For those who are just starting, marriage visa is a visa obtained by marriage to a US citizen. It is considered an “immigrant” visa. Direct Consular Filing or DCF has a big advantage over the normal processing. With DCF, there’s no need to send your papers to the USCIS and NVC in the US. Everything is done in Thailand. The timeline is much quicker provided that you are able to supply all the required documents.
Differences between IR-1 and CR-1 visa
- If on the interview date, you’ve been married to a US citizen for 2 years or more, you’ll be granted an IR-1 visa where you’ll receive a 10-year green card upon arrival in the US. (IR stands for Immediate Relative)
- If on the interview date, you’ve been married to a US citizen for less than 2 years, you’ll be granted a CR-1 visa instead where you’ll receive a 2-year conditional green card upon arrival in the US. (CR stands for Conditional Resident)
If there’s no rush, I’d recommend you wait until your marriage reaches 2 years on the day of the interview. Life will be much easier when you hold a 10-year green card. Regardless, both 10- and 2-year green cards allow you to work legally as long as you have a valid Social Security card. Without either one, you won’t be able to work legally.
Steps to obtain a marriage visa
- Filing I-130 petition at the USCIS Bangkok (read full post)
- Obtaining a police clearance certificate from the Royal Thai Police (read full post)
- Mailing Packet 3 to the US Embassy (read full post)
- Medical exam and vaccination per the embassy’s requirement (read full post)
- Interview for a visa (read full post)
- Paying for your green card prior to entering the US (read full post)
The picture below lists all the required documents for each step. Click on the picture to enlarge. I recommend you save and keep this photo handy as it will help speed up the document preparation process. My case is a “normal” case, as in I’ve never been married or divorced nor have I ever changed my name or last name or had a child. So my paperwork is very basic. If you fall into any of the mentioned categories, please make sure you have supporting documents such as a divorce decree, a name/last name change certificate, or your child’s birth certificate.
- It’s best to download all forms from the official USCIS website so that you have the most updated version. If you are not apt to filling in forms on a computer, you may print it out and fill in with a pen. Try to use a black ink pen if possible and write legibly preferably in all uppercase letters. In my case, I typed everything on my computer then printed it out and if the field has limited amount of text you can enter I filled in the extra information using a black ink pen.
- When clipping the pages together, use paperclips instead of staples as the pages of your document will be scanned individually. Anything that helps the officer helps speed up your case.
- Group your documents by categories as shown in the above picture. This also helps the officer to go through your paperwork quickly. It’ll also minimize the chance of losing your important documents.
- For official Thai documents such as birth certificate, marriage license, and house registration, it’s best to have them translated by a professional translation company (with a company stamp) to avoid getting the infamous 221(g) refusal on the interview date. Anything that can mitigate the risks, you should do it. You may choose to translate the documents yourself or have your American spouse certify it but that doesn’t guarantee your chance of getting an approval. Whether to have your documents certified by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is totally up to you. If you can do it, great, if not, it won’t have any effect on your case. If you want to know what company I hired for translation, please email me.
- Your photos must be taken recently (no later than 3 months old) and colored with a white or cream-colored background. No borders. Hair must be kept out of face and both ears must be present. Jewelry such as earrings should not be worn.
- For the US citizen, he/she can be referred to as the “petitioner” or “main sponsor”. For the foreign spouse, “beneficiary”, “immigrant”, or “visa applicant”.
- If you need more information or help, I recommend you join the USVisa4Thai Facebook group. I am a member and learned the whole process from the information supplied by the group’s members. The group’s admins are very knowledgeable and always give good advice.
This post is also available in: Thai