What Is The Difference Between CR1 and IR1 Visa?
Marriage to your foreign partner is just the first step in the visa process. You’ll then face countless forms, documents, evidence and appointments. Each step of the process has it’s own difficulties, but if you can follow instructions, you can file a spouse visa.
You may be wondering, “what is the difference between CR1 and IR1 visa?”
The process for the CR1 and IR1 is exactly the same but the outcome is completely different. The type of visa that is stamped in your passport will depend on how long you’ve been married at the time of the interview.
Why would the length of your marriage matter?
After your visa interview, the consulate will issue you a visa which will also be your proof of permanent residence. Most immigrants that enter the country will be considered conditional residents. What this means is that your green card is conditional for 2 years before you are issued a permanent green card.
During this “conditional” period, USCIS wants to know whether your marriage is bona fide or if you’ve committed immigration fraud. But, if you think that you can just provide a lot of evidence of a bona fide relationship and get a permanent green card, think again.
Almost all applicants for a green card through marriage will be subjected to the 2 year probationary period. If your marriage is genuine, you have nothing to worry about and removing the conditions will be straightforward.
But if you divorce soon after you get your green card, expect a lot of scrutiny from USCIS. I’m not saying that it will be impossible to remove the conditions but you should know that you’ll need to prove your marriage was for love and not to get permanent residence.
What Is A CR1 And IR1 Visa?
A CR1 and IR1 is a visa category that lets Customs and Border Protection (CBP) know whether you should be admitted as a conditional or permanent resident. That’s a brief overview and everything else about the two visa types are the same.
So, if the process to apply for a CR1 and IR1 is the same, what’s the difference?
If You’ve Been Married Less An 2 Years = CR1
For those of you who have been married less than 2 years at the time of the interview, you’ll be issued the CR1 visa. Why? Because you will be considered a conditional resident when you enter the U.S.
USCIS doesn’t know whether you married for love or a green card. They want to weed out the fraudsters by putting them on a probationary 2 year period first.
JoAnn and Mark have been married for 6 months before submitting the I-130 petition. After 7 months, Mark was called in for his visa interview at the Australian consulate. The interview went well and Mark was told he was approved. The immigration officer said that his visa will be mailed to him in 1-2 weeks.
Exactly 10 days later, Mark received his passport back with the CR1 visa stamp in it.
Why did Mark get a CR1 visa and not the IR1 visa? It’s because they were married less than 2 years at the time of the interview. Simple enough right? We’ll it can get very complicated depending on when he enters the United States.
Normally, the CR1 visa is good for 6 months. What this means is that you must enter the U.S. with your visa within 6 months of it being issued. If you wait later than this, you will be denied entry because your visa expired.
Here’s where things get interesting…
If Mark gets his CR1 visa 3 months before his two year marriage anniversary, and he waits to enter the U.S. for 4 months, he will get a permanent 10 year green card. Why? Because the type of green card you get depends on your length of marriage at the time or interview AND at the port of entry.
CBP will convert your CR1 to an IR1 if you’ve been married more than 2 years when you first enter the U.S.. They may not do this automatically so make sure you ask them to do this. Doing this will save you time and money by avoiding the Removal of Conditions process.
If You’ve Been Married More Than 2 Years = IR1
Not many couples will wait two years to file the I-130 petition but for those of you who do, you’ll be issued the IR1 visa. The 2 year period that USCIS uses to determine whether your marriage is bona fide has already been served. It doesn’t matter whether you spend this time in a long distance marriage or together in the United States.
I’ve seen couples wait a few months longer before filing the I-130 specifically to get the IR1 visa.
What are the benefits of the IR1 visa?
- Same application process as CR1
- Same timeline for approval
- No extra expenses
- Get the 10 year green card instead of 2 years
Steve filed form I-130 for his wife Amelia from Guatemala. They initially applied for the K1 fiance visa 18 months ago but were denied because Amelia had a previous visa overstay on her record. They decided to get married instead and filed for waiver I-601 which was approved 5 months later.
By the time Amelia had her interview 9 months after the petition was approved, they had already celebrated their 2nd year marriage anniversary. Amelia was approved at her interview and was issued the IR1 visa.
In this case, Amelia and Steve were married more than 2 years so she will become a permanent resident at the CR1 port of entry. She will then get a 10 year green card in the mail within a few months. The next step will be to either renew her 10 year green card or apply for U.S. citizenship after she’s been a permanent resident for 3 years (if still married to her husband) or 5 years (if divorced).
How Long For CR1 and IR1 Visa To Be Approved?
The spouse visa process can vary greatly depending on the country you’re applying from. For example, Canada has a faster processing time than India. Why? Because of the number of applicants that the consulate or embassy must handle.
It will also depend on whether the consulate is located in a high fraud country.
The entire CR1 or IR1 visa process takes about 12-14 months to complete. If this is too long to wait and you have a good reason to speed up the process, you can request a visa expedite from the National Visa Center.
The odds of your case being expedited depend on how much evidence of an emergency situation you can provide. If you make a good case, you’ll be approved. If not, you will be denied the expedite and will wait like everyone else.
One thing that can really delay your case is Administrative Processing (AP). If there’s one thing that most immigrants are scared of it’s this black hole where cases go to die a slow death. Okay, maybe that’s too dramatic but it’s still not fun to wait an unlimited time without knowing why.
Final Thoughts On CR1 and IR1 Visa
So, now that you know a little about the difference between the CR1 and IR1 visa, which one would you prefer? It may not be a choice for everyone but if you’re close to your 2 year marriage anniversary, you may want to consider waiting a little longer to apply for the spouse visa.
There are some really good benefits to the IR1 spouse visa but it’s not worth waiting years to qualify for it. This is why it doesn’t make sense for the majority of couples who’ve just gotten married.
The rest of the application process is the same and so are the visa fees that are charged. The only couples that I see qualifying for the IR1 visa were either living together abroad or had a lot of setbacks with other visa categories before applying for the spouse visa.
But, if were married recently, don’t try to wait the 2 years just to avoid removing conditional down the road. I’m sure you want your spouse with you in the U.S. as quickly as possible.