A marriage visa is a document which allows the spouse of a US citizen or lawful permanent resident to legally enter the US, to live here, and to shortly after arrival obtain permanent residency with a green card.WHY do I want one?
A marriage visa, often called a spousal visa or CR-1 visa, is a path to be used when a marriage relationship exists between the parties which allows for direct application for the spouse’s entry into the US and permanent residency/green card; with possible citizenship to follow. There is no adjustment of status required.HOW do I obtain one?
The US citizen (or permanent resident) spouse, (called a “sponsor”), files USCIS forms and supporting documents on behalf of the alien immigrant, (called the “beneficiary”) in a two part process.
Part I is comprised of forms and supporting documents filed with the USCIS by both the sponsor and beneficiary.
Part II starts after the initial USCIS approval after which the case is sent to the United States Department of State and then on to an embassy or consulate in the beneficiary’s country. At this final stage there are also required submissions of additional forms and documents, the scheduling, our preparation for, and the conduct of, an interview; then the issuance of the marriage visa to the beneficiary.In order to help you in understanding the marriage (CR-1) visa process we will use an example here:
Note: we are using just one example of many possible sets of facts to give you a clear picture of what is involved in the process. Your facts may be different; consult your AmeriLawGroup Attorney to discuss yours.Suppose in our Part I:
- A person named Jim is a US citizen
- Jim meets Lola in the Philippines while on a trip. Jim and Lola continue to talk through phone or video for a period of time which allows them to get to know each other well, and they decide to marry with Lola coming to the US to be with Jim as his spouse. Lola wants to be a lawful, permanent resident (LPR) when she arrives here.
- Jim flies to the Philippines and legally marries his new wife Lola under the laws of her home country, the Philippines. Jim now goes back to the US and finds Amerilawgroup on the net, or through a friend or family referral, and wants them to help him bring Lola to the US as fast as possible.
- Jim makes an appointment for a private consultation with an AmeriLawGroup Attorney where they discuss the best, fastest and least expensive way to bring Lola here. They also discuss any issues which may exist for Jim or Lola (such as illness or disability, criminal records, etc.) which must also be addressed in their filing; Jim’s ability to show that he can support Lola on her arrival (an I-864 financial affidavit filing with all supporting documents is needed) is also considered. Their Attorney explains that all information provided to Amerilawgroup is completely confidential and protected by the Attorney-Client privilege and by our secure systems protections.
- Jim reviews and approves the Amerilawgroup written fee agreement and pays the agreed flat, one time attorney fee. Note: Jim will pay the USCIS filing fee later, at the time the forms and documents are actually filed. He will submit a check or money order made out to the US Department of Homeland Security in the amount he is directed to send by his Attorney.
- Jim’s Attorney has set up a private, electronic, file with a unique password, for Jim or Lola to use to access any of their documents at any time and has sent both Jim and Lola clearly written questionnaires to provide the Attorney with the personal information required by the USCIS.
- Their Attorney has explained that since AmeriLawGroup’s visa process is all electronic, using phone, email, and web computer connections, Lola can enter any of her required personal information right on her screen in the Philippines and send it instantly to their Attorney by just clicking a button on her computer screen…and so can Jim…from anywhere in the world!
- Their Attorney has also assured them that Amerilawgroup takes their privacy and the security of their information very seriously and employs security experts and systems which are constantly working to secure it.
- Jim and Lola complete their questionnaires and electronically send them to their Attorney who reviews them line for line. Their Attorney edits their answers as needed, obtains more information from them as needed and only then approves them. He the enters the required information for each of them into the the USCIS forms needed for their initial filing and sends the completed forms back to Jim and Lola electronically, who print them out and sign them.
- While their forms are being completed Jim and Lola are also obtaining, under their Attorney’s direction, all supporting documents required by the USCIS for each of their forms. To do this they use the booklet, written by Amerilawgroup to bring this documentation together; there are specific directions, samples, tips, and ways to do this more quickly, easily and with less cost. Jim or Lola may send any of their documents electronically to their Attorney for review, clarification and approval, as needed.
- All forms, supporting documents, USCIS filing fees, photos and descriptions are then assembled as directed by their Attorney and filed with the USCIS.
