What is a CR-1 Spousal Visa?
If your spouse is not a citizen of the United States and you plan to bring her to live in the United States, then you must file a petition with USCIS on behalf of your spouse. After the petition is approved, your spouse must obtain a visa issued at a U.S. Embassy or consulate abroad. This visa is called a CR-1 visa.
Two departments of the federal government are involved with the processing of Spouse Visas.
USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services) (part of homeland security) and the US Department of State.
USCIS handles the initial processing of the application Here, Stateside,
And then the Department of State will first process the case at their National Visa Center, NVC in New Hampshire, then forward the case for final processing at the American Embassy or consulate overseas in the country where your spouse lives.
First you the US citizen (or lawful permanent resident) submit your application to USCIS.
Spouse Visa Cases are sent to Chicago or Phoenix (depending on where you live), sorted, then distributed (sometimes randomly) around the USA to 5 different processing centers
USCIS sends you a receipt. On that receipt is shown your case number. The first three letters indicate which center has been assigned to the case.
EAC Vermont LIN Nebraska MSC Missouri WAC California SRC Texas
Historically, some of the centers, notably WAC California, work faster then others, and SRC Texas has been the slowest.
But you don't have a choice. Its the work of the initial sorting clerk that determines where the case goes. The sorting is mostly geographic, but there seems to be a lot of randomness as well.
USCIS examines the application, and reviews that the required civil documents, such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, divorce decrees, visa photos, etc have been included.
USCIS verifys that you are eligible to apply.
The FBI gets involved and does a criminal backgound check on the American.
At this stage if USCIS finds items missing or problems, they either deny outright (if you really messed up the application) or issue an RFE (request for evidence) listing what is missing and giving you about a month to fix the issue.
When satisfied, USCIS approves your application (at least as far as USCIS is concerned).
The case is passed over to the Department of State.
The Department of State has a processing center in New Hampshire, called the National Visa Center or NVC.
NVC takes over processing.
First they choose which consulate conducts further processing of your case. They assign a new case number that identifies the consulate, and The new case number, starts with three letters that indicate which consulate is assigned.
MNL for Manila, Philippines GUZ for Guangzhou, China CDJ for Juarez, Mexico RDJ for Rio, Brazil BGT for Bogata, Colombia SDO for Santo Domingo, Dominican Rep. HCM for Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam KEV for Kyiv, Ukraine MOS for Moscow, Russia
Via email they contact both you and your spouse, requesting first that she assigns you as her "Agent", submits an online application form, and finally asking for two separate payments.
One payment is for processing of your affidavit of support, the other for processing of her visa.
Once payments have been made, you mail a packet of civil documents, police clearances and and your financial evidences to NVC. At VisaCoach I call this the "mini petition".
NVC reviews your "mini petition", and once satisfied that all required materials have been provided, will ship the file via diplomatic pouch to the consulate in her country.
It takes about 2 weeks for the case file to arrive and be entered into the overseas consulate's system.
Once there, the consulate contacts your spouse, with instructions.
Notification may be by mail, phone or email.
The consulate advises:
How to book the visa interview appointment
Where to obtain the medical and finally, a checklist of what she should bring to the interview.
At the interview, she presents originals of her civil documents from the "mini petition" and meets with a consular officer.
His job is to catch fraud. He asks her questions to assess whether he will grant the visa, or if ineligibility is discovered, or fraud suspected deny the visa.
If the inteview ends with "Welcome to America" your spouse's passport with it's new spouse visa attached is returned to her about two weeks later.
The spouse visa is good for six months for her to start her travel to the USA.
Once she arrives, after you settle, she contacts USCIS what her new address is.
A month later she visits a USCIS office for biometrics (ID photo and fingerprinting) and a month after that her Green Card, that shows she is now a "Lawful permanent resident" arrives in the mail.
By Fred Wahl