2017 CR1 Visa Timeline for Approval
The CR1 visa timeline varies depending on the complexity of your case but obtaining a green card through marriage to a US citizen or permanent resident is the fastest way to permanent residence. Yes, there are a ton of forms to fill out, but if your case is straightforward you can complete it yourself. For those of you with criminal records, previous illegal overstay or deportations, it may be worth the money to speak with an immigration attorney.
So, let’s assume that you are eligible for a CR1 spouse visa, and you won’t need to file a waiver for inadmissibility. How long will the CR1 visa timeline take from start to finish? From what I have read it can take anywhere form 6 to 12 months to complete. There is a backlog at USCIS and each adjudicator (the person reviewing your case) has a large case load they’ll need to review carefully.
According to USCIS, they receive thousands of I-130 petitions and the vast majority of them are approved.
|Service Center||Petitions received||Approved||Denied||Pending|
As you can see, the backlog is quite large and that is why some service centers approve more petitions than are filed in a given year. It’s great that USCIS provides some data on processing timeline for family based visas but you won’t get an exact date of approval. I have seen many cases go beyond the actual processing timeline.
US Citizen/LPR Files I-130 and USCIS Reviews Initial Evidence
Length of time: 3-5 months
The CR1 visa timeline process begins when you file form I-130 for your foreign spouse. This tells USCIS that you are now married and would like to bring your immediate relative (and any children) to the US to live with you. The I-130 is permission for you to file for the CR1 spouse visa at the US consulate. USCIS will need to review your evidence and determine whether you have a legitimate right to file for the CR1 visa.
Once they determine that you have a valid marriage and your children (or stepchildren) are under 21 and unmarried, your case is put into the queue to be reviewed in detail by an adjudicator. You’ll receive the first notice of action (NOA1) letter stating that they have accepted your petition and will be reviewing it. This is also the time when your check is cashed.
If your check is not cashed within 10 business days, there may be an issue with your I-130 petition so keep an eye out for mail from USCIS.
Once your case reaches the front of the line, it’s review carefully by USCIS adjudicator where they will look at all the evidence you have provided. They are trained well to spot any discrepancies, misrepresentation, and marriage fraud. Since they handle so many cases everyday, they are well aware of common signs that someone is not eligible for the CR1 visa.
The adjudicator will either make a decision to approve or deny your petition. In the case of visa denial, you’ll be notified by mail that your petition was denied and what the next steps are. I’ve only seen petitions that were denied due to ineligibility or misrepresentation. Basically, they either didn’t believe the marriage was real or found that you lied on the paperwork. You then have the option to appeal the decision or reapply with better evidence.
If you are approved for the I-130 petition, you get to move on to the next stage of the process!
Case example: You file I-130 petition for your Moroccan husband, and you submit evidence of your marriage certificate, airline tickets, phone records, etc. USCIS reviews your case and determines that you have submitted enough evidence for them to approve the petition. You will then receive notice of action (NOA2) letting you know the petition is approved and can now apply for the CR1 visa at the US embassy.
Here are some benefits for the relative visa:
- There are no waiting lists for immediate relatives (spouse, child, parent)
- US Department of State will invite them to apply for an immigrant visa after I-130 approval
- If the petition is approved, and your relative is in the US, they can adjust status with USCIS
NVC Issues Case Number and Sends Case to US Consulate
Length of time: 3-6 months
Now your case is handed over to the national visa center to forward on to the US consulate or embassy. The consulate will then send your foreign spouse all the documents that need to be filled out before an interview can be scheduled. The list of forms that will be sent are:
- I-864 affidavit of support (processing fee applies)
- DS-260 application for immigrant visa and alien registration
- DS-261 choice of address and agent
If you have any questions regarding these forms you can contact NVC by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone 603-334-0700.
Once the I-864 fee is paid, NVC will send the I-864 affidavit of support form to the petitioner to complete and sign. They may also have the petitioner download it directly from their website. You can review the frequently asked questions about the fee payment options on state.gov.
You’ll have one year to pay the fees but of course you want to pay it quickly so you can get the interview sooner. Once the petitioner completes the I-864 affidavit of support and includes supporting evidence, they will send this back to NVC. The following documents can be used a supporting evidence:
- Tax returns for the previous two years
- W-2 forms for the previous two years
- Two recent pay stubs
- Bank statements
- Investment statements
Note: if you don’t meet the income requirement, you can use assets instead of income.
When NVC receives form DS-261 they will mail Immigrant Visa (IV) bill to the beneficiary. After the fee is paid, NVC will send packet 3 to the beneficiary. Packet 3 is also called “Instruction Packet for Immigrant Visa Applicants“. The exact documents in packet 3 vary slightly depending on the local US consulate (where you will be interviewed). Note that some consulates only send packet 3 and packet 4 by email only.
You’ll then need to complete packet 3 and attach all the supporting documents that you have and send it to the address in the instructions. After NVC receives your packet 3 and supporting documents, they will send you packet 4 about a month before your interview.
Packet 4 (also called Appointment Letter for Immigrant Visa Applicants) includes:
- an appointment letter with date and time of interview
- instructions for obtaining a medical exam
- list of documents that must be brought to the interview
It can take 1-4 months to schedule the interview at the US consulate due to the number of other applicants that need to also have an interview. Before the interview, you will need to set up a day to do your medical examination which can cost anywhere from $100 to $300 dollars.
Once you successfully pass the interview, you’ll be notified that your green card has been approved. Your immigrant visa is also approved and most of the documents will be sealed in an envelope which is called the “visa packet”. DO NOT open this envelope.
Note: you can review the list of CR1 interview questions to prepare.
CR1 Visa Holder Travels to US for Port of Entry
Length of time: 1 day
Now it’s time to buy your plane ticket and head to the states! This is probably the most exciting time for the both of you and things should get easier now that you will be living under the same roof. The long wait for immigration approval just isn’t as hard when you have your spouse next to you
Next, you’ll be inspected by US Customs and Border Protection officers (CBP) and they’ll review the seal envelope that you brought with you. Even though you have an approved CR1 visa, CBP still has the authority to grant you entry into the United States or deny you.
Note: learn more about the CR1 port of entry process.
Within 30 days of arrival, you’ll be given a temporary I-551 (green card) stamp in your passport and enter as a conditional permanent resident. This allows you to live and work in the US for the length of time your green card is valid. If you don’t receive your green card within 30 days of your arrival, contact USCIS National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283 or visit a local office by making an InfoPass appointment.
Congratulations! You are now a lawful permanent resident and the next step in your journey is to remove the conditions on your green card (if you’ve been married less than 2 years on arrival).
Final Thoughts On CR1 Visa Timeline
Getting married is a big deal and it’s even more exciting when you get married to your partner abroad. After the honeymoon is over, you’ll need to start thinking about the immigration process and how to proceed.
Many couples get stuck because of all the paperwork involved and the fear of making a mistake that will delay their approval. First of all, take a deep breathe. As long as you follow the instructions for each form, you should be fine.
Remember to include as much evidence as possible for your case. Even if you think that a piece of evidence may not be useful, just include it and let the adjudicator decide. It’s always better to provide too much supporting evidence than too little.
Once your CR1 visa is approved and your foreign spouse arrives in the US, your journey isn’t over but you have overcome a big hurdle and should celebrate your accomplishment!