitting required documents;
  • Once all required forms and evidence are submitted and processed, an interview for the foreign spouse will be scheduled at the relevant U.S. consulate/embassy;
  • Once the foreign spouse receives the immigrant visa, they are free to enter the U.S. and will automatically be granted permanent residency upon entering the U.S. using the immigrant visa.

Eligibility Criteria for Obtaining a U.S. Immigrant Spouse Visa

marriage visa

To qualify for a U.S. immigrant visa (CR1 or IR1) for your spouse, you must be a U.S. citizen, and your partner should be a foreign national, typically living outside the United States. If your spouse is already in the U.S., consider exploring the adjustment of status process for a marriage-based green card rather than applying for an immigrant visa. Additionally, you must fulfill specific eligibility criteria, such as demonstrating a legitimate marriage, providing evidence of financial support, and obtaining clearances from relevant government agencies, while ensuring you are not inadmissible for a spouse visa.

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Spouse Visa Timeline: CR1 and IR1 Visa Application Process Duration

The timeline for obtaining a spouse visa (CR-1 or IR-1) can vary based on factors such as case volume and the processing location of the application. However, a typical timeline for a spouse visa generally follows these steps:

USCIS Petition Approval (I-130):

After filing the I-130 petition for a spouse visa, it usually takes between 6 to 12 months for USCIS to review and approve the application. This timeframe can fluctuate depending on the processing center's workload and other factors. During this period, USCIS evaluates the legitimacy of the marriage, verifies supporting documents, and ensures that the petitioner meets the eligibility requirements. Once the petition is approved, USCIS will issue an approval notice and forward the case to the National Visa Center for further processing.

National Visa Center (NVC) Processing:

Once the I-130 petition is approved, the case is forwarded to the NVC. It may take an additional 3 to 5 months for the NVC to review the submitted documents, process fees, and schedule the interview. During this stage, the NVC assigns a case number, reviews the submitted financial and civil documents, and ensures that all necessary forms and supporting materials are complete and accurate. If any deficiencies or missing documents are found, the NVC will issue a checklist requesting the needed items. After the NVC has reviewed and accepted all the required documents, they will schedule the consular interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate in the foreign spouse's home country.

Consular Interview:

national visa center

After NVC processing, the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the foreign spouse's home country will schedule an interview. The wait time for an interview appointment can vary significantly, from a few weeks to several months, depending on the specific embassy or consulate's workload and availability. During the consular interview, the foreign spouse will be asked questions about their relationship, background, and eligibility for the spouse visa. They should be prepared with original documents, as well as any additional evidence that supports the validity of their marriage and relationship. It is essential to be honest and forthcoming during the interview to avoid potential delays or complications.

Visa Issuance:

Following a successful consular interview, the spouse visa application is typically approved by the consular officer. It then takes approximately 1 to 2 weeks for the visa to be issued and delivered to the foreign spouse. During this period, the consulate carries out any necessary administrative processing, prints the visa, and attaches it to the applicant's passport. It is important for the foreign spouse to carefully review the visa upon receipt, ensuring all personal information is accurate and notifying the consulate immediately if any errors are found. Once the visa is in hand, the foreign spouse is one step closer to joining their partner in the United States.

Travel to the U.S.:

With the CR-1 or IR-1 visa in hand, the foreign spouse can travel to the United States. They must enter the U.S. within the validity period of the visa, which is usually 6 months from the date of issuance.

Overall, the entire process of obtaining an immigrant visa (CR-1, IR-1) for a spouse can take anywhere from 10 to 24 months. However, processing times may vary depending on the individual case, USCIS processing center, and the consulate involved.

Forms Involved in the Process:

The forms involved in the process of obtaining an immigrant visa for a spouse include:

1. Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative:

marriage-based immigration

The I-130 form is the first required step in the immigrant visa process. This form is officially known as the "Petition for Alien Relative" and is used by a U.S. citizen to petition or “sponsor” their spouse for immigration to the United States. 

The purpose of the I-130 form is to establish the legal relationship between the petitioner and the beneficiary (the spouse) for immigration purposes. By filing this form, the petitioner is essentially requesting that the U.S. government recognize their marriage to be in good faith, also known in immigration as a bona fide marriage. The I-130 form and supporting evidence is submitted to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS)

Along with the form, the U.S. citizen petitioner should also submit the following documents as evidence to support the I-130 filing:

Proof of Marriage:

A certified copy of the marriage certificate or certificate of domestic partnership is required.

