How to Obtain a U.S. Immigrant Visa for a Foreign Spouse

Guide FAQ – Read First

What is this guide?

This is a full and thorough guide on the steps and process required for a United States citizen to bring a foreign spouse (using Romania as the foreign country of example) to the U.S. as a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR), also known as a green card.

This guide will discuss, analyze, breakdown, and provide you all the details in the process required to bring a Romanian (or other nationality) spouse to the U.S. under an immigrant CR1 or IR1 visa.

Is this guide applicable only for obtaining a Green Card for a ROMANIAN spouse?

No. The steps and processes outlined in this guide, on how to obtain permanent resident status for a foreign spouse, are virtually (with some exceptions which are made clear throughout the guide) the same for almost every other country.

If your foreign spouse comes from a different country other than Romania, when reading this guide, just replace Romania with the country that applies to your situation. Everything that applies to obtaining a green card for a Romanian spouse, applies for the spouse of any other country.

This guide specifically uses Romania because the author of this guide had to complete the process with a Romanian spouse. The blog on which this guide is found on is also a blog about Romania.

Does this guide cover the immigration process for the spouse of a U.S. permeant resident?

This guide does not provide specific information for a U.S. lawful permanent resident to bring their foreign spouse into the U.S.

The processes outlined in this guide are specific to someone who is a U.S. citizen looking to immigrate a foreign spouse to the U.S.

That being said, this guide is still a great resource for an LPR looking to immigrate a spouse to the U.S. because much of the process an LPR has to undertake overlays with the process a U.S. citizen undertakes.

What is the difference between a CR1 and IR1 visa, and which do I apply for?

There are a few important differences between the Conditional Resident Visa (CR1) and the Immediate Relative Visa (IR1).

For information on each type, and to determine which one you will be applying for, read below.

IR1 Visa

If you have been married for two years or more, than you will be applying for the IR1 visa.

The IR1 visa comes with a green card and is valid for 10 years. If you do not renew the green card upon the 10-year expiration date, you will not lose the permeant resident status.

However, if you don’t renew the IR1 within 10 years, you will be given some restrictions, such as, travel out of the country, and ability to obtain naturalization.

You can renew the IR1 visa anytime you like, even AFTER it’s already expired, and any restrictions incurred will be removed.

CR1 Visa

If your marriage is less than two years old, on the day you were given permeant resident status (green card), you will be receving a CR1 visa.

The CR1 visa comes with a green card and is valid for 2 years. Your status is conditional, because you must prove that you did not get married to evade the immigration laws of the United States.

Information on how to remove the conditional status of the CR1 visa is provided in our Steps to Take after Immigrating to the United States Guide.

Is the guide for immigrating a foreign wife, or a husband?

This guide is applicable to either, as the immigration process is virtually the same for a foreign wife, or husband.

Rather than refer to the partner you are trying to immigrate to the U.S. as him, or her, this guide will refer to them as spouse.

Why does this guide not contain information about the K-3 Visa?

The K-3 Visa was a way to be able to bring your spouse to the US on a non-immigrant visa. The purpose was so that a U.S. citizen, living in the United States, who married abroad, would able to have their spouse live with them in the U.S. while their green card application was processed.

As of 2018, the K-3 visas are virtually obsolete. You can still go through the process of trying to obtain one but the chances of that happening are very slim and make it not even worth trying. To give you an example, in 2016, there were only 102 K-3 visas issued, while in the same year, there were 133,465 CR-1/IR-1 visas issued.

Is the guide current or updated?

The author of this guide will do his best to update and maintain the guide to the current year’s guidelines.

The author will also update the information contained within it if relevant changes to the process for obtaining a green card for a foreign spouse are changed.

Do you have other guides related to U.S. immigration?

Yes, we have various other guides related to U.S. immigration and foreign marriages. The guides all use Romania as the foreign country of example, but the majority of the information and resources found in the guides are applicable to all other countries.

Our guides on the Marriage and Immigration Series include:

Was this guide written by an attorney?

  • The contents of this guide were not written by an attorney, and thus should not be used as a substitute for legal advice.
  • The guide was compiled through extensive research and, in the authors opinion, is accurate to the best of his knowledge.
  • Most of the information in this guide was obtained, and sourced, from official U.S government websites.

I found an inaccuracy or have further questions, what can I do?

If you found something in this guide which you believe is inaccurate, or if you have any questions about anything mentioned in this guide, please feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of the page.

I will do my best to reply to all comments as well as verify and correct any information that might be inaccurate in the guide.

How to Use this Guide

External Links

This guide contains many external links. The external links will open in a new window and take you to external websites, most of which are official U.S. government resources.

The external links are either provided for the use of obtaining supplemental information on a process, or in some cases, to provide information on how to complete a process.

Internal Links

This guide also contains many internal links. The internal links will take you to other sections of this very guide in order to provide definitions or supplemental information, to the process being discussed.

Links to Forms

This guide will also in many instances link to our separate page on forms required for immigrating a spouse or fiancé to the United States.

