We Filed Our CR-1 - Here's What We Put in the I-130 Package & the Relationship Proof We Used
What is the CR-1?
If you marry a USA citizen and you want to live in the USA, then you need to go through the CR-1 process to get a visa, then get a green card and a few years down the line you can even apply for citizenship.
In other words, if you want to live with your husband/wife in the USA, you have to do the CR-1 application.
FORMS AND APPLICATION
First of all, we did hire a lawyer. You’ll be fine without a lawyer! We got one because I was already in the US on a visitor’s tourist waiver and wanted to try adjustment of status. After being advised by our lawyer, we decided to do consular processing after all. This means I go back to my home country and wait for the visa to process. The lawyer is awesome. On our first phone call, she flat-out told me that I had no idea what I was doing. After the phone call, I turned to my husband and said: “I like her.”
Adjustment of Status
Adjustment of status means that you enter the USA on one visa and then ask to change your immigrant "status" (hence the name adjustment of status) so you do not have to leave the country.
If you want to do this, DO NOT MARRY BEFORE COMING TO THE US.
Wait 61 days, then marry and file for adjustment of status the day after. Why? Otherwise your application might be autorejected because they suspect you lied when entering the US (= visa fraud).
If you marry and adjust status:
within 30 days of entering the US | fraud
within 60 days of entering the US | suspicion of fraud
within 90 days of entering the US | OK
If you do "adjustment of status" (so you don't have to leave the USA) wait till 60-90 days after entering.
Consular processing: going back to your country to file
That's the route we followed. Usually it's 5-6 months for the first form, the I-130 and the proof of relationship package to process. Right now it takes longer because there's a big backlog! Yes, lots of waiting without any news...
So what do you have to do? It start with submitting the I-130 form and a little package with pictures, testimonies and other relationship proof.
Processing Timeline & Costs: about $1200 and 10 months
Note: it can take up to 2 years if there's a backlog!
Processing Timeline & Costs BREAKDOWN
the I-130 & relationship package
National Visa Center (NVC) Processing
$325 + $120
Immigration at US border
Other costs can be health insurance, lost wages while waiting for your visa, flight tickets, lawyer cost and some minor postage fees.
Tip for lawyer costs: ask to get a discount if you pay the whole sum in one go.
THE PACKAGE: Proof of Relationship
Package Contents #1: Possible "proof of relationship" submissions
Think out of the box, then print it and put it in the box!
Stuff we put in:
- airline/train tickets of visiting each other or going on trips together
- facebook posts of relationship (including screenshots of all the likes and comments)
- letters/gifts from each other (mailed letters have a date stamp on them! :) )
- earliest facebook messages (proofs how long you know each other before relationship)
- Skype logs (example program to make logs: Skyperious. Doesn’t work if you switched to a different computer)
- relationship timeline (what happened when? you can also give this to the people writing your affidavit, because it’s difficult for them to remember precise dates)
- mingling of finances: we included a huge grocery bill when we stocked up our freezer and we opened a checkings account together (call around for banks to see whether some let you open a joint account without one of you being a citizen)
- mail and packages. Thank you, Amazon. I could take pictures of packages that were sent to the same address in his name and in my name. This proofs that you live together, since you’re both receiving mail on the same address.
- wedding stuff: pictures, invitations, congratulation cards, gifts, ...
Small details like Amazon packages delivered for you at your spouse's home, can proof that you visited each other.
Package Contents #2: PICTURES
Selfies that DO NOT show the environment are not that good. Great pictures that we had:
- us on the streets in Belgium/USA/Denmark/Singapore
- us two together in the zoo, mall, restaurant (= proof of dating)
- us two in front of places we lived in, in the airport, … (= proof of timeline)
- picture of him with my family, me with his family, or us two with any family member (= proof of having a public relationship)
- wedding pictures
We printed them out, cut them out and wrote on the back: 1. The date 2. Who is in the picture 3. Location of the picture
An awesome little detail was that my hair used to be short and I have been growing it out for the past two years. So you see it getting longer and longer in the pictures.
Package Contents #3: AFFIDAVITS (= Testimonies of other people that your relationship is real)
First of all, you want affidavits from your family. We got letters from my sister, my parents, his brother, his parents. Then also five letters from our friends.
Here’s something I’m incredibly proud of. I got those letters WITHIN ONE WEEK OF ASKING.
1. I ask people “Hey! Do you have time this week to write a quick letter?”
2. I emphasized that it didn’t have to be a fancy letter - just some quick memories jotted down. I told them to spend only 15-20 minutes on it.
3. I wrote down EVERYTHING me and my husband had done together with them, adding the correct dates and sent it to them. Why? Now I’m relieving them of the stress of trying to remember. This could look like this:
- all of us met for the first time before school started [date]
- we played board games together every week
- Sterling told you in person that we were dating
- after we graduated, we went to Penang with a group of friends [date]
- we told you over Skype that we were engaged
- we visited you in the Netherlands and brought beer [date]
- we talked about the bureaucratic hurdles of getting married in Belgium when we visited you
- we all met up again in Bruges on [date]
- In Bruges, we talked about our plans to get married in Denmark
And so on and on and on
Most people grabbed a lot of the examples that I gave and added some personal thoughts and emotions to it.
Of course, THANK THEM for helping you out!
How to get fast, high-quality affidavits
Ask your friends: "When do you have time this week?" and giving them a ideas of stuff you did together to put in the letter.
IMPORTANT: The introduction of the Affidavit
Our lawyer said that the affidavit must start with the persons:
- full name
- date and place of birth
- their relationship to you or to your SO
Why? They are a witness to the government. It's pretty serious business. The government wants to check whether they are real or whether you faked the letters.
A USCIS immigration officer chimed in and said that what you actually is a copy of their government-issued ID and a valid phone number for that person. That makes sense, this way it's easy for the government to contact them!
Now this was interesting: very formal affidavits are NOT the best. My sister wrote an excellent testimony, with a lot of personal memories in it, like my husband playing with her cat, or me making lovey-dovey remarks about him (literal quote from my sister’s affidavit: “I almost had to vomit when she said that because it was so cute.”)
FAQ: Can I visit the US while my CR-1 is processing?
Yes, you can.
I’ve visited twice for three months now. At the airport, you need to provide proof that you intend to return to your home country:
- you have your return ticket
- you have a job in your home country
- you pay rent or a mortgage in your home country
- emotional reasons: family, friends, pets, … in your home country
- emotional reasons: no intent to break the law ( I made it very clear that I knew overstaying was illegal and that I would absolutely not do this. This helped a lot).