CR1 Visa / IR Visa
CR-1 / IR-1 Visa Overview
Are you a United States citizen with a Thai spouse? Would you like to move back to the United States together? The CR-1 and IR-1 visas allow an American citizen to sponsor their spouse for permanent residency. The "CR" of CR-1 stands for "Conditional Resident." "IR" stands for "Immigrant Resident." If you and your spouse have been married for less than 2 years, you will have to apply for a CR1 visa.
Your spouse will be a "conditional permanent resident" for two years. At of the end of the two years you must file a petition to remove the conditions and your spouse will become a permanent resident. If you have already been married for two years or more, your spouse can apply for an IR-1 visa and will become a permanent US resident right away.
If your spouse is a Thai citizen they will apply for their visa from Thailand. The application process takes six months to a year from start to finish. Once the visa is approved, your spouse can enter the United States and is free to work or study. Their green card will arrive in the mail after a few months.
If your spouse has children, they will be able to immigrate with your spouse by applying for a CR-2 or IR-2 visa. Any biological children of the US citizen may be US citizens already. To confirm their citizenship and apply for a passport register their birth at a US Embassy.
Should we apply for a K-3 visa or CR-1 / IR-1 visa?
If you would like to bring your spouse to the United States as soon as possible, you should apply for a K-3 visa instead of a CR-1 or IR-1. K-3 visa applications are processed about two months faster than CR-1 or IR-1 applications.
But a K-3 visa has downsides. Your spouse will have to apply for work authorization before they can get a job. Once your spouse arrives in the United States, you will need to apply for an "adjustment of status" to get your spouse a green card.
If you choose to apply for a K-3 visa instead of a CR-1 or IR-1, your spouse will be able to enter the United States a little sooner, but the overall immigration process will be longer and more expensive.
CR-1 / IR-1 Eligibility Requirements
You must be a US citizen and at least 18 years of age to sponsor your spouse for a CR-1 or IR-1 visa. US permanent residents must use a F2A visa to sponsor their spouse.
Your spouse will be ineligible for a CR-1 or IR-1 visa if they have ever lied on an immigration application, if they have a serious criminal record, or if they have a severe communicable disease. Complete details about classes of people ineligible for US visas is available at http://travel.state.gov/visa/frvi/ineligibilities/ineligibilities_1364.html#1.
CR-1 / IR-1 Income Requirement
In addition, to show that your Thai spouse will not require welfare once they arrive in the United States, you must demonstrate that your annual household income is at least 125% of the poverty line. If you and your spouse will be living in the 48 contiguous states and your household will consist of only the two of you, the minimum annual income (as of 2011) is $18,388. The more members of your household, the higher the minimum requirement will be. If your household consists of four people, you must demonstrate (as of 2011) an income of at least $27,938. If you will live in Alaska or Hawaii, the required annual income is slightly higher.
If you make less than the required minimum income, you can make up the difference by demonstrating assets (real estate, stocks, bonds, bank accounts) that are at least 5 times the difference between the income required and your annual income. If you have an annual income of $17,288, for example, you can satisfy a $18,388 income requirement by showing that you have $5,500 ($1,100 x 5) in the bank.
CR-1 / IR-1 Application ProcessSTEP 1: FILING AN I-130 PETITION
To start the CR-1 or IR-1 visa application process, fill out and submit Form I-130, which is also known as a "Petition for an Alien Relative." When you file the I-130 you will need to attach a copy of your passport or birth certificate to prove you are a US citizen, a copy of your marriage certificate, and passport-size photos of both you and your spouse.
You also need to attach evidence that shows your marriage is legitimate, such as documents that show you share bank accounts or property, a lease showing you live together, or affidavits from friends confirming your marriage is heartfelt. If either you or your spouse was previously married, you have to attach a divorce decree, annulment, or death decree to show that you were free to enter your present marriage.
When you complete the I-130 and gather the required documents, send them to the US Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) Lockbox in Chicago for processing. Make sure you keep copies of all the documents you send with the I-130 because you will need them later in the visa application process. When USCIS receives your I-130 they will send you Form I-797, which is a notice confirming that they are processing your I-130.STEP 2: Processing at the National Visa Center (NVC)
Once USCIS processes and approves your I-130 petition it will be forwarded to the National Visa Center (NVC) for further processing. The National Visa Center will send you an instruction packet with visa application forms. Follow the instructions carefully. Along with the completed application, you will need to provide a copy of your passport, 2 passport photos, certified copies of your birth certificate and marriage certificate(s), a police certification certificate, and any military service records. The sponsoring US citizen will have to file Form I-864 to prove that they meet the income requirement. The National Visa Center will also collect visa application fees.STEP 3: Interview and Medical Exam
When your application is complete, the National Center will schedule an interview at the US Embassy in Bangkok. Before the interview the visa applicant must complete a medical examination, which can be conducted at designated locations in Bangkok and Chiang Mai.
The final step in the CR-1 / IR-1visa application process is an interview with a visa officer at the US Embassy in Bangkok. This can take several hours. The visa officer will review the documentation and attempt to confirm that the marriage is sincere. If the visa is approved, it should be available about two business days after the interview.
After You Arrive in the US
Once your Thai spouse enters the United States on a CR-1 or IR-1 visa they will be sent a green card. CR-1 visa holders will receive a conditional green card, which is only valid for two years. Remember to apply to remove the conditions within 90 days of the green card's expiration, or your wife will have to start the immigration process over from the beginning.