CR1/IR1 Visa NVC Process After I-130 Petition Is Approved
Until now, you’ve been dealing with USCIS who has been processing your I-130 petition for your spouse. Once they approve the initial petition, the foreign beneficiary is given permission to apply for the CR1 or IR1 visa at the US consulate abroad. So what happens after the National Visa Center (NVC) has received your petition?
There are few steps that need to happen before you can be interviewed. They will invoice you for the visa fee and have you fill out form DS-260.
The National Visa Center is responsible for the following:
- Collecting payment for the visa fee and affidavit of support fee
- Sending you required visa forms to be filled out by beneficiary
- Hold your visa petition until your interview can be scheduled
Make sure that you have included a valid email address on the initial I-130 so that NVC can quickly send you documents or information by email instead of mail.
Although the NVC process is similar for both the IR1 visa and the CR1 visa, the visa types are different. CR1 is a “conditional resident” visa for for couples that have been married for less than two years and will receive a condition 2 year green card upon approval. The IR1 is an “immediate relative” visa for couples that have been married more than two years and will receive a permanent 10 year green card upon approval.
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First, NVC will send the approved petition to the US consulate abroad who will then notify the beneficiary spouse. The consulate will send a packet containing information about the next steps and how to pay the fees.
Step 1: NVC Issues a Case Number
Once your I-130 petition has been approved by USCIS, it will be sent to the National Visa Center for processing. Depending on which service center processed your I-130, it can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to reach NVC. To find out whether they have received your case, you will need to call them as they won’t send you a notice in the mail.
Phone: 603-334-0700 (Monday – Friday 7am – 12am EST)
- Press 1, for English
- Press 2, for Spanish
After making a selection, choose the following options:
- option 1 – to get your priority date
- option 2 – to choose an agent, request fee bill or invoice number
- option 3 – to check if they received your mail
- option 4 – to confirm date and time of interview
- option 5 – to update your mailing address, phone number, email address
- option 6 – if your case is at a US embassy or consulate overseas
- option 7 – for all other questions
- email@example.com – for questions related to your case
- NVCElectronic@state.gov – if you need to email scanned documents
- NVCExpedite@state.gov – for all expedite requests
Once NVC does receive your case, it will take about 3 weeks for them to assign you a case number. If it takes longer than this, you should call and inquire about your case to make sure they have received it. While you’re talking to the operator, provide them with the petitioner and beneficiary email address to receive future notifications by email.
Step 2: Choose an Agent (Form DS-261)
Okay, it’s time to choose an agent that will handle your case. You can be your own agent or you can assign it to your attorney or another representative (such as a family member or friend). The agent will be the person that will receive all communication from NVC
To choose an agent, you’ll need to go to the CEAC website and fill out form DS-261, Online Choice of Address and Agent. Most applicants choose either the petitioner or the beneficiary as the agent but it really doesn’t matter since you have provided NVC with both your emails to receive communication from NVC.
Once you submit form DS-261 and have selected your agent, the immigration fee option will unlock within a week so that you can pay the fee.
Step 2: Pay NVC Processing Fees
After you submit form DS-261 and choose an agent, you’ll then need to pay the immigrant visa fee ($420 for 2017) and the affidavit of support fee ($120 for 2017). NVC prefers that you pay online using a checking account (account number and routing number).
If paying by certified check or money order to:
NVC Fee Processing Center,
P.O. Box 790136, St. Louis, MO 63179-0136
The immigrant visa fee is paid for each applicant but the affidavit of support fee is only paid once no matter how many beneficiaries are included on the application. It may take a week or so after you’ve paid for the affidavit of support fee before you’ll be able to pay the immigrant visa fee online.
Note that if you get any of the following error messages, don’t panic! It’s actually a good thing because it means that NVC is entering your case into the system.
“Please be advised that the case that you have attempted to access is not eligible for further processing by the National Visa Center at this time.”
“This case is in the process of termination. Fee payments and online forms can no longer be accepted.”
“You cannot make online payments for your case at this time. Please contact the NVC if you have questions or need further information.”
Step 3: Complete Form DS-260
This form can only be completed online and asks questions related to your biographical information. There are several pages that must be filled out. The form must be completed in English and signed electronically. DS-260 will only be available once you have paid the immigrant visa fee I mentioned above.
If you have all the information required, it can take a couple of hours to complete the form. Don’t worry, you won’t need to complete it in one setting but can save it to finish later. You can see a sample of DS-260 from the Department of State website. When you’re done filling out the form, make sure to print the confirmation receipt for your records.
Note: the US petitioner can fill out form DS-260 if the beneficiary doesn’t have a strong understanding of the English language.
Once DS-260 is complete, NVC will send you a document checklist that you’ll need to bring to the interview.
Some people may have some issues answering the vaccination questions on the form. If you have all of your vaccinations and the records to prove it, you can just explain this. However, if you don’t have all the vaccinations or any records you can explain this as well and just mention that you will receive them during your medical exam.
Step 4: Affidavit of Support Documents
Finally, you will be required to show that you can financially support your foreign spouse to ensure they won’t become a “public charge”. When filling out the I-864 form, remember to include your case number on every single page on the top right corner. USCIS will remove any staples or paperclips that you use to put everything together and they may loose a page.
If the petitioner is living abroad, you’ll need to put $0 where it asks for income. Even if you currently work overseas, once you move back to the US you will not have an income and that is what USCIS needs to know.
Evidence needed with no joint sponsor
- Cover sheet from payment portal (contains bar code)
- Cover letter (this is optional)
- Form I-864 signed by petitioner
- Tax returns/transcripts of petitioner (the last 1-3 years)
- Employment letter of petitioner (optional but is good evidence)
- Pay stub(s) of petitioner (optional but is good evidence)
Evidence need with a joint sponsor
- Everything mentioned above
- Form I-864 signed by joint sponsor
- Tax information of joint sponsor (the last 1-3 years)
- Proof of US citizenship of joint sponsor (US passport, US birth certificate, US naturalization certificate, or front & back of green card)
- Employment letter of joint sponsor (optional but is good evidence)
- Pay stub(s) of joint sponsor (optional but is good evidence)
Note: if you haven’t filed your taxes yet and requested an extension from the IRS, include this extension letter and provide last years tax returns instead.
Final Thoughts on CR1/IR1 NVC Process
I hope that this helps you understand the NVC process for your CR1 or IR1 spouse visa. Yes, there are a lot of steps but knowing what is expected will help you prepare. The great news is that your I-130 petition has been approved so USCIS thinks you have a valid case to bring your foreign spouse to the US.
Now, all you need to do is complete the remaining forms and pay the fee. An area where many couples get into trouble is proving that the foreign spouse won’t become a public charge. USCIS will not approve the CR1/IR1 visa until they know that the petitioner will financially be able to support the immigrant.
To prove that you can financially support your foreign spouse, include tax returns, pay stubs and a letter of employment. You may also use other types of income such as VA benefits, social security benefits and pension income. Basically, any form of income that is stable and ongoing can be used.
If you don’t make enough money to meet the income requirement or are unemployed, you can use a joint sponsor to help you meet this requirement. The joint sponsor must prove that they meet the income requirement for their own household plus the intending immigrant.
Ayan is the founder of the Migrant Academy community, the My Path To Citizenship Blog and Podcast.
After successfully navigating the hurdles of US immigration. She now dedicates her time to helping other couples achieve their goals of starting their new life together in the US.