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Posts Tagged ‘Lift of Conditions’

4th January 2010

For a more detailed look at the CR1 visa please see our main CR1 visa page at: CR1 visa Thailand. For information about US Immigration generally please see: US Visa Thailand.

The CR-1 Visa in 2010

As the new year begins this author would like to take this opportunity to look at the current method of processing a United States CR1 visa and also look at the future of the visa process in order to provide some insight to those thinking about submitting a visa application or petition in the future.

Currently, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) estimates that it takes approximately 5 months months to come to a final decision regarding the disposition of an Immigrant CR-1 visa petition. This estimate measures the amount of time it generally takes from application submission until final decision. In the case of an approval, this estimate measures the amount of time it usually takes from the receipt date noted on Notice of Action 1 until the approval noted on Notice of Action 2. The prospective immigrant or the US petitioner should figure in more time for documentation compilation and delays due to the time the application will spend in transit.

Assuming petition approval, after the petition is adjudicated by USCIS it is sent to the National Visa Center (NVC). Unlike the K1 and K3 visa applications, the CR1 visa application will stay at the National Visa Center for an extended period of time due to the fact that NVC compiles a great deal of pertinent documentation which it then forwards on to the US Embassy. Many couples find this to be the most exasperating part of the US visa process because the National Visa Center can be a place where the application gets delayed.

After the National Visa Center forwards the case file to the United States Embassy, they will inform the applicant that it is time to prepare for the visa interview. The visa interview can inspire feelings of anxiety in the mind of the visa applicant as many are afraid that this phase of the process will be difficult. Many are under the mistaken impression that Consular Officers and Consulate Staff will try to undermine an applicant. In reality, the staff of the US Consulate is simply making an effort to conduct due diligence in an effort to ascertain whether or not the applicant has a genuine and bona fide intention to marry their American counterpart. Usually, the visa interview is a routine inquiry regarding the couple’s history.

Should the Consular Officer wish to review more documentation, they may issue a 221g refusal. This is simply a refusal to issue the visa without further documentation.

Should the visa application be approved, the applicant will be issued their visa shortly after the interview. The visa holder will then need to enter the Unted States within 6 months. Upon entry, the visa holder will be stamped into the US as a Lawful Permanent Resident. For those holding a CR-1 visa, their status will be Conditional Lawful Permanent resident util such time as an application for a lift of conditions is submitted and approved. After a lift of conditions is approved, the alien will be an unconditional lawful permanent resident in the USA.

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26th December 2009

For Thai-American couples the most common method of immigrating to the USA is through use of a K1 visa. The K1 visa is a fiancee visa granting the bearer 90 days of lawful presence in the United States of America with the option to apply for adjustment of status. If an adjustment of status application is submitted and approved then the Thai fiancee will be granted conditional lawful permanent residence for 2 years. After nearly 2 years the couple should submit a petition for a lift of conditions of the Thai spouse’s permanent residence. Should this petition receive approval, the Thai spouse will become an unconditional lawful permanent resident of the United States of America.

There are some travel restrictions placed upon permanent residents of the United States. Namely, they cannot be outside of the USA for more than one year without endangering their resident status in the USA. For those who remain abroad for more than one year it may be necessary to apply for an SB-1 visa. This is a visa specifically meant for returning residents of the USA. For those who plan to be outside of the USA for a substantial period of time there is a way to forestall a finding of residential abandonment: a US reentry permit. This is a travel document that is very similar to advance parole in so far as it preserves the status of the lawful permanent resident while they remain abroad. These travel documents are generally granted with a validity period of 2 years from issuance.

Recently, this author came into contact with an individual who had lawful permanent resident status in the US, but had lost his Resident Alien Card (“Green Card”) and needed to return to the US. This individual still had a valid US reentry permit. After some research, this author discovered that a United States lawful permanent resident may reenter the country without a proper visa provided that they have a valid United States reentry permit.