That page contains all the relevant information required for many different forms which one needs to fill out in order to immigrate a foreign spouse or fiancé to the United States.

Terms used in the Guide

Important terms used throughout this guide are defined upon the term’s introduction in the guide. The terms are defined in the context relevant to this guide, which is not always the true definition of the term when used outside the scope of the guide.

For example, the dictionary definition of the word income is “money received, especially on a regular basis, for work or through investments.”

The definition of the word income, however, throughout this guide has different meanings in different sections of the guide.

The definitions of important terms, relevant to the context and section of the guide, are provided throughout the guide.

To familiarize yourself with terms used throughout the guide, and in the scope of the guide, see the state.gov glossary of terms.

Steps Required to Obtain a CR1 or IR1 Visa for a Romanian Spouse

Step 1The Marriage

The first step in obtaining your CR-1 or IR-1 visa for your Romanian spouse is, actually having a Romanian spouse, through marriage. It’s important to note that for the marriage to be considered legitimate, both parties need to be physically present at the wedding.

It is in your best interest to document as much of the wedding as possible (photographs, sign-in guest journal, etc.) and to keep all records and certificates of it. You may later on in the immigration process need to provide this documentation as proof that the marriage took place.

Step 2Submit a Petition – File Forms I-130 and I-130A

After you get married, your next step is to file two forms together, Form I-130, and Form I-1-30A, with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Filing these forms is known as submitting a petition.

In addition, you must also file, along with those forms, all required documentation the forms request, as well as payment for the form I-130 fee.

The sooner you wish to have your spouse admitted to the United States, the sooner you should file these documents.

If your spouse is already in the U.S. (through a lawful visa) you will also need to file Form I-485, along with I-130 and I-130A. If your spouse is not in the U.S., you will file Form I-485 at a later step.

Submit a Petition – Resources
Submit a Petition

Step 3Wait for USCIS Processing

After you’ve done step 2, you must wait for USCIS to receive and process your Petition (forms and documents).

During this time USCIS will:

  • Verify that everything is filled out correctly, and completely.
  • Possibly request more information or evidence (including original document copies) from you.
  • Possibly request you to come in for an interview at a USCIS office (if living in U.S) or at a U.S. embassy (if living abroad). The purpose of the interview would be for further verification, and possibly obtaining biometrics (fingerprint etc.) data from you.

Step 4USCIS has Processed your Petition

After USCIS has processed your petition, and any further information you submitted upon their request, they make one of two decisions, approve, or deny.

The approval and denial choices are made at the discretion of the USCIS. They base their choice on if they deem your case met the eligibility for acceptance or not.

Denied

If your Petition was denied, you can file for an appeal and try again. The denial letter will tell you how to appeal and when you must file the appeal.

Approved

If your Petition is approved, the USCIS sends it to the National Visa Center (NVC).

Step 5NVC Fees and Forms

When your petition becomes current, or is likely to become current within one year, the NVC initiates immigrant visa pre-processing by providing you with instructions to pay the appropriate fees.

After you pay the fees the NVC will request you submit the necessary immigrant visa documents.

Step 5a – Complete Form DS-261

Upon receiving your petition, the NVC will assign you with a case number and instruct you to complete the following ONLINE form: Form DS-261

Step 5b – Pay Fees to NVC

After you’ve completed Form DS-261, you must pay the Immigrant Visa Application Processing Fee of $325, and the Affidavit of Support Fee of $120.

Information on where and how to pay these fees is found here:  Pay Fees

Step 5cComplete Form DS-260

The next step after paying the two fees is for both you, and your spouse, to complete online Form DS-260

Step 6Affidavit of Support Form and Collect Financial Documents

Prove Financial Ability to Sponsor Your Spouse

The next step requires that you prove you have the financial ability to support your spouse in the U.S. and the spouse will not become a public charge.

You must show that you have the ability to maintain your annual household income at 125 percent of the governing Federal Poverty Guideline threshold.

The process of proving your financial ability involves you submitting the Affidavit of Support form you qualify under, and providing documentation that proves your income.

Definition of Public Charge

A public charge for an applicant is defined as someone who is likely, at any time after admission to the U.S., to become primarily dependent on the U.S. Government (Federal, state, or local) for subsistence.

Subsistence is defined as:

  1. Receipt of public cash assistance for income maintenance. Cash assistance that fall in this category are programs such as, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Cash Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  2. Institutionalization for long-term care at U.S. Government expense. This refers to care for an indefinite period of time for mental or other health reasons, rather than temporary rehabilitative or recuperative care.

For a complete definition of what is, and isn’t, considered a public charge, see: 9 FAM 302.8-2(B)(1)  (U) What is “Public Charge”

Income Requirement

The requirement of having the financial ability to support your spouse means that your household income is:

For an active duty in the armed forces: EQUAL TO the U.S poverty level for your household size.

Everyone else: HIGHER THAN 125% of the U.S. poverty level for your household size.

Definition of Income

Income is calculated as the total unadjusted income as shown on your tax return, before deductions.  Total unadjusted income includes not only salary (if any) but also monetary gains from any other source, such as rent, interest, dividends, etc. Source under heading: What is Income?

