A CR-1 visa is an immigrant visa issued to an alien who wishes to enter the U.S. to live and stay with their U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse. The “CR” from CR1 stands for conditional resident and is applicable to couples who’ve been married fewer than 2 years.
The CR-1 visa is specifically intended for use by U.S. citizens who are sponsoring their foreign national spouse for immigration. Unlike the K3 visa, the CR-1 is an “immigrant” visa, meaning that the receipt of CR1 visa results in your Thai spouse becoming a legal permanent resident immediately upon his/her arrival in the U.S. However, this permanent residence is “conditional”, for the first two years that a couple is married. 90 days prior to the 2nd anniversary of the attainment of conditional resident status, the US citizen and his foreign national spouse should file to have the “conditional” status lifted. CR-1 holders can also bring their unmarried children who are under 21 along using a derivative visa of the CR-1 (however, please note that ordinarily, it will be necessary for the U.S. citizen to file separate I-130 petitions for those minor children at some point in order for them to become legal permanent residents).
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:
The process of applying for a CR-1 visa is somewhat complicated. The first step is to file an immigration petition for the foreign spouse. This will involve gathering substantial amounts of information about both the foreign spouse and the U.S. citizen spouse.
The immigration petition should be filed with one of the two (2) USCIS regional service centers responsible for processing such petitions: the Vermont Service Center or the California Service Center. Which service center you should file the immigration petition with depends on the state where you live.
After you receive a formal USCIS receipt or equivalent proof that you have filed the immigration petition, you can then file the petition with the USCIS’ National Benefits Center (“NBC”). Unlike other immigration petitions (including K1 visa petitions), the National Benefits Center processes all visa applications in the United States, so your visa petition for your Thai spouse will go there regardless of where you live in the United States.
After the NBC processes and approves your visa petition, it will forward it to the National Visa Center (“NVC”). The NVC will in turn forward it on to the relevant consulate. Your spouse (and their/your minor children) will have to attend a visa interview at that consulate (technically, you do not have to attend the interview, although it is best if you do). At the consular interview, the interviewing officer usually will focus on verifying the bonafide nature of your relationship with your spouse and on your ability to support your spouse and their/your children if they are admitted to the United States. However, other issues can arise if your spouse has ever had any immigration issues in the United States or if they have any kind of criminal history.
If the officer approves the visa, the passport will be returned with the granted visa within a few days. The CR-1 visa is valid for 6 months after it’s granted. But unlike the K1 visa, the CR-1 visa comes with a green card which is given to the applicant shortly after arriving in the US. This nullifies the need for adjustment of status. This option can be beneficial if the alien spouse intends to work legally in the U.S. shortly after arrival. It also helps if the spouse wants or needs to exit the U.S. unexpectedly, as there would be no need to acquire future visas to reenter the United States.
After obtaining a CR-1 visa, the foreign spouse (and their unmarried minor children, if applicable) can travel to the U.S. and live with their spouse. As stated above, 90 days prior to the 2nd anniversary of the attainment of conditional resident status, the US citizen and his foreign national spouse can file to have the “conditional” status lifted. Since it is a multiple-entry visa, they can travel using it multiple times to the US.
The CR-1 Visa is the “best” visa that a couple married less than two years can get (if married for longer than 2 years, the couple can file for an IR-1 which doesn’t have a “conditional” period of residence, but instead confers immediate permanent residence to the holder). However, given the lengthy processing times at most USCIS service centers; it is a protracted process that can be frustrating. The upshot of this is that all of the adjustment of status work is done before the foreign spouse enters the US. Thus, from the moment the foreign spouse enters the United States, he or she is legally entitled to work and will not have to adjust his or her status in order to remain in the United States.
If the sponsor married the Thai spouse before her child or children turned 19, the Thai spouse may bring them over before they are 21, they may be eligible to come over on a CR-2 visa. It usually saves a lot of time, headache, and money if you file the child along with the parent rather than separately.
Shortly after arriving in the USA, the alien spouse will receive his/her green card and be able to legally work in the United States.
HIV is no longer a ground of inadmissibility. This rule was changed on January 4, 2010. Applicants are no longer required to file Form I-690 if HIV infected.
Same-sex couples are eligible to apply for the CR-1 visa the same way heterosexual couples are. The process is the same.
The Thai spouse will not be able to apply for permanent resident status (get a green card and get legal) while in the United States illegally. A person who enters illegally may be banned from returning to the United States for up to 10 years. If this is your situation, you should talk to an immigration attorney in Thailand before you leave the United States.
(Top, left to right) Martin, Gift, Noina, and Lyn.