- Particular care is taken with the issue of the validity of Jim and Lola’s marriage; we must prove that this is a real relationship, based on love, and not a “sham”…being entered into just for immigration purposes. Based on our 35 years experience we will show you exactly what to do to clearly show the validity of your marriage to the reviewers at USCIS and later at the consulate or embassy or in the interview.
- In approximately 6 weeks Jim and Lola receive a USCIS notice 797C telling them their forms and documents are being processed and in about 4-5 months from filing they receive the USCIS approval of their marriage visa. This is the end of Part I of the process.
- The second part of the process now starts with Jim and Lola’s approved file being sent to the embassy or consulate in Lola’s country. Note: this will also be the country where they married (here the Philippines) since marriage visas are processed and visas issued, in the country of marriage.
- The approved file is first sent to the National Visa Center (NVC) of the United States Department of State. Note: here a new case file number is assigned by the NVC to be used throughout the rest of the process.
- Jim is now asked by the NVC to provide a financial statement (form I-864) and complete supporting documentation, to prove that he can support Lola when she arrives. Note: even when income is insufficient, or even zero, their Attorney may be able to get this financial filing through NVC using Jim’s income, assets, joint sponsors, or combinations of these three methods (or others) to obtain the required approvals
- The approved case, along with the financials and some other documents required by NVC at this point (their Attorney again helps with these) are sent to the Embassy in the Philippines for final processing and approval. At this point Lola obtains her medical clearance and attends her interview. Note: While Jim can come to the embassy to support Lola he will not be allowed in the interview room. In most cases Jim will be in the US at this time waiting for Lola’s arrival,,, which is not far off.
- Jim and Lola work with their Attorney to prepare for Lola’s interview. This starts with their reviewing a special “interview booklet” written by AmeriLawGroup which their Attorney has provided them. Special emphasis is now placed on showing the true validity of the marriage to the interviewer. Then, if Jim, and especially Lola, are still not confident and comfortable with the interview process a personal “preparation conference call” will be scheduled with them and their Attorney who will make sure Lola is ready, comfortable and successful at the interview.
- Lola is successful at her interview and her marriage visa is issued to her right then or within approximately 2 weeks thereafter. Lola now may come to the US to be with Jim any time within 6 months of the issuance of her CR-1 marriage visa. Note: this 6 months can be extended for another 6 months or even a year if needed; this takes some planning so discuss it with your attorney before the interview.
- Lola now uses her new CR-1 visa to come to the US and live together with Jim as man and wife. The CR-1 visa is not, however, lawful, permanent residency or a green card. The proof of permanent residency (green card) will be sent by mail to Lola at Jim’s house within about 6 weeks of Lola’s arrival in the US. With a CR-1 marriage visa there is no need to incur the time and expense of adjusting Lola’s status; it happens automatically after arrival.
Lola is now a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) of the US; she may work, travel in or outside of the US,… and is free to enjoy all the rights and privileges of a permanent US resident!
What about Lola’s children, (if any)?
- Children of a person (Lola) being sponsored for a marriage visa (CR-1) can also be petitioned by that same sponsor (Jim), to come to the US as Lawful Permanent Residents (LPR) with green cards too. This can be done at either the same time as Lola or thereafter. The right to petition for such children is called derivative eligibility, that is, eligibility derived through their relationship to Lola. But CAUTION: certain age restrictions apply to children like Lola’s; be sure to discuss this issue with your attorney at the first consultation. Note: the time a child of Lola may use his/her visa after issuance can be extended. However, some careful planning is needed so be sure to mention this need to your attorney at the first consultation.
How about K-3 visas? The K-3 marriage visa process was established many years ago to speed up the overall marriage visa process. While somewhat faster, it was a cumbersome, three step process which was difficult to file and use and really did not make things much better. In February of 2010 the USCIS began using the CR-1 visa process we are discussing here for the marriage visa, and in fact, USCIS now automatically converts K-3 petitions to CR-1 petitions. While it is technically still possible to file for a K-3 they are more expensive and time consuming with no real benefit attributable to them. In short, they are “old news” which some persons occasionally run across on out of date internet sites which should be ignored.
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