Proof of Identity:

A government-issued photo ID for both the petitioner and the spouse beneficiary.

Proof of U.S. Citizenship:

A copy of the U.S. birth certificate, passport, naturalization certificate, or other proof of U.S. citizenship for the petitioner.

Passport-Style Photos:

Two recent, passport-style photos of both the petitioner and the spouse.

Proof of Termination of Previous Marriages:

If either the petitioner or the spouse has been previously married, evidence of termination of the prior marriage(s) must be provided. This may include divorce decrees or death certificates.

Evidence of a Bona Fide Marriage:

Various documents that show that the marriage is genuine, such as joint bank statements, joint tax returns, joint insurance policies, photographs, communications and travel records.

After the I-130 form is approved, the beneficiary can then proceed with the next steps in the immigrant visa process, which involves the National Visa Center and applying for the visa to enter the U.S.

2. Form DS-260, Immigrant Visa Application:

cri-1 or ir-1 visa

Once the I-130 is approved, the case moves from USCIS to the NVC. The purpose of the DS-260 form in the immigrant visa process for a spouse is to provide information about the applicant's eligibility for an immigrant visa. The applicant here is the foreign national spouse seeking the immigrant visa. This form collects information such as the applicant's name, birth date, place of birth, education, employment history, family information, and criminal history. The information collected on the DS-260 is used to determine if the applicant is eligible for an immigrant visa and to make a decision on the visa application.

Biographic Information:

This includes the spouse's full name, date of birth, place of birth, and other personal information including immigration, residence, and employment history.

Signature Page:

A signature page that both the spouse and the sponsor must sign, certifying that the information provided in the DS-260 form is true and accurate.


A clear, color scan of the front and back of the passport of both the spouse and the sponsor.

Marriage Certificate:

A legal and official document certifying the marriage between the spouse and the sponsor.

Divorce Decrees or Death Certificates:

If either the spouse or the sponsor has been previously married, documentation such as divorce decrees or death certificates must be submitted to demonstrate that the previous marriage has ended.

Police Clearance Certificates:

A police certificate from the spouse's country of origin, as well as any country in which they have lived for at least six months in the past five years.

Medical Examination Results:

The spouse applicant will need to undergo a medical examination, and the results of this exam must be submitted to the consulate.

3. Form I-864, Affidavit of Support:

marriage-based immigration attorney

The I-864 form, also known as the Affidavit of Support, is a form used in the immigrant visa process for a spouse. It is required by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) as evidence that the sponsoring U.S. citizen spouse has the financial means to support their spouse once they arrive in the United States.

The purpose of the I-864 form is to ensure that the sponsored spouse does not become a public charge and become dependent on government benefits. The form requires the sponsoring spouse to provide the following evidence along with the form:

Proof of the Sponsor’s Income:

To demonstrate the sponsor's financial ability, provide documents such as tax returns, pay stubs, W-2 forms, or other evidence of income. These documents will help establish that the sponsor can financially support their foreign spouse throughout the immigration process.

Proof of Assets, If Needed:

In cases where additional financial resources are required, sponsors can provide proof of assets. This may include bank statements, investment portfolios, property ownership, or other valuable assets. These documents will serve as evidence that the sponsor has the means to support their spouse in the event of insufficient income.

Proof of U.S. Citizenship or Lawful Permanent Residency:

To confirm the sponsor's eligibility, provide proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful permanent residency. This can include documents such as a U.S. passport, green card, or naturalization certificate, which will verify the sponsor's legal status in the United States.

Proof of the Sponsor’s Identity:

To establish the sponsor's identity, submit a valid government-issued ID, such as a driver's license, passport, or other identification documents. This verification ensures that the sponsor is the individual they claim to be and helps maintain the integrity of the immigration process.

Spouse Visa Costs and Associated Fees:

visa application

The costs involved in obtaining an immigrant visa for a spouse include several filing fees and related expenses, which can vary based on individual circumstances:

  • I-130 Filing Fee: $535, required for submitting the initial petition to USCIS.
  • Visa Application Filing Fee (CR-1 or IR-1): $325, necessary for processing the visa application.
  • Affidavit of Support Filing Fee: $120, needed to demonstrate the U.S. citizen's financial ability to support their spouse.
  • Medical Examination: The cost varies by country and by authorized doctor’s offices, as the foreign spouse must undergo a medical examination before the interview.
  • Translation for Required Documents: The cost varies by country, service, and document, as any non-English documents must be translated into English by a certified translator.
  • USCIS Immigrant Fee: $220, this fee is paid after receiving the immigrant visa and is used by the government to process the visa packet and issue the green card.