Definition of Current Individual Annual Income

Despite the above definition of income, form I-864 (and similar forms) have a section that requires you to fill out your “current individual annual income.”

Current individual annual income (CIAI) is defined as the TOTAL income you (no one else’s income combined) expect to earn this calendar year (year of you filling out the affidavit of financial support).

You determine CIAI based on what you expect your total income will be from sources such as:

  • Employment salary.
  • Social security retirement or disability.
  • Unemployment or workers compensation.

In totaling your income for the year, do not include income from:

  • Security Income (SSI) for the aged, blind, or disabled
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Children (TANF)
  • Interest income.

Income Notes

  • For the purpose of the affidavit of financial support, your current individual annual income is used to determine if your income will satisfy the 125% above the poverty guideline.
  • If your current individual annual income is expected to be more this year than it was on your previous years tax return, you must submit proof such as pay stubs, or employer note (certifying your salary), as evidence for your estimated earnings.

For more information on current individual annual income, see I-864 instructions PDF under heading: Item Number 2. Current Individual Annual Income.

Definition of Household Member and Household Size

The definition of household member (member who counts in total household size) is very important and must be calculated accurately.

Determining household size (total household members) is one of the most important elements in completing the Affidavit of Support process.

Household members for a sponsor, or joint sponsor, are considered the following:

  • You (as the sponsor), your spouse, the immigrant you petitioned, and any family members of that immigrant who are immigrating with (or within 6 months) of the immigrant.
  • Any children that are living with you, unless they have reached the age of majority and you haven’t claimed them as dependents on your most recent tax return.
  • Any dependents you used in the most recent tax year (regardless where they live).
  • Any immigrants you’ve previously sponsored with Form I-864 and your support obligation has not terminated.
  • Any other aliens to be sponsored under the current affidavit of support, even if such aliens do not or will not have the same principal residence as the sponsor.
  • Any other sibling, parent, or adult child in your home who you will use as a co-sponsor and has to file form I-864A.

*Note: For the purpose of this guide: You, as the primary sponsor, the immigrant you petitioned IS YOUR SPOUSE.

For a joint sponsor, they would include their spouse, AND, your immigrating spouse, in their household size.

It is vital that you pay close attention to the definition and refer to it each time a matter of household size, or household member comes up.

The full definition of a household member used by the NSV is found under: 9 FAM 302.8-2(C)(6)  (U) Household Member.

Determine Poverty Level Based on Income and Household Size

To check the poverty level for your household, visit the below (always up to date) links:

Form I-864P
9 FAM 302.8-2(C)(12)  (U) Poverty Income Guidelines
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Poverty Research

*Note: If the poverty guidelines change after you’ve already submitted an affidavit of support, you will not have to resubmit the affidavit. You will still qualify under the poverty guidelines which were current at the time you submitted your affidavit of support.

Step 6a-1 – The Affidavit of Support Form

There are several Affidavit of Support forms. To find out which type you will have to submit, based on your situation, visit here: Collect Financial Documents, and read the section under the heading: Complete an Affidavit of Support form

The majority of people reading this guide, and are petitioning for a foreign spouse, will fall under one of three categories.

  • Your income meets or exceeds 125% of the U.S. poverty level.

In this case, you complete and file either Form I-864 or Form I-864EZ and you skip to step 6a-2.

  • You are exempt for filing a affidavit of support form for your spouse

This exemption is if your spouse has obtained over 40 U.S. work quarters. See: 9 FAM 302.8-2

  • Your Income is less than the 125% of the U.S. poverty level

In this case, you have a few options to continue with the process.

If your income is less than 125% of the U.S. poverty level you have various options to choose from in order to meet the U.S. poverty guideline qualification:

*Note1: For all below options, you may not include any means-tested public benefits currently being received in calculating the household income.

*Note2: For all below options, if you receive social security retirement or disability benefits, you can use that income when calculating the household income.

Options for Meeting U.S. Government Poverty Guidelines

Option 1 – Add the cash value of your assets.

If your income is less than 125% of the U.S. poverty level, you can add the cash value of your assets. This includes money in savings accounts, stocks, bonds, and property. The assets must be able to be readily converted into cash within 1 year.

To determine the amount of assets required to qualify, subtract your household income from the minimum income requirement (125% of the poverty level for your family size). You must prove the cash value of your assets is worth three times this difference (the amount left over).

Example of Using Cash Value of Assets

  • If your example household size is 2, then in 2017, 125% of the U.S. poverty guidelines is $20,300.
  • If your example total unadjusted income for the most recent tax year (2016) was $18,000
  • If your example cash asset is a savings account which contains $10,000

Then, using the above example

You subtract your income of $18,000, from your household poverty guideline of $20,300, and get $2,300. You then multiply the $2,300 by 3 and get $6,900.

You have $10,000 in a cash asset (your savings account) which is enough to cover the Minimum Required Net Value of Assets of $6,900, and thus you can use your cash asset to meet the poverty guidelines.

