Are you a US citizen or permanent resident married to a foreign spouse? You may be eligible to sponsor your spouse’s marriage-based green card application to allow them to stay in the US permanently. This article will extensively talk about the marriage-based green card, what it is, what its requirements are, how to apply for it, and other relevant details.
What is a Marriage-Based Green Card?
A Marriage-Based Green Card allows a person from a foreign country who is married to a U.S. citizen or Green card holder to move to the United States, live and work anywhere in the United States. The green card holder will have “permanent resident” status until they decide, if they wish, to apply for U.S. citizenship, for which they will be eligible after three years.
After a certain period, and if the foreign spouse fulfills all the conditions of the Green Card, they can also apply for U.S. citizenship. Also, if the couple has a child, that child will automatically be a U.S. citizen.
With a US Marriage Green Card, the foreign spouse will be able to:
- Open a bank account
- Live in the United States
- Travel freely within and outside of the United States
- Study freely in a university institution
- Work anywhere without needing to apply for Employment Authorization
- Obtain a driving license
- Sponsor their eligible family members to become a permanent residents of the United State
What are the different categories of US Marriage Green Cards?
Since many people want to move permanently to the United States to work, some marriages happen only to dubiously obtain immigration status within the country. Such an act is not permitted and is discouraged by the U.S. government. However, to prevent couples from marrying only for one person to get a green card, the U.S. government has offered two types of US marriage-based green cards:
- Conditional Resident Visa (CR1)
- Immediate Relative Visa (IR1)
Foreign spouses who recently married their partners are eligible for the conditional residence visa known as the CR1. This visa enables the foreign spouse to enter the country on immigration status with a green card. This visa is approved on the condition that the couple must stay married for at least two years, after which the foreign spouse can switch to an IR1 visa.
The IR1 visa gives the foreign spouse a more permanent status, valid for ten years and renewable indefinitely until they decide to apply for U.S. citizenship. If the couple divorces or separates before two years of the CR1 visa, the foreign spouse may have to leave the US and return and their country of origin because their status will no longer be valid.
The Immediate Relative (IR1) visa and Conditional Resident (CR1) visa are immigrant visas specifically designed for foreign nationals legally married to U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents. They are explicitly designed for foreign spouses who wish to become permanent residents of the United States. In contrast to other family visas, the IR1/CR1 visa offers the foreign spouse permanent resident status through marriage.
What are the primary requirements for obtaining an IR1 visa?
There are several requirements the couple will need to meet for a spouse to be eligible for the IR1 visa/spouse green card. In general, the main requirements are:
- The couple is legally married
The most important factor is that the couple must be legally married and can present a valid marriage certificate. It is necessary because many people tend to fake marriages to obtain a green card. Also, if the couple only lives together but not legally married, it is not considered a marriage under U.S. laws and regulations.
- Have U.S. citizenship or Permanent Residence (Green Card)
The other requirement is that one of the spouses must also be a United States citizen or green card holder with a valid U.S. address and can support the foreign spouse as long as both have the financial means to support themselves.
Documents Required to Apply for a Green Card through Marriage
Foreign spouses must provide several supporting documents as part of the visa application process. The supporting documents must be submitted to the National Visa Center (NVC), and the supporting documents may include the following:
- A signed Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, from the petitioner in the United States Marriage documents. Ideally, this will be an actual marriage certificate, but wedding albums, receipts from their party, and proof of honeymoon destinations might be enough.
- Two photographs per individual per the U.S. visa photo requirements
- Confirmation page of DS-260 application
- Court and criminal record and police certificate
- If you were a military member, you must provide your records.
- Medical examination and vaccination documents
- A passport with a minimum six-month validity period months beyond your intended entry into the United States.
What is the procedure for applying for a US marriage-based green card?
There are two types of visas possible under this category – CR1 and IR1. The type that the foreign spouse will receive will depend on how long the couple has been married. If a couple is less than two years into their marriage, the foreign spouse will obtain a CR1 visa, but spouses who have been married for more than two years will receive an IR1 visa.
In general, the visa procedure is as follows:
- Petition Stage
The petition can be filed by completing Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. This petition must be filled by the U.S. citizen or green card holder all the required sections and then submitted to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). There is also a fee that the petitioner (also known as sponsor) must pay to process the petition.
The Department of Homeland Security will process the petition, which will take a few months. The U.S. sponsor will be notified of the status once processing is complete. If the petition is denied, USCIS will notify you of the reasons for the denial. If the petition is approved, it will go to the National Visa Center (NVC).
The foreign applicant will receive a packet with information and instructions from the NVC after accepting the petition. The packet contains important information, including the Case Number and Invoice ID Number, which will be used to start the application from the U.S. Embassy or consulate in the foreign country.
