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2018 Spouse Visa processing time

Today's question is: How long does it take to get a CR1 Spouse visa?

As of 2018, the answer is 12 to 15 months on average.

5 - 7 months USCIS

5 - 6 months NVC

2 months Consulate

I regularly get calls from people saying those numbers must be wrong, because they found a website or person who promised a MUCH shorter processing time

so whats their secret?

Well the secret is they are either telling you what "you want to hear" so they can get your money, or just referring to one step of the process, not ALL the steps from initial submission of your petition, to visa embossed onto your spouse's passport

When I give time estimates I always use what is relevant to the couple, and that is starting from the day USCIS receives the petition, ending on the day your foreign spouse gets the visa.

Two different departments of the US government are involved.

USCIS (homeland security) and the Department of State. From Mid 2017 through to 2018 Homeland Security recently is getting their job done relatively slowly, currently taking 5 to 7 months. (this compares to processing times of a rapid 2 to 3 months just a year ago, and well under the 5 month Policy standard they have set for themselves.

Why is USCIS now taking 2 to 3 times as long?

I call this the Trump Effect. President Trump after taking office in January 2017 has mandated that USCIS vigorously enforce and administer immigration laws, take no short cuts. The goal is to restrict Legal immigration while stopping illegal immigration.

"We have to get much tougher, much smarter, and less politically correct," Trump said.

What this means is that they are very closely examining and scrutinizing all cases looking for reasons to deny. In addition cases that regularly had their interviews waived now specifically there is an Executive order that no interviews regardless of the strength of their evidences, may be waived.

The result is USCIS has more work to do, has more bases to touch in the processing of EACH case. And while President Trump has promised to hire more staff to handle the increased load, so far no new staff has been hired, but the workload has increased.

This is the Trump Effect. More work, with same staff. The result is that USCIS processing times for spouse visas have stretched to take at least 5 to 7 months. And it is possible this may even get worse, depending on how many new steps USCIS is asked to take, such as "extreme vetting" and "social media data mining" that are new labor intensive steps that have been proposed but not implemented yet.

USCIS Processing includes a background check by the FBI

In addition to the general slow down due to the "Trump Effect" what also affects how long it takes for USCIS to approve your case is a function of how complete your petition is, how busy the processing center is, how current your FBI file is, and a bit of luck.

The most obvious source of added delay is caused by incomplete and sloppy petitions. When USCIS finds a problem, processing grinds to a halt, and it is stopped until the problem is fixed. Sometimes the errors are so big that they don't bother asking for corrections and simply deny a case outright.

Once USCIS finishes their part, the case is passed to the US Department of State.

The Department of State has a processing center in New Hampshire, called the

National Visa Center or NVC.

The NVC first contacts your spouse, asking her to confirm a "Choice of Agent". Basically this is to confirm that You are allowed to be copied on correspondences sent to your spouse. It sounds strange as you are the original sponsor of the petition, but I believe this is a privacy issue, that NVC must address.

After NVC receives the signed Choice of Agent form. They contact you via email with invoices for adjustment of status, and visa application fees.

Once paid, you then then submit a packet of documents to NVC. I call this the "mini petition". This includes the proof of payment of fees, civil documents, financial evidences, etc.

Once NVC is satisfied that all required documents have been presented, it forwards your case on to the American Consulate responsible to issue the visa. And at the same time notifies you and your spouse the date and time your spouse's interview has been scheduled for at the consulate.

This is usually about 2 months later.

The Approval/Denial decision is made during the interview.

This is where the higher VisaCoach standard, for crafting "front loaded presentations" wins the day. The consular officer always reviews the case file before the interview starts. Our plan is that he will find many good reasons why he should trust you and approve the visa. Even before he invites your spouse to sit in front of his desk, he should already be mentally prepared to say "yes". This makes the interview a fast and friendly, formality. Most VisaCoach clients hear "Welcome to the USA" in just 3 to 4 minutes

Then in about 2 weeks the passport with its new CR1 visa is returned.

Just as in medicine commercials on TV. "Your results may vary".

Some of my clients get their visas faster, some slower.

If in 2018 you plan for between 12 to 15 months average CR1 Spousal Visa processing time you won't be far off.

By Fred Wahl

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