If in the above example your income amount was less, or the amount in your savings account was less, that when you did the math you didn’t have enough to cover the difference, then you would not be able to use the cash value of your assets to meet the U.S. poverty guidelines and would have to chose a different option to meet the guideline.

Cash Value of Assets Notes

  1. You can combine the cash value of your assets, along with the cash value of your spouse’s assets. In this instance, your spouse would have to submit a for I-864A along with the form I-864 you are submitting.
  2. Evidence of your assets should be attached to the Form I-864. Evidence of your spouse’s assets (if they are also submitting assets) should be attached to Form I-864A.
  3. For the assets used, you must provide evidence of ownership, location, and the value of each asset.
  4. For the assets used, you must provide evidence of liens, mortgages, and liabilities for each asset (if any).

Additional Resources on Using Cash Value of Assets

Additional Assets Evidence under section: (5)  (U) Additional Assets Evidence

Affidavit of Support Under section: If You Can’t Meet the Minimum Income Requirements

Option 2 – Use the Income of your Spouse

If your spouse earns income through employment, or other lawful means, and will continue to, and has the ability to prove that they will continue to, earn the income after immigrating to the U.S. you can combine their income with yours to meet the poverty guideline qualification.

For information on how to use this option please see the following links:

9 FAM 302.8-2(C)(6) under the heading: c.  (U) Applicant’s Use of Form I-864A

Option 3 – Use the income, or cash value of assets, of household member(s) (co-sponsor).

If your income is less than 125% of the U.S. poverty level, you can use the income of another member of your household, referred to as a co-sponsor, to combine with your income in order to meet or exceed the 125%

Definition of Co-Sponsor

A co-sponsor is a household member who you can combine income with in order to meet the U.S. poverty guidelines.

A co-sponsor is different than a joint sponsor in that, a co-sponsor is a household member you are combining income with.

A joint sponsor is considered an individual whom you can use to meet the U.S. poverty guideline requirements by (1) using that individual’s income alone to meet the requirements, or (2) using that individual’s income after it’s combined with one of his or her household members, to meet the requirements.

You cannot combine your income with a joint sponsor. (The use of a joint sponsor is described in a later option)

Qualifications for Co-Sponsor Option

For you to qualify, in using a household member as a co-sponsor, the household member must meet these conditions.

  1. Be related to you by birth, marriage, or adoption.
  2. If not living in the same household, be a relative or other person whom you have lawfully claimed as a dependent on your most recent federal tax return.
  3. They must have lived with you for the last 6 months (no longer required under the final rule).
  4. The income from the family member used must continue from the same source after the spouse attains permanent resident alien status.

If none of your household members meet the above qualifications, you won’t be able to use them to combine with your income, and thus you must skip this option and use a different option.

More Info at: USCIS Affidavit of Support under heading: If You Can’t Meet the Minimum Income Requirements

Determine Household Size when Combining Income with Co-Sponsor

When you combine the income with a household member, that member’s household size will go up by one, because they are submitting a form I-864A for your spouse.

Your household size however can be different than the household size of your co-sponsor because you might not have the same dependent as the co-sponsor does.

The co-sponsor’s income, combined with yours, must be enough to meet or exceed 125% of their new household size.

Determine Household Size with Co-Sponsor Example

  • You have a household size of two, you and your spouse.
  • You are combining income with a co-sponsor, your dad, who has a household size of 3 (under these household qualifications).
  • Your dad’s household size includes, him, and two dependent kids (your brother, and sister).

After combining income with your dad

Your dad’s new household size will become 4, him, your spouse, and his two dependent children.

Your new household size will become 3, you, your spouse, and your dad.

Your dad’s income, combined with yours, must be at least $30,750, which is 125% of the U.S. poverty level for a family of 4 in 2017.

Using the above example: When you fill out and submit form I-864, your household size in the form will be 3. When your dad fills out and submits form I-864A, his household size in that form will be 4.

*Note: If you are combining income with multiple household members, each household member you are combining with is added to your total household size.

How to Complete the Co-Sponsor Option

To use this option:

  • You must fill out and submit Form I-864, along with Documentation to Prove Income.
  • Your co-sponsor(s) must each (if using more than one) complete and submit Form I-864A, along with Documentation to Prove Income.

Co-Sponsor Notes

  • All forms should be submitted together.
  • The co-sponsor must prove they are a legal U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident, see here: Collect Financial Documents under heading: Obtain financial evidence and subheading: Proof of U.S. status
  • To co-sponsor must prove their relationship to you, see here: Collect Financial Documents under heading: Obtain financial evidence and subheading: Proof of relationship
  • If you are using the cash value of your co-sponsor’s assets, the co-sponsor must still submit a form I-864A.
  • Evidence of your assets (if you are using assets) should be attached to the Form I-864. Evidence of your co-sponsors assets (if they are using assets) should be attached to their Form I-864A.
  • The co-sponsor’s household size may differ to yours, even though you are living in the same home, because the co-sponsor might have dependents (considered family members) of which you don’t. Form I-864A has instructions for how the co-sponsor will determine their household size.
  • If your co-sponsor filed a joint tax return with a spouse, but is qualifying using only his or her own individual income, the co-sponsor must submit evidence of that individual income.
  • If your co-sponsor filed a joint tax return with a spouse, and is qualifying using that spouse’s income, then the spouse must also fill and submit a form I-864A, and both co-sponsor, and co-sponsor’s spouse must submit evidence of their income.

