Introduction: The CR-1 visa is the conditional immigrant visa that allows a United States Citizen (petitioner) to bring their Thai spouse (beneficiary) to the United States. Contrary to the K3 visa, the CR-1 visa grants the beneficiary permanent residency in the United States. Thought the process is more arduous than other spousal visa options, the United States does not limit the number of CR-1 visas granted. Therefore, the CR-1 visa’s availability makes it an attractive option.
Eligibility: The eligibility requirements are common to the K visas. The petitioner must be a United States Citizen. The wedding must comply with the legal standards of the performing country. Accordingly, both couples must be legally free to marry. The CR-1 visa applies to marriages that have lasted less than two years. The petitioner must be able to show that they earn above the poverty level and will be able to support the beneficiary. Additionally, the couple must prove that they have a legitimate, genuine and continuing relationship. Finally, the U.S. Embassy will investigate the beneficiary for the following issues:
1. Health issues;
2. Involvement with drugs, controlled substances, or chemicals;
3. Criminal background;
4. Involvement in prostitution;
5. Likelihood of becoming a public charge; and
6. Intent to engage in unlawful activity in the United States.
Process: Once a wedding has taken place, the petitioner must return to or remain in the United States. The process to obtain a CR-1 visa begins by filing form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative. Once the petitioner receives notice that the form has been filed, they must file form I-129F petition for the CR-1 visa. Three separate agencies handle the CR-1 visa review process. First, the USCIS reviews the visa documents. Next, the USCIS forwards the package to the National Visa Center (NVC) where the documents undergo further review and processing. Finally, NVC sends the paperwork to the U.S. Embassy in Thailand. The U.S. Embassy then sends the beneficiary an appointment package. Next, the beneficiary must go through the interview process where the consulate seeks to determine the legitimacy of the marriage. This process usually takes 2-3 months longer than a K3 application. The government agencies apply a higher level of scrutiny to a CR-1 visa application because visas are immigrant visas.
Once the embassy grants the CR-1 visa, the petitioner may enter the United States as a conditional permanent resident. Since the CR-1 is a “multiple entry” visa, the beneficiary may leave and re-enter the United States at will. Additionally, the visa stamp operates as an immediate work permit. The beneficiary will receive a formal green card 2-3 months after establishing residency.
Permanency: The CR-1 visa is an immigrant visa that grants the beneficiary permanent residence on a conditional basis. The permanent residency remains conditional for two years. For the visa to remain effective, the couple must remain married for the two year probationary period. 90 days before the second anniversary of entry into the United States, the couple may petition the USCIS to lift conditional status of the permanent residency. A successful petition requires that the couple has remained married. If successful, the conditional status will vacate on the second anniversary.
Conclusion: The CR-1 is a viable alternative for couples married less than two years. The CR-1 visa’s uncapped status ensures that this option will always be available. Additionally, this immigrant visa ensures that the beneficiary will not have to apply to adjust their status. Despite the long and complex process, the CR-1 often remains the best available option.