convert cr1 to ir1

Convert CR1 To IR1 Visa If Married 2 Years At Port Of Entry

Personally, I couldn’t imagine being married to my husband and separated for 2 years before we were reunited. But, this is the case for many couples in a long distance marriage. So, how do you convert CR1 to IR1 visa if you’ve been married more than 2 years when you enter the United States?

First, we need to know what the difference between the CR1 and IR1 visa is and a little more about each option.

When I say “option”, I don’t actually mean that you get to choose which visa you receive. It’s really based on how long you and your spouse have been married at the time of the visa interview and the port of entry process.

The easiest way I can explain this is that you will either get a conditional 2 year green card or a permanent 10 year green card.

Obviously, it’s better to receive the 10 year green card so that you won’t need to apply for removal of conditions before the conditional green card expires.

Case Example:

Marylin (a Canadian) married her long time boyfriend Jack almost 21 months ago. They just had their visa interview at the US consulate in Montreal, Canada. After Jack left to go back to the US, Marylin wondered whether the CR1 visa stamp she received would automatically convert to a IR1 visa when she entered the US.

She did some reading online and realized that if she entered the US before their 2 year wedding anniversary, she would get a conditional green card.

In the case above, should Marylin wait 3 months to enter the US?

I can’t personally tell you to wait because I know how hard being separated from your spouse can be. It’s up to you what you decide but if it were me in that situation, I would wait.

Why? Well, because that means one less application I have to submit to USCIS.

It means paying less filing fees as well.

Different Between The CR1 and IR1 Visa

When I was looking into the immigration options, there were really two options:

  1. Get married in Canada and file for the I-130 spouse petition
  2. Get engaged and file for the I-129F fiance petition.

Before we made the decision, we look at all the pros and cons related to each. This took a long time for me to research because there wasn’t a simple comparison available on USCIS.gov website.

So, I’ve listed out the benefits for each visa type to help you make your decision.

Benefits Of The K-1 Fiance Visa:

  • Faster processing time (takes 7-11 months)
  • Allows you time to plan wedding in US while you wait
  • You can be with your spouse after getting married
  • Gives you time to live with fiance before the wedding
  • Less expensive filing fees ($800). Total the K1 visa fees.

Benefits of CR-1/IR-1 Spouse Visa:

  • you receive your green card when you arrive in the U.S.
  • gives you more rights if relationship doesn’t work out
  • beneficiary’s family can plan and attend the wedding
  • easier to get approval compared with K-1 (country specific)
  • Lower chances of being placed in administrative processing (country specific)

Waiting To Convert CR1 to IR1 Visa

Alright, now that you have the CR1 visa stamped in your passport, it’s time to make the decision on when you will use it. The CR1 visa stamp will be good for 6 months from the date it was approved.

This means you have 6 months to move. But, I don’t recommend waiting until the last day because things can go wrong with your flight and you need a buffer just in case you can’t enter the US on the last day your visa is valid for.

Case Example:

Richard married Sandy about 21 months ago and her CR1 visa was approved last week. Although she was very excited to move to the US, they knew that if they waited until their 2 year marriage anniversary before entering the US, they could convert CR1 to IR1 at the port of entry.

After discussing it further, they decided that Sandy would wait 3 months before flying to the US. By doing this, they will avoid having to remove conditions on her green card completely. She would be a permanent resident with a 10 year green card.

I know being apart from your spouse for another 3 months doesn’t sound like fun, but you have to look at the pros and cons for each option. Personally, I would wait so that I didn’t have to remove conditions using form I-751 on my green card and pay additional filing fees to USCIS.

Convert CR1 to IR1 Visa At POE

CR1 visa

Thankfully, to convert CR1 to IR1 visa doesn’t require any additional paperwork. It’s as simple as notifying Customs and Border Protection (CBP) that you have been married 2 years or  more and you’d like to convert CR1 to IR1 visa.

Here’s the weird though, if you don’t tell CBP that you have been married 2 years and want to convert CR1 to IR1 visa, they may not remember.

I know of many couples who missed their chance to get the 10 year green card because they didn’t know they convert their visa or they forgot to ask at port of entry.

Step 1: Have proof that you have been married two years.

The first step is to bring proof that you’ve been married two years. Your marriage certificate is the perfect evidence of this so be sure to bring the original copy.

CBP will likely review the expiration date of your CR1 visa to make sure that it’s still valid.

Then they will review your marriage certificate to verify that you have in fact been married for at least 24 months. If you don’t bring your marriage certificate with you, they will not convert CR1 to IR visa and you will enter as a conditional resident.

Step 2: Go to the Customs and Border Protection at the airport.

After you have evidence of your two year marriage, the next thing to do is book your flight to the United States.

You  may be wondering whether you should buy a one-way ticket or a round trip flight. The answer is that it doesn’t really matter. Buy whatever is  cheapest.

You will be asked to go to the immigration counter (or CBP counter) to activate your visa and officially “immigrate”.

Step 3: Request to convert CR1 to IR1 visa and provide evidence.

When you arrive at the CR1 port of entry (land, sea or air), you should go to the CBP counter and tell them the following:

I’m activating my CR1 visa and I want to convert it to an IR1 category because we’ve been married two years.

That’s it!

Now you hand over your passport and marriage certificate to the CBP officer to review. The entire process shouldn’t take more than 20-30  minutes but sometimes there are issues that can come up in their system.

Normally, if you’ve already been approved for the CR1 visa your background checks have come back clean. But, it’s no guarantee that CBP will not find another issue with your case and deny you entry.

Case Example:

Johnny married his American sweetheart in Nigeria but after being denied the K1 visa, they decided to apply for the CR1 spouse visa instead. By the time his CR1 visa was approved, they had already been married 23 months.

Johnny decided to wait the extra month before entering the US so that he could get his 10 green card. At the port of entry, he presented his passport with the CR1 visa stamp as well as his marriage certificate that showed their marriage took place 2 years ago.

His CR1 visa was converted to the IR1 category and he received his permanent green card a few weeks later in the mail.

Final Thoughts To Convert CR1 to IR1 Visa

Did you think it would be that easy? I’m guessing not since anything to do with US immigration is incredibility difficult to navigate.

It’s important to request the conversion of the CR1 to the IR1 visa when you enter the US for the first time. CBP has no incentive to convert your visa so they may not remind you or do it without prompting.

Once you’ve successfully converted the CR1 to IR1 visa, you will receive your 10 year green card in the mail in about 2-4 weeks. If you receive a conditional 2 year green card instead, be sure to set up an info pass with USCIS to get this corrected.

In the end, it’s up to you to keep track of your case and to make sure that you’ve been given the right permanent residence status.

Congratulations! You and your spouse have made it this far and can now be a happy married couple LIVING together in the same home. It’s time to celebrate this special occasion.

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ENROLL

Ayan is a Somali born Canadian who has successfully immigrated to the United States and is passionate about helping fellow immigrants move to the U.S. to pursue their dreams. Whether you’re applying for a visa, green card or naturalization; get real answers to your immigration questions.

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