How to Apply for Visa to bring foreign Spouse to USA
Your partner needs permission from the US government to allow her or him to enter the USA. If you are just married, this is called a CR1 Spouse Visa, if you have been married for two years or more it is called an IR1 Spouse Visa.
First we work together to produce a thick packet of forms, evidences and civil documents. This is required to demonstrate that you are eligible to apply, and that your true agenda is a genuine life together, not immigration fraud.
The application itself looks pretty simple. It asks for “name, rank serial number”. This often leads to overconfidence. Couples who really don’t understand what all will happen, fill in the blanks themselves, submit the petition and usually end up shooting themselves in the foot.
This typically results in the leading cause of denial, failure to convince the consular officer who interviews your partner that your relationship is genuine, is “bona fide”.
Sadly, US immigration has had bad experience in the past, with this type of “romance” visa. Many who were not eligible applied for spouse visa’s. In reality they were not seeking a life together in the USA, but only seeking admission to the USA. Their relationship was not real, it was a “sham”
Gold diggers, gigolos, con-men even terrorists have used spouse visas as a back door into the USA.
Normally in USA one is considered “innocent until proven guilty”. But because of the bad apples who have abused the immigration system ahead of you, and have basically “poisoned the well” , now when you apply for a visa for your partner, regardless of how beautiful the ceremony and honeymoon were, SORRY, but even after all that, NOW immigration takes the attitude you are “guilty until proven innocent”
This is how a lot of couples get in trouble. They sadly end up dissappointed at what happens at the interview.
Because they are “IN LOVE”, because they are sincere, because they may have already Made their vows, they assumed no special, no extra effort to prove their situation was needed.
They assumed the consular officer would right away recognize their sincerity, and say “yes, visa approved.”
So, they filled in the forms themselves, filing in basic “Name, rank and serial number” or they hired a cheap online form printing service.
Those cheap “bare bones” applications, are usually enough to get one’s “foot in the door”. It’s usually enough to get your partner sitting opposite a officer for the consular interview.
Sadly, HOWEVER, just having your “chance at bat”, chance to interview, is rarely enough to win approval. It is too often, not nearly enough to demonstrate “to the OFFICER” that your application is “bona fide”.
Now without enough information laid out in front of him, the consular officer, must stretch, must dig, must ask a lot of questions, to hear what he wants to know.
Unfortunately, once you start down the path of multiple questions, the interview can easily deteriorate into an interrogation, Until the officer FEELS he can make a yes or no decision.
Well, If he is short of time, or impatient or close minded or in a bad mood, or if your partner is not fluent in English, or fast enough to provide convincing answers, the simpler course for the officer, the safer course that does not risk his career or professional reputation is to deny.
My signature philosophy at VisaCoach is we get achieve success by “doing the consular officers job for him”.
The consular officer has been doing his work for a while at the consulate. He has been trained. He has experience. He “Knows”, at least in his mind, what a NORMAL, and eligible couple should look like.
He expects an honest couple will have done certain things, in certain ways. And on the flip side he also has strong ideas of what signs indicate they may not be honest.
So, the CLOSER your situation matches his positive expectations, then the closer your case is to being approved.
So when I work with a couple, I first discuss with them what they have been doing, then I explain what the consulate they will be interviewed at expects. Then I suggest what actions the couple should take, to do “the right thing”.
Just Doing the right thing however is not good enough.
Next we need to DOCUMENT that the right thing was done. I teach my clients ways to create evidences that show what happened. And I review them to pick and choose the most relevant and effective ones.
But having evidences that the right thing was done still isn’t good enough.
Last, we have got to make sure the officer sees the evidences.
And that is what a VisaCoach front loaded application is.
We include with every application high quality evidences, specifically demonstrating that you have a bona fide relationship, we “front load” the evidences in the original application, because we know these evidences will get into the consular officers hands, before the interview starts.
We know that the consular officer ALWAYS reviews the original application materials before the interview starts.
My “front loaded” applications are crafted to do the consular officers job for him. During his review, before your partner sits down in front of his desk, the consular officer should have already seen and reviewed the type of evidences that allow him to confidently approve your visa. He should be very receptive to say yes, even before the interview officially starts.