Option 4 – Use a Joint Sponsor

If your income is less than 125% of the U.S. poverty level, you can use the income of a joint sponsor in order to meet or exceed the 125%

Definition of Joint Sponsor

A joint sponsor can be ANY individual, including someone such as a, friend, co-worker, or family member. They must meet the following qualifications:

  • S. citizen or permanent resident,
  • 18 years or older
  • Domiciled in the U.S.
  • Can meet or exceed the 125% poverty guideline requirement for your household. They can do this either by their own individual income, or by combining the income of THEIR households.

A joint sponsor is different than a co-sponsor in that a joint sponsor does not have to be (but can be) a family member, or member of your household, and you do NOT combine income with a joint sponsor. A co-sponsor is required to be a household member and is used to combine income with.

Use of Multiple Joint Sponsors

You can not use more than one joint sponsor for your spouse alone. However, if your spouse is immigrating with other immigrants that you’ve included in your Form I-864. Then each additional immigrant can have their own separate (unique) joint sponsor.

Determine Household Size when using a Joint Sponsor

When you use a joint sponsor, your household size does not increase.

The joint sponsor’s household size does increase by one because of your spouse they are being a joint sponsor for.

If the joint sponsor you are using is combining their income with one or more of their family members, then their household size goes up by one, for your spouse, and by however many members of their household they are combining their income with.

The joint sponsor’s income needs to meet or exceed 125% of the poverty guideline for their household. Their household will include them, your spouse, any of their household members defined here, and any one else in their household they are combining their income with.

Determine Household Size when using a Joint Sponsor Example

  • You have a household size of two, you and your spouse.
  • You are using a friend as a joint sponsor who has a household size of 4.
  • Your joint sponsors new household size becomes 5 (to include your spouse) after becoming your joint sponsor.

125% of the U.S. poverty level for a family of 5 in 2017 is $35,975. If your joint sponsor earns that, or a higher amount, then they can be a valid joint sponsor.

If the joint sponsor does not earn that above example amount:

The joint sponsor can combine their income with a qualifying household member (and must add that member to their household size if not previously needed to be added) and the total amount of their combined income, if it meets the 125% of the poverty level requirement for the joint sponsors household size, can be used to sponsor your spouse.

How to Complete the Joint Sponsor Option

To use this option:

  • You must fill out and submit Form I-864, along with Documentation to Prove Income
  • Your Joint Sponsor must also complete and submit a Form I-864, along with Documentation to Prove Income
  • If your joint sponsor is combining the income with that of one or more of their household members, then each of those household members must fill out a form I-864A, while your joint sponsor fills out form I-864. All individuals will also have to submit evidence of their income.

Joint Sponsor Notes

  • All forms should be submitted together.
  • You must submit a Form I-864 EVEN if you have 0 income or your income doesn’t meet the poverty guidelines and you’re relying completely on the income of your joint sponsor to meet the poverty guideline.
  • When you use a joint sponsor, your income becomes irrelevant because you will be relying on the income of the joint sponsor. You will not need to submit proof of your income and employment, however, your joint sponsor might have to.
  • If your joint sponsor filed a joint tax return with a spouse, but is qualifying using only his or her own individual income, the joint sponsor must submit evidence of that individual income.
  • If your joint sponsor filed a joint tax return with a spouse, and is qualifying using that spouse’s income, then the spouse must also fill and submit a form I-864A, and both joint sponsor, and joint sponsor’s spouse must submit evidence of their income.

Step 6a-2Documentation to Prove Income

In order to prove your income, you must submit certain documents which verify your earnings are real.

If you are using a joint sponsor, or co-sponsor(s), to meet the U.S. poverty guidelines, each one of them must also submit documents which verify their income is also real.

Types of documentation required to prove income are things such as: IRS tax transcripts, employment letters, and pay stubs.

Federal Income Tax Return Information

You must provide either an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) transcript or a photocopy from your own records of your Federal individual income tax return for the most recent tax year. If you believe additional returns may help you to establish your ability to maintain sufficient income, you may submit transcripts or photocopies of your Federal individual income tax returns for the three most recent years.

If you are Self-Employed you should have completed one of the following forms with your Federal income tax return: Schedule C (Profit or Loss from Business), Schedule D (Capital Gains), Schedule E (Supplemental Income or Loss), or Schedule F (Profit or Loss from Farming). You must include each and every Form 1040 Schedule, if any, that you filed with your Federal income tax return.

