How do I get a "spousal visa" in California?
IR-1/ CR-1 immigrant visas

Spousal visas
permit Californians to sponsor their foreign husbands or wives to come to the U.S. Also called marriage visas, spousal visas extend legal permanent resident status to non-citizen spouses of (1) U.S. citizens or (2) green card-holders.

The process of petitioning for a spousal visa takes up to a year, and the fee is $535. Foreign spouses may be eligible for spousal visas whether they are overseas or on U.S. soil. Depending on the case, foreign spouses may also be able to bring their children to the U.S.

In this article our Los Angeles spousal visa lawyers answer frequently-asked-questions about getting marriage visas in California. Click on a topic to jump directly to the section.

Not married but engaged to get married? Learn about coming to the U.S. on K-1 visas in California and K-2 visas in California.

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U.S. citizens or permanent residents may petition the USCIS for a spousal visa for his/her non-citizen spouse.

1. What is a spousal visa?

Spousal visas permit foreigners who are married to U.S citizens or legal permanent residents to live in the U.S. as legal permanent residents. Spousal visas are also called "IR-1 / CR-1 spousal visas."1

1.1. Spousal visas versus K-3 visas

Spousal IR-1 / CR-1 visas are immigrant visas. This means they grant permanent resident status to spouses of either U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents.

In contrast, K-3 visas are non-immigrant visas. They just permit foreigners to reside in America temporarily while their spousal visas are pending. Furthermore, K-3 visas are available only to foreign spouses of U.S. citizens, not of legal permanent residents.2

2. Am I eligible for a spousal visa in California?

Generally, foreigners are eligible for a spousal visa if they are married to a U.S. citizen or green card-holder. But foreigners are not eligible for spousal visas in any of the following circumstances:

  • The couple were not physically together at their marriage ceremony, or
  • The foreign spouse married in order to avoid immigration laws, or
  • The American spouse got his/her green card through a previous marriage (unless certain exceptions apply), or
  • The marriage took place while the foreign spouse was subject to removal from the U.S. (unless certain exceptions apply).

Note that spousal visas may be available to some common law spouses.

Also note that there is no cap on the number of spousal visas issued to spouses of U.S. citizens. But there is a cap for spousal visas issued to spouses of legal permanent residents.3

2.1. Newlyweds

Foreign spouses who have been married for less than two (2) years may get spousal visas on a conditional basis. Then later they may apply for a permanent green card by filing Form I-751. Otherwise, the foreign spouse could lose legal status and be deported from the U.S.4

2.2. Military spouses

Foreign spouses of U.S. citizens or green card holders are eligible for spousal visas as well as expedited naturalization. Foreign spouses of military personnel may even become U.S. citizens while overseas.5

3. How do I get a spousal visa in California?

First of all, foreigners may not apply for spousal visas themselves. Only their American spouses may petition for ("sponsor") them.

The first step is for the American spouse to submit Form I-130 with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If the foreign spouse is currently in the U.S., the American spouse also has to file Form I-485 as well.

Then, the foreign spouse will receive instructions on how to proceed with obtaining a spousal visa. In most cases, the foreigner will need to have an interview with immigration officials to demonstrate that the marriage is not a sham.

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Spousal visa applications in California require paperwork, fees, and interviews.

At the interview, the foreign spouse will also have to produce the following documents:

  • A completed original of Form G-325A
  • The civil marriage certificate
  • Passport-style photos of the sponsor and spouse
  • Evidence of name changes (if applicable)

If the foreign spouse was previously divorced or widowed, he/she needs to produce proof as well.6

4. How long does it take to get a spousal visa?

Up to a year. People can check the status of their spousal visa petition at the USCIS "My Case Status" Page.7

5. What does it cost to get a spousal visa?

The spousal visa fee is $535. There may be additional fees if the foreign spouse is in the U.S. and later adjusts status to a legal permanent resident.8

6. How can foreigners with a spousal visa bring their children to the U.S.? 

The sponsor should file I-130 forms with the USCIS for each of his/her foreign spouse's children. And while the foreigner's spousal visa is pending, the child might be able to come to the U.S. earlier on a K-4 visa.

For information on the children of a fiancé(e)s immigrating to America, see our article on K-2 visas in California.9

Call a California immigration attorney...

California American Spousal Visa legal experts
Call us for help

If you are seeking to bring your foreign spouse to the U.S., call our California immigration lawyers at (855) LAWFIRM for a free consultation. We will do everything to reunite your family as soon as possible.

Go to our California visa main page.

See our article on spousal visas in Nevada.

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