For an American citizen that would like to bring their foreign spouse to the United States, the U.S. offers different options and they are the CR1/ IR1 visa and the K3 visa. While the K3 marriage visa is technically still in existence, changes in processing times have made CR1 and IR1 visas are the most viable options for most applicants.
The difference between a CR1 visa and an IR1 visa is pretty simple. If the couple has been married for less than two years, the foreign spouse will receive a CR1 visa. If the couple has been married for more than two years, the foreign spouse will receive an IR1 visa.
The CR-1 visa is known as a Conditional Resident visa and grants a foreign spouse conditional permanent residency. Foreign spouses that receive a CR1 visa can typically work in the U.S. within a matter of months as soon as they receive their green card.
Since permanent status is considered conditional, the newly married couple must apply to remove conditional status jointly to prove that the foreign spouse did not get married to a U.S. citizen merely to circumvent U.S. immigration laws. This must be done before the two-year visa expires and it is actually recommended that the couple starts the process ninety days prior to the visa expiration date.
The IR1 (Immediate Relative) visa is issued to foreign spouses who have been married to a U.S. citizen for a period longer than two years.
The IR1 visa is very similar to the CR1 visa with the primary difference being that an IR1 visa recipient will be given unconditional permanent resident status and be able to work immediately when they arrive in the U.S.
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