To directly quote from the website of the US Embassy in Mumbai:

“Per 8CFR 211.1, an alien in possession of a valid form I-327, Permit to reenter the United states (i.e. reentry permit), does not require a visa to reenter the United States.  Therefore, [one] may travel [to the USA] with [only one's] valid reentry permit.”

In a way, the United States reentry permit is akin to a passport for lawful permanent residents although it is inherently more restrictive than a US passport. For those lawful permanent residents thinking of leaving the USA for a prolonged period of time it may be wise to seriously consider applying for a reentry permit because it provides not only the peace of mind that comes from preserving one’s status, it can also act as a backup travel document in the event one loses their resident alien card.

For related information please see our postings about losing a US passport and obtaining a new one from American Citizen Services at a US Consulate in Thailand.

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23rd December 2009

For those who have been married to an alien spouse for less than 2 years, the only immigrant visa category that the couple may apply for is a CR1 visa. For those who have been married for more than 2 years at the time of application an IR1 visa may be available. Usually, when the alien spouse travels to the United States of America on a CR1 visa he or she will be admitted with conditional lawful permanent residence. However, there is a question on the lips of many couples: what if we were married less than two years when we filed a visa application, but more than two years when we obtained the visa? The answer: the alien spouse’s status at entry may depend upon the duration of the marriage at the time of his or her admission to the United States of America.

For aliens with conditional lawful permanent residence, it is necessary to file for a lift of conditions before the alien will be granted unconditional lawful permanent residence.

When an alien is admitted to the United States, they must pass through a Customs and Border Protection checkpoint, this is commonly referred to as a port of entry. It is a common misconception that a US visa gives the visa holder the “right,” to enter the USA. In reality, a visa only provides the bearer with the right to travel to a US port of entry and ask for admission. When a CR1 visa holder travels to the USA they are admitted in lawful permanent residence, but the conditionality of that residence is determined by the Customs and Border Protection Officer admitting the alien. For couples who have had their two year anniversary before the alien spouse’s first trip to the USA, Customs and Border Protection will likely admit the alien spouse to unconditional permanent residence because conditionality is determined at the time of entry.

In some cases where a couple fails to meet the two year marriage requirement, but their second anniversary is in the very near future, it may be prudent for them to simply wait until after their second anniversary before the alien spouse asks for permission to enter the US for the first time. This way, the couple would not need to apply for a lift of conditions after the alien spouse enters the USA because the alien spouse will likely be granted unconditional permanent residence upon arrival in the United States.

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11th December 2009

In a recent article disseminated by AILA, Mr. Brent Renison discussed issues involving the so-called “widow’s penalty” (or “Widow Penalty”) and how recent legislation has been enacted to end the imposition of penalties imposed upon foreign spouses in the event that their US Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident spouse should pass away before the adjudication of an adjustment application or an application for a lift of conditions of lawful permanent residence. To quote the article:

“The “widow penalty”, whereby spouses of U.S. citizens and their children faced automatic denial of a visa petition if the death of the spouse occurred prior to adjudication and prior to two years of marriage, effectively ended upon the passage of § 568(c).2 That section removes the two-year marriage requirement from the current law that permits widows and widowers (“widow(er)s”) of U.S. citizens to file a self-petition for themselves and their children.”

It is still required that the American’s widow demonstrate that the marriage was bona fide when it was entered into:

“By removing the two-year precondition to a current statutory program, Congress retained the widow(er) self-petition procedure including the requirement to show a good faith marriage. The law does not alter the rights of widow(er)s who were married two years or more, who have been able to self-petition since 1990.”

The end of the Widow Penalty hopefully marks the beginning of more compassionate treatment of foreign widows of American Citizens. The aforementioned article goes further in its analysis of the new law and the impact it will likely have upon fiancees and spouses of US Citizens:

“The deletion of the two-year marriage requirement will allow a widow(er) who was married less than two years at the time of the citizen spouse’s death to file a Form I-360 self-petition within two years of the law’s passage, or within two years of the spouse’s death, whichever is later.”

