What Is a IR1 Visa?
Reviewed by Carina Jenkins, J.D.
It’s common for U.S. citizens and permanent residents to fall in love with and marry people from other countries. However, this can pose a problem if the happy couple decides to live in the United States because the foreign-born spouse’s travel visa will be limited.
The solution for many couples is an IR1 visa.
An IR1 visa, also known as an immediate relative spouse visa, allows foreign-born spouses of U.S. citizens to live and work in the country. It’s sometimes called a marriage green card because it enables families to reunify in the United States. The visa is valid for 10 years, so the foreign-born spouse must renew it every decade to remain in the country.
To qualify for a spousal visa in the United States, the couple must be married for at least two years and their marriage must meet all the legal requirements for the country or state in which they were wed. The foreign-born spouse must not have any criminal convictions, such as drug trafficking, that will prevent them from entering the United States. Additionally, prior immigration violations, such as overstaying a visa or entering the United States illegally, may disqualify an applicant.
They must also have the following:
- A valid passport
- Two qualifying passport-size photographs
- Birth certificate
- Marriage certificate
- Police certificates for any country in which they’ve lived for more than six months since they were 16
- Evidence of financial support from their U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse
- The results of their medical examination from an approved physician
Although there can be variations, these general steps explain how to obtain an IR1 visa:
Step 1: File a Petition
The U.S. citizen spouse must file a Petition for Alien Relative (Form I-130) with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This form establishes the qualifying relationship between them and their foreign-born spouse.
Step 2: Receive Notice of Approval
Once the I-130 petition is approved, USCIS will send a Notice of Approval (Form I-797) to the U.S. citizen petitioner. It will include the Alien Registration Number (A-number) and the benefit approved (in this case, a green card).
Step 3: Wait For Next Steps
USCIS forwards the approved petition to the National Visa Center (NVC) for processing. The NVC will notify the petitioner and provide instructions for the next steps.
Step 4: Pay Fees
Step 5: Gather Supporting Documents
They must gather and submit all required supporting documents, including civil documents, financial evidence and any other documentation requested by the NVC. These are also submitted online via CEAC.
Step 6: Attend Interview
Once all required documentation has been submitted and processed, the U.S. embassy or consulate in the foreign-born spouse’s home country will schedule a visa interview. The U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse doesn’t need to attend with their partner, but they can if they wish.
Step 7: Get a Physical
The foreign-born spouse must then undergo a medical examination. An approved panel physician must conduct this.
Step 8: Receive Immigrant Visa
If the visa is approved, the foreign spouse will receive an immigrant visa in their passport. They can then travel to the United States and become a permanent resident upon arrival.
Unlike the CR1 visa, which is for spouses married for less than two years, the IR1 visa comes without any inherent conditions.
However, there are a few points to be aware of.
- While there isn’t a formal two-year conditional period like the CR1, the validity of your IR1 visa and, ultimately, your green card, are still tied to the validity of your marriage. Entering a marriage solely for immigration purposes is illegal and could lead to the revocation of your visa or green card.
- Although not needed for IR1 visa holders, some individuals with green cards obtained through marriage may need to attend an interview and remove conditions after two years if they were initially granted a conditional green card (usually the case for CR1 visas later converted to IR1). For IR1 visa holders, this generally wouldn't be the case unless there were concerns about the legitimacy of the marriage.
- As with any immigrant status, you must comply with all U.S. laws and regulations to maintain your green card. This includes avoiding criminal activity, filing taxes and staying informed about any requirements or updates regarding your immigration status.
- After holding your green card for at least five years and meeting other eligibility requirements, you can apply for U.S. citizenship. The process typically takes around 10 months.
Unfortunately, there's no single definitive answer to the processing time for an IR1 visa, as it can vary greatly depending on several factors. These include:
- The current workload at USCIS and NVC
- The location of the U.S. embassy or consulate handling the visa interview
- The complexity of the application, such as a foreign-born spouse’s criminal or complicated travel history
- Scheduling interview appointments, particularly in high-demand locations
If you have questions about obtaining an IR1 visa, you may wish to speak with a qualified immigration lawyer. Missteps in the process can cause delays or prevent a foreign-born spouse from gaining legal status in the United States.
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