- Visa application process
There is no limit to the number of people who can receive a CR1 or IR1 visa in a year, which means immediately after your petition has been accepted by the USCIS and approved, your US Marriage green card application can start. This is carried out in a U.S. embassy or consulate.
- Submit Form DS-260
All immigrant visa applicants must complete and submit Form DS-260, Immigrant Visa Electronic Application, to NVC. The application can be accessed using the NVC case number, which links it to your case and the approved petition.
The visa applicant or someone assisting you must complete all the required sections, which will contain questions about the applicant’s information, background, and reasons for wanting to immigrate to the United States.
After submitting the DS-260 form, a confirmation page and a number will be displayed. This information should be printed out and included in the portfolio of evidence that you will need to submit to the NVC.
Once this online form is completed, the visa applicant must schedule and attend a visa interview at the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate (if overseas) or a local USCIS office in the United States.
- Medical examination and vaccination
The United States has certain medical and vaccination requirements that citizens and immigrants must meet. Those who want to immigrate to the U.S. must undergo the required medical examinations and vaccinations. Immigrants Visa applicants who fail to do so will be rejected.
The NVC package the applicant receives after the petition is approved will specify the medical procedures the applicant must undergo and the vaccinations he must receive.
It is necessary to obtain the medical result signed by a qualified doctor certifying that you have undergone the required medical examination and received the vaccines. The doctor will be one of the recommended physicians by USCIS or the embassy/consulate. During your application, you will be notified of the list of designated physicians for this medical exam. You can choose the one closest to you. The exam results will be part of the required documents for supporting evidence submitted at the visa interview.
- Attend the interview
The interview is a mandatory part of the US Marriage Green card application. All applicants for immigration to the United States must attend an interview at the United States Embassy or Consulate where they apply. NVC will first ensure that all necessary documents have been submitted and then schedule the interview.
You’ll be asked a series of questions by the interviewer regarding your situation and your application. If the interviewer is satisfied, your passport and the passports of any accompanying family members will be stamped with the necessary visas.
- Receive your NVC packet and travel to the United States
If the visa is approved, the foreign spouse can travel freely to the United States. You will receive an information package to the United States, and the visa will be stamped on your passport. You should not, under any circumstances, open this package.
The U.S. immigration officers at the port of entry must receive this package when they arrive in the country. They will open it and check the contents to ensure the visa is valid. Entry into the United States may be denied if the package is opened before it reaches the immigration border official.
Frequently Questions and Answers
- How much does it cost to get a US Marriage Green Card?
An applicant must consider several fees when completing a CR1/IR1 visa application. Rates may vary depending on the country from which the request is made.
The main visa application fees include:
Form I-130 (petition for alien relatives): $535
Form DS-260: $445
Biometric Services Fee: $85
Fees for medical examinations and vaccinations: fees vary
USCIS Immigrant Fee (paid before traveling to the United States): $220
Fees for supporting documents and translation fees: fees vary
- When can I expect to receive my IR1 visa?
There are no limitations on how many individuals can be granted an IR1/CR1 visa in a given year. This means the wait time for a US marriage green card will be much shorter than for other family based green cards such as the F2A and F2B relative preference visas.
Applications for an IR1/CR1 visa are typically handled between eight and ten months, depending on the individual circumstances.
- How are the IR1 and CR1 visas different from one another?
Both visas are for foreigners married to U.S. citizens who wish to enter the county as permanent residents.
The IR1 stands for Immediate Relative. This applies to married couples who have been together for more than two years. If you and your spouse have been married for less than two years, you can apply for a CR1 (conditional resident) visa.
- What distinguishes the IR1 visa from the K3 spouse visa?
The K3 visa and the IR1 visa offer various advantages to their holders, although both are meant for family visas. The K3 visa is a nonimmigrant temporary visa. In other words, it guarantees only a limited authorized stay in the United States. You must apply for adjustment of status to spend more time in the country and get a green card.
As long as you have a K3 visa, you can travel freely outside the United States. However, if your marriage crumbles before you are granted a green card, you have 30 days to depart the country. Also, you will only be able to work in the United States after applying for a work permit.
On the other hand, the IR1 visa category and the CRI1 visa process have an immigration intent. You will receive permanent legal status along with the visa. You can apply for jobs in the U.S. if you have a CR1 or IR1 visa without applying for a work permit.
It should be noted that both visa application procedures start when your U.S. sponsor submits a Form I-130. Additionally, you may be required to submit an Affidavit of Support for both visas to show that you do not intend to rely on public financial support from the United States.
- Is Premium Processing available to me?
Sadly, only those who apply for a green card or visa using forms I-129 or I-140 are eligible for the premium processing option. Therefore, you cannot reduce the US Marriage-based green card processing time with this service.