For complete information on Tax Return Requirements, see I-864 instructions PDF under heading: Item Numbers 18.a. – 20. Federal Income Tax Return Information

Evidence of Employment

To prove current employment or self-employment, you must provide evidence such as a recent pay statement or a statement from your employer on business stationery, showing the beginning date of employment, type of work performed, and salary or wages paid.

If for the previous tax year, you did not meet the poverty guidelines, but you have recently started a new job (that you can prove to the officer reviewing your case that is likely to continue), and the income from the job now meets or exceeds the legal poverty guideline requirement, then you can submit verification of income of your new job in order to meet the poverty guideline requirement.

Prove Income – Exception

If your income met or exceeded 125% of the U.S. poverty guidelines in Form I-864 or I-864EZ and you didn’t use your assets OR any co-sponsor or joint sponsor, then you only need to submit IRS tax transcripts as proof of income. Source under heading: (3)  (U) Employment evidence: (a)  (U)

Prove Income – Resources

For a complete overview of the requirements needed to prove income visit the below links:

Collect Financial Documents under the heading: Obtain financial evidence
Required Supporting Evidence

Step 6bProve you have Domicile (residence) in the United States

*Note: If you’re currently living in the U.S while at this step, you won’t have to prove you have a U.S domicile.

This step is for anyone living outside of the U.S. during the time they’ll be submitting the affidavit for financial support. If you’re currently living abroad and will be filling an affidavit of support, the NVC requires that you prove that you have a principal residence in the United States and intend to maintain it indefinitely, or that you plan on re-establishing domicile in the U.S.

You must show that you’ve either already taken up physical residence in the United States, or have taken concrete steps to establish a domicile in the United States and will do so concurrently with the spouse no later than the date of your spouse’s admission.

If you’ve been living abroad but have maintained a U.S. domicile, you must prove that you:

  • Departed the U.S. for a limited, and not indefinite, period of time
  • Have a permeant mailing address in the U.S.
  • Intended to maintain a U.S. domicile at the time of departure; and,
  • Can present convincing evidence of continued ties to the U.S.
  • If it applies to you, have proof that you’ve been a student studying abroad, or that a foreign government has authorized a temporary stay

Other evidence to show you’ve maintained ties to the U.S. can be things such as:

  • Receipts for using storage facilities in the U.S
  • Subscriptions or contributions to organizations in the U.S
  • Proof of visiting your family or friends in the U.S. while you’ve been abroad
  • Proof of having renewed a U.S. driver’s license
  • Proof of relevant correspondence with institutions, colleagues, family, or friends that communicates your intentions to return to the U.S.

If you’ve been living abroad and don’t have valid sufficient evidence to indicate that you’ve maintained ties to the U.S. you can submit evidence that indicates in good faith that you plan on re-establishing domicile in the U.S. no later than the date your spouse would be allowed access to the U.S., such evidence can include:

  • Closing foreign bank accounts and opening ones in the U.S.
  • Transferring funds to the U.S.
  • Signing a lease or purchasing a residence in the U.S.
  • Making investments in the U.S.
  • Seeking employment in the U.S.
  • Registering children in U.S. schools
  • Voting in local, State, or Federal U.S. elections

U.S Domicile Requirements

If you’ve been living abroad when filing the affidavit of financial support, you must submit with the affidavit a written explanation and documentary evidence that proves your absence from the U.S. was temporary, or that you’ve taken the required steps to re-establish U.S. domicile upon your spouse’s access being granted to the U.S.

U.S Domicile Resources

To find out more about proving you maintain a U.S domicile visit and read the below links:

Form I-864 FAQ under the headings:

What does domicile mean?
What kinds of employment abroad can be counted as U.S. domicile?
How can a financial sponsor establish a domicile?

9 FAM 302.8-2(C)(5)  (U) Domicile

USCIS Issues Final Rule Regarding Affidavits of Support under question: Q. My sponsor lives abroad. Does this mean he or she cannot sponsor me?

Step 6 – Affidavit of Support Resources

More information about the Affidavit of Support Process can be found at the below links:

*Note: These links are not required reading, but are provided as official resources if you want to do further research into the affidavit of support process for either general informational purposes, or to find out information about exceptions or rules which may apply to your situation and are not covered in this guide.

USCIS official website
USCIS Issues Final Rule Regarding Affidavits of Support
Questions related to: “affidavit of support”
Definitions for Affidavit of Support Process
Use of affidavit of support
Affidavits of Support on Behalf of Immigrants

Step 7 – Collect Civil Documents

The next step in the immigration process requires that you collect various civil documents which you will need to:

  1. Photocopy and submit to the NVC.
  2. Photocopy and bring to the visa interview, along with the originals (or certified) copies, to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate which represents the country your spouse is in.

Translate Civil Documents

All documents not written in English, or in the official language of the country in which you are applying for a visa, must be accompanied by certified translations. The translation must include a statement signed by the translator stating that:

  • The translation is accurate, and
  • The translator is competent to translate.

How to Obtain Civil Documents

The state.gov website provides a Document Finder resource to assist you in obtaining the civil documents required for completing the CR1/IR1 visa process.