It is interesting that this will likely have an impact upon those who enter the United States upon a K1 fiancee visa:

“This self-petition can be filed concurrently with an Application for Adjustment of Status to Lawful Permanent Resident (Form I-485) if the widow(er) is in the United States pursuant to a lawful entry.”

Therefore, if the fiance of a US Citizen enters the USA on a K1 visa, marries the US Citizen, and the US Citizen dies before the adjustment application is either filed or adjudicated, then it would now be possible for the fiance visa holder to self petition for adjustment in these circumstances. In this author’s opinion, this is an equitable and effective way of dealing with what is already a difficult issue.

If a lawful entry is all that is necessary, then the question must be posed: if an alien enters the USA on a valid tourist visa, marries an American who subsequently dies, would that alien be eligible to submit a self petition for adjustment of status? Hopefully these issues will be handled as the new law is brought into effect.

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4th October 2009

For those who have already executed a marriage in Thailand, the options for United States visas can become more limited. In general, the two Immigration options most applicant couples choose to pursue immediately following lawful marriage are the K3 visa and the CR1 visa. Unless there exist strategic reasons for applying for the K3 visa (speed of issuance, or choice of interview forum), the CR1 visa is often the better choice as it confers conditional lawful permanent residence upon the applicant at the moment they are admitted into the United States of America.

The CR1 visa is available to those couples who have been married for less than two years. IR1 visas are used by couples who have been married more than 2 years. In Thailand, a common misconception is that getting married is the best way to ensure a fast visa for a Thai loved one. In many cases, this is untrue because the K1 visa is sometimes a faster Immigration option. That being said, in cases where the United States Citizen is entitled to file an I-130 application abroad (known as a local filing or direct consular filing) marriage might provide a way of expediting the US visa process. If a US Citizen opts to file locally for a US visa and the couple has been married for less than 2 years, then a CR1 visa will be issued upon application approval.

Once in the United States, the foreign spouse will eventually need to apply for a lift of the conditions of his or her visa. This is accomplished by filing an I-751 Petition to Remove the Conditions of Residence. The United States Citizen spouse will need to file the petition within ninety days of the second anniversary of the foreign spouse’s entrance into the US and once the application is approved the foreign spouse’s lawful permanent residence will no longer be contingent upon their continuing marital status.

Essentially, this application to lift conditions is somewhat similar to the adjustment of status application. For those with a fiance visa it is necessary to adjust status to permanent residence before being able to remain in the US indefinitely. The lift of conditions is analogous because it is a necessity that must be dealt with before permanent residence is unconditional and failure to apply for the lift of conditions could result in the foreign spouse falling out of lawful status. It should be noted that for those who adjust status from a K1 visa, permanent residence is deemed to begin on the date noted upon the adjustment of status approval notice. Within ninety days prior to the two year anniversary of said date, the foreign spouse must apply to Remove the Conditions of Residence.

Upon approval of an application to remove conditions, the former CR1 visa holder will be converted to an IR1 visa and be issued a 10 Permanent Resident Card (Green Card).

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9th July 2009

For Thai-American couples seeking Lawful Permanent Residence (Green Card) in the United States for the spouse of an American Citizen the options are either the CR-1 or IR-1 visa. A CR-1 (Conditional Resident) visa provides conditional lawful permanent residence to the visa holder while the IR-1 (Immediate Relative) visa provides unconditional permanent residence upon entry into the United States.  An often asked question with regard to these visas: what is the difference?

When seeking a United States visa for a Thai spouse, the classic method of obtainment is through filing an I-130 visa application. After the I-130 is approved by either a USCIS Service Center in the United States or USCIS Field office abroad, it will be forwarded to a US Diplomatic post that adjudicates Immigrant visas. In Thailand, the US Embassy in Bangkok processes all US Immigrant visa petitions. Assuming that a visa is ultimately approved, the Thai spouse shall be entitled to travel to the USA in order to take up residence.