The petition package is mailed to USCIS, the United States Customs and Immigration Service. Spouse Visa applications are originally sent to their offices in Chicago, for sorting assignment to various centers around the USA for processing.
In 2018 USCIS is taking about 7 to 8 months to do their part to review your case, including an FBI background check on the American sponsor.
Sorry, but this amount of time to process is vastly slower than in recent years, and is due to the executive orders issued by President Trump for USCIS to conduct more vigorous reviews, so called “extreme vetting” of all cases.
When finished, USCIS hands the case over to the US State Department’s National Visa Center (NVC) based in New Hampshire.
Once NVC takes over you I guide you on how to pay their fees, and help you assemble and submit a set of civil documents such as birth, divorce and marriage certificates, plus prove of the American sponsor’s financial eligibility.
Normally we submit all of these via postal mail. It is what I call the “mini-petition”. Currently NVC is experimenting with a new system that requires direct upload of evidences from the internet. Some cases are selected for the experiment, the others follow the traditional path. Either way at the moment it is pretty confusing.
The spouse visa stays at NVC for 4 to 8 months, until NVC is satisfied after it’s review of all the documents and the consulate confirms it has a date available for the final interview.Then the case is passed on to the consulate and you get a notice advising what date the interview has been scheduled for. Usually this is about 2 months later.
At this point I update you on what the current procedures are being followed at the consulate.
I guide you and your partner on what needs to be done, where to take the medical, what final fees are needed, and what official documents need to be presented on the big day.
In the final run up to the interview, I provide a detailed, personalized checklist on what your Spouse must bring to the consulate on the day of the interview.
This is especially CRITICAL, as forgetting to bring even a single a required document can cause, weeks sometimes months of delays. Even if a missing document is provided the next day, sorry, but the consulate officers have already moved on to new cases, and for them it is a very low priority to circle around to re-open a case just to confirm a missing document has finally arrived.
One to two weeks before the interview your partner must undergo, a thorough medical exam and review of his or her vaccinations at a clinic appointed by the consulate.
Finally your Partner attends the interview at the US consulate.
This is the MAIN event.
During the interview, the consular officer must be CONVINCED your the relationship is bona fide and not a sham for immigration purposes.
As previously mentioned, at the interview, is where the high quality VisaCoach “front loaded application” typically wins the day.
The consular officer always reviews the case file before the interview starts. We craft your application so that he finds 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, we want him to have seen our carefully selected and presented evidences and be mentally prepared to say “yes”.
Typically, the interview turns into a fast and friendly, formality. Most VisaCoach clients hear “Welcome to the USA” in just 3 to 4 minutes
One to Two weeks later your Spouse’s passport with visa are delivered, via courier, and then and your Partner has six months to start the trip to join you in the USA.
What are the two biggest mistakes that are usually made? well believing the following false statements.
1. Once married to a US citizen the foreign spouse can automatically travel to the USA.
2. Getting married, guarantees the visa will be approved.
Sorry, but neither statement is true.
There is no automatic permission. The process I have just described to apply for the spouse visa, only starts once the wedding has taken place. Each step must be followed, each step done correctly, and only after 14 to 18 months (currently) can the foreign spouse join you in the USA.
And having a marriage certificate is NO guarantee of approval. The consular officer MuST be convinced of your sincerity and “bona fides”. Sadly your honesty is not assumed by the officer, you must PROVE it to him. That is what the visacoach “front loaded” petition is all about.
Arriving on a CR1 spouse visa, your spouse is already approved for permanent residency. Usually your partners Green Card, which proves permanent residency has been granted arrives in the mail in about 2 to three months. You are now temporarily done with immigration, however the new green card is conditional, only valid for 2 years. In two years we must go back to USCIS to upgrade it. More about this later.
But US immigration is still cautious, still skeptical. The Green card that was granted was only “conditional”. Meaning it is good for only two years.
Before the two years is up we apply once again. This time it is called “Application for Removal of Conditions on Residence” We apply, it is granted and now your spouse gets a regular Green Card that does not have conditions.
A year later, (after a total of three years as a permanent resident) your spouse, is eligible to apply for US citizenship and get a US passport.
And don’t worry. Even though there are many steps, VisaCoach is ready to help you through each and every step, from Visa through to Conditional Green Card then Un-conditional Green Card and finally to US Citizenship
By Fred Wahl