The document finder page contains an alphabetical list of countries on the left-hand side. When you click on the country where your foreign spouse resides, you will be taken to a page that provides information on obtaining various civil documents in that country.

For example, the document finder for Romania has detailed information on where to obtain civil documents in the country, and which types of documents are available.

Unobtainable Civil Documents

The state.gov website says that if you can’t obtain any of the civil documents required in the country where your spouse resides because it is not available in that country, and doesn’t appear in the document finder, then you don’t need to submit that document to the NVC.

If, however, you can’t obtain a required document for any other reason, you must write and submit a detailed explanation of why you can’t obtain the document. The consular officer will then determine at the time of the visa interview whether you must obtain the missing document before a visa can be issued.

Civil Documents Required for CR1 or IR1 Visa

For complete information on obtaining, and instructions for each, of the below documents, please visit the official state.gov page on Collecting Supporting Documents

The documents required in order to complete the immigration process are listed below:

  • Birth Certificate
  • Court and Prison Records (if spouse was ever convicted)
  • Marriage Certificate
  • Marriage Termination Documentation – Spouse (if your spouse had previous marriage)
  • Marriage Termination Documentation – Petitioner (if you had a previous marriage)
  • Military Records (if spouse served in military of any country)
  • Photocopy of Valid Passport Biographic Data Page
  • Police Certificates

Step 8 – Submit Documents to NVC

After you’ve obtained all the financial and civil documents, along with their photocopies, described in the previous steps, your next step is to submit them ALL TOGETHER to the NVC.

There are 4 different possible methods in how you can submit the documents to the NVC. The method you will be required to use will be determined by where you will be interviewing and the NVC case number assigned to you.

Submit Documents – Methods

For complete instructions and details on the document submittal process visit the page Submit Documents to the NVC

The four possible methods for submitting the documents to the NVC are as follows:

  • Upload the documents online via your CEAC account
  • Scan and send the documents through email
  • Mail the documents to the National Visa Center
  • Your choice of any 1 of the above 3 mentioned

Step 9 – Prepare for the Visa Interview

After you’ve paid all the required fees and submitted all the required documentation and forms outlined in the previous steps and the NVC has received and reviewed them, you next step will be to prepare for the visa interview.

Visa Interview – Appointment

During this time the NVC will work with the U.S. embassy or consulate in the country where your spouse resides to setup an interview date, usually within 60 days but possibly longer. When the visa interview date will be set, it will be set within one month in advance so you have ample time to plan to arrive to it.

When the interview date is set, you, as well as your spouse will both be sent interview appointment letters that will contain the interview date, time, and location. There may be a wait of several months before an interview date becomes available.

Once your interview appointment is scheduled, NVC sends the immigrant visa petition, visa application, and all related forms and documents which were submitted to NVC to the appropriate U.S. Embassy/Consulate.

Visa Interview – Preparation

Before, or after, your interview date is set, you must take a few vital steps in order to successfully complete the visa interview.

Before or after the interview is scheduled you must:

  • Gather original forms and documents – You must bring the required original forms and documents to your immigrant visa interview.
  • Register for courier service to receive back your passport and visa if granted one

After the interview is scheduled you must:

  • Schedule and complete a medical examination for your spouse with an authorized physician(s).

Visa Interview – Required Documents

Your spouse is required to bring certain various documentation to the visa interview. For many documents there must be original and photocopied versions. Any document that is not in English must also be translated and certified by an authorized translator.

Your spouse’s original documents will be returned to them after the interview is completed. The photocopies will be kept

For a complete list of all the documents that must be presented at the visa interview see the Required Documents page.

Visa Interview – Register for Courier Service

Many U.S. Embassies and Consulates require visa applicants to pre-register for courier services. This service is for returning applicant passports and visas to them after the interview.

For more information on registering for courier service see Prepare for the Interview under heading: Step 2: Register for Courier Service/Other Pre-Interview Instructions

Visa Interview – Medical Examination

The appointment letter you will receive from the NVC will provide you complete details about the medical examination process.

You should not schedule a medical examination until you receive the appointment letter and an appoint date has been set. Your spouse should complete the medical examination before the visa interview.

The medical examination will only be valid if it is carried out by a doctor in your area who is authorized to perform a medical examination for U.S. immigration purposes.

Medical Examination – Authorized Physician

To find the authorized physician(s) in your spouse’s country who can complete a valid medical examination, you must visit this List of U.S. Embassies and Consulates page, and select the first three letters of your case number from the following dropdown list (the three letters are an abbreviation for the Embassy/Consulate where the interview will take place).

The resource you click on will provide you detailed information about the medical examination, including what you will need to bring to, and the procedures that will be carried out at, the examination.

For example, Romania has one U.S. embassy which is found on the list under Bucharest (BCH). Clicking that link will take you to the Bucharest, Romania U.S. embassy page which contains various information about the visa interview process, along with information on the authorized physicians in Romania.

Medical Examination – Schedule Appointment

After you’ve located the authorized physician you wish to use, you must contact them to schedule an appointment date for the examination.