For those holding a visa conferring conditional permanent residence, it will be necessary to eventually file to have the conditionality of the visa lifted. In practical terms, this means that the Thai wife’s residence will no longer be based upon her marriage to an American citizen.  Instead, the permanent residence will become independent and unconditional. For those who enter the USA on a conditional resident visa and subsequently end their marriage during the conditional period, loss of permanent residence is highly likely.

Some people confuse the lift of conditions with adjustment of status. In cases involving a K-1 visa for a Thai fiance, adjustment of status is the process of obtaining conditional permanent residence for the fiancee (now wife) after marriage in the United States.  For those couples who adjust status in the US, after the adjustment interview, should the application be approved, the adjustment date will be that written on the adjustment of status approval letter from USCIS.

One must file for a lift of conditions within 90 days of the two year anniversary of the the Thai spouse taking up residence, in the case of adjustment the two year anniversary will be marked from the date of  adjustment approval. For the Thai who enters on a CR-1 visa, it will be the date the Thai spouse entered the USA.

In order to obtain a lift of conditions the I-751 application must be filed with an approved by USCIS. After approval, the Thai spouse may remain in the United States permanently.

For related information please see: Thailand permanent residence

(This post is for educational purposes only. It is not meant to be legal advice. No lawyer/client relationship is formed by reading this information.)

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15th March 2009

The CR-1 Visa is one of, if not the, most common US Visa sought for Thai Loved ones seeking to journey to the USA (The K1 Fiance Visa from Thailand is another widely used US Immigration tool from Thailand, please see Fiance Visa Thailand for more details). The reason for this is likely due to the fact that many Thai-American couple’s situation fits the criteria of a CR-1 Visa.

CR-1 stands for “conditional resident 1,” in practical terms this means that a person in the US on a CR-1 Visa has conditional permanent residence. In practical terms, the difference between conditional permanent residence and unconditional permanent residence is that a conditional permanent resident could lose their permanent residence status. A situation in which one might lose their permanent residence would be where a Thai/American married couple obtains a Cr-1 Visa on behalf of the Thai wife. Subsequent to obtaining the CR-1 Visa and entering the US, the couple divorces, but not before they file for a “lift of conditionality.” (A lift of conditions of a CR-1 Visa is generally filed by the American Citizen spouse at the 2 year anniversary of the permanent resident’s entry into the USA) If the lift of conditions has not been granted and the couple has divorced, then the condition upon which the visa was granted has ceased to exist and therefore the visa should be revoked. There are exceptions that allow for a Cr-1 visa to have the conditions lifted without the US Citizen Spouse’s consent (Most notably the violence against women act), but these situations are limited.

An IR1 visa does not have these conditions. In order to apply for this visa, the Thai-American couple must have been married for at least 2 years. If they meet this requirement then after obtaining the visa at the US Embassy in Thailand, then the Thai spouse will enter the US on an Ir-1 Visa which confers unconditional permanent residence from the moment the Thai spouse enters the United States.

The form necessary to obtain a CR-1 Visa is the I-130 petition. It should be filed with the USCIS office having jurisdiction over the area in which the US Citizen spouse resides. One of the reasons why a CR-1 Visa is sought over a K-3 in Thailand Visa is the fact that a K-3 Visa requires Adjustment of Status for a Thai wife. A Thai wife entering on a CR-1 Visa does not need to adjust her status in the USA, only obtain a lift of conditionality.

As with all US Immigration matters it is always wise to obtain the advice of a duly licensed US Immigration Attorney with experience dealing with US Immigration Law. Integrity Legal’s Managing Director is a licensed US Attorney and member of the American Immigration Lawyer’s Association. When seeking licensed a Immigration Lawyer AILA can be an invaluable resource.

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