Keep in mind that additional expenses, such as travel costs to the consular interview or postage fees for mailing documents, might also be incurred during the process. It is essential to budget and plan for these expenses to ensure a smooth spouse visa application process.

Interview Process:

A visa interview for a spouse is a crucial step in the immigration process. During the interview, a consular officer will ask questions to determine if the marriage is genuine and if the applicant is eligible for the visa. The following are some of the common questions that the consular officer may ask during the interview:

Questions About the Couple’s Relationship:

The consular officer may inquire about the couple's relationship history, including how they met, the timeline of their courtship, their wedding, and other significant events. These questions help determine the legitimacy of the marriage.

Evidence of the Relationship:

required documents

To further verify the relationship, the consular officer may request documentation such as wedding photos, joint bank statements, travel records, or other evidence that demonstrates the authenticity of the couple's relationship.

Questions About the Applicant’s History:

The consular officer will ask questions about the applicant's personal history, including their employment, education, and family background. This line of questioning ensures there are no criminal records or other issues that would make the applicant ineligible for the visa.ackground.

Questions About the Petitioner:

The consular officer may also ask questions about the U.S. citizen spouse, seeking information about their employment, education, and family background to gain a better understanding of the couple's situation and verify their eligibility.

Questions About the Applicant’s Plans in the U.S.:

Finally, the consular officer may inquire about the applicant's plans once they arrive in the U.S., including potential employment opportunities, housing arrangements, and other aspects of their life as a married couple in the United States.

It's important to be honest and forthcoming during the interview, as lying or concealing information could result in visa denial or even immigration fraud charges. The consular officer will use the information gathered during the interview to make a decision on the visa application.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Is it necessary to have an immigration attorney assist with the process?

While it is not required to have an immigration attorney assist with the process, it is highly recommended as the process can be complex and time-consuming. An experienced immigration attorney can guide you through the process and ensure that all steps are completed correctly and efficiently.

What is a spouse immigrant visa for the US?

A spouse immigrant visa is a document that allows a foreign national to enter the United States as the spouse of a U.S. citizen to be granted lawful permanent resident status upon entering with the visa.

Who is eligible for a spouse immigrant visa?

A foreign national who is married to a U.S. citizen and not inadmissible is eligible for a spouse immigrant visa. The U.S. citizen must be able to provide proof of the marriage and that they are a U.S. citizen.

What documents do I need to apply for a spouse immigrant visa?

You will need to provide proof of your marriage, proof of the U.S. citizen spouse's citizenship, and evidence of the ability of the U.S. citizen spouse to support the foreign national spouse in the United States. You must also provide documents regarding your personal history such as police certificate(s) and medical exam.

What happens after my spouse immigrant visa is approved?

If the visa is granted after the required interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate, you can then travel to the United States and receive your permanent residency.

Can my spouse work in the US with a spouse immigrant visa?

Yes, once your spouse enters the U.S. with an immigrant visa, they would automatically receive their permanent residency which allows your spouse to work in the U.S.

Can my children come with me to the US on a spouse immigrant visa?

Yes, your children may be eligible to accompany you to the US as dependents on your spouse immigrant visa but each must be separately petitioned for and then go through the immigrant visa application process to receive their own immigrant visas.

Can my spouse travel outside the US while waiting for a spouse immigrant visa?

An immigrant visa by definition involves a spouse applying outside of the U.S.  Once the application is filed, the spouse will have to wait outside of the U.S. to receive the immigrant visa.


Navigating the IR-1 and CR-1 spouse visa process can be complex, but with the right guidance and preparation, it's achievable. If you're seeking expert assistance to ensure a smooth application process, don't hesitate to contact our experienced CR1/IR-1 visa lawyers at SimVisa. Let us help you reunite with your spouse and start your new life in the U.S. together. Get in touch with us today!

SohYoon Atac
SohYoon Atac
co-founder of SimVisa

Sohyoon is the co-founder of SimVisa. She has over 15 years of immigration specific experience and as an immigrant herself, fully understands the daunting nature of navigating the immigration process.

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