You must explain to them that the examination is for an immigrant visa application and give them the date of the interview appointment. The physician will tell you the cost of the procedure.

You must obtain and bring the following items of your spouse to the medical examination:

  • Vaccination immunization records
  • Any prior chest x-rays
  • Copies of medical history records
  • Passport, identity card, laissez-passer, or travel document

Vaccination Requirements

Before your spouse is issued an immigrant visa, they must be able to prove that they have had certain vaccinations required for entry into the United States. If your spouse is missing any of the vaccinations required they must schedule appointment(s) to have them done.

The full list of required vaccinations is found here: Vaccinations

Medical Examination – Resources
Medical Examination
Medical Examination FAQs

Visa Interview –  Resources

For more detailed and complete information on the visa interview process, please visit and read resources below:

The Interview
Prepare for the Interview
Interview FAQ
Preparing for Your U.S. Immigrant Visa Interview Video
Interview Preparation Notices

Step 10 – The Visa Interview

After you’ve obtained all the required documentation for your spouse and the spouse has completed the medical examination, the next step is for them to go and conduct the visa interview.

It’s important to note that you, as the petitioner, can accompany your spouse to the interview, but you will not be allowed into, or be a part of, the interview process.

Visa Interview Process

At the visa interview your spouse will be required to take and submit digital fingerprints. The spouse will then be interviewed by a consular officer who will determine if the spouse will receive the CR1/IR1 visa.

The consular officer makes the determination and notifies the spouse if they are accepted or denied right after the interview is concluded.

It is recommended that the spouse going in for the interview dress professional and conservative.

Visa Interview Questions

Your spouse will be asked a significant amount of questions by the interviewing officer. The questions range across various different topics. Your spouse should answer every question truthfully and state “I don’t know, or I don’t remember” to questions they do not know the answer to.

For more information of the visa interview and questions visit:

Consular Interview Questions
Immigrant Visa Interview

Visa Denied

If your spouse is denied the immigrant visa, they will be informed why they were denied. More information on possibilities of why a visa application was denied can be found at the below links:

About Visa Denials
Visa Denials

Visa Approved

If the immigrant visa is approved, it will be placed on a page in your spouse’s passport. Your spouse will also be given a sealed envelope which contain documents intended for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Do not open this envelope, you will give it to the U.S. Customs agent upon your arrival into the United States.

Step 11 – Travel to the United States

After the visa is approved and granted, your spouse must travel to the U.S no later than the visa expiration date printed on the visa. Immigrant visas are usually valid for six months so you would have to make plans and travel to the U.S. within that time frame.

However, an exception does exist, if your spouse’s medical examination expires in less than six months, they would have to leave for and enter the U.S. before the date the medical examination expired.

Before Travel to the U.S Checklist

Before you make travel arrangements to enter to U.S there are a few essential steps that must be taken.

  • Pay the USCIS Immigrant Fee
  • Have a valid mailing address you will use to receive your green card
  • Bring the passport with the visa page, and the sealed immigration envelope
  • Bring the X-rays from the medical examination in an envelope, carried in hand, not packed

Arriving in the United States

After your spouse arrives to the U.S, there are some important procedures they should take in-order to grant them certain rights and privileges in the United States.

These include things such as:

  • Obtain a Social Security Number
  • Obtain Employment Authorization
  • Adjust Immigration Status
  • Remove Conditional Status
  • Become a Naturalized U.S. Citizen
  • Obtain a U.S. Passport

For a complete guide, information, and how-to for everything mentioned above, see our guide on Steps to Take after Immigrating to the United States.

Immigrant Visa for a Spouse Guide – Resources

The following resources linked below are different than other resources linked to throughout the guide in that these links, unlike the other links, instead of being relevant resources to the section of which they are found, are relevant to the entire immigrant visa process for a foreign spouse as a whole.

Immigrant Visa for a Spouse of a U.S. Citizen
Bringing Spouses to Live in the United States as Permanent Residents
NVC Case Status

Fees Chart

There are various fees that must be paid throughout the various steps in obtaining a CR1 or IR1 immigrant visa. It is not a cheap process and having advance notice of the required fees will help you better financially prepare for the process.

Please note that these are just the fees for certain documents or forms that are required to be paid in order to complete the visa process.

This chart will not include cost amounts for such things as travel, document obtaining, medical, or other expenses one will incur throughout the visa application process.

The below fees are current as of 2018, check if the fee has remained current, click on the fee to be taken to the official resource where the fee amount is provided.

See also:

USCIS Fees Chart
Fees for Visa Services

Fees Required in Obtaining a CR1 or IR1 Visa

Other Expenses Incurred in Obtaining a CR1 or IR1 Visa

This is a summary of some of the other procedures one will have to pay expenses for in order to obtain an immigrant visa. Note, that not all of these will apply to everyone.

  • Travel, Lodging, Food, to U.S. Embassy for Visa Interview
  • Obtaining Civil Documents Fees
  • Translating Documents Fees
  • Medical Examination Fee
  • Vaccination(s) Fee
  • Travel Expenses to the United States (after visa is obtained)

 

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