General Information on Direct Consular Countries
for a US Spouse Visa
Direct Consular Filing Countries
What is Direct Consular Filing (DCF) for obtaining a US Spouse Visa for your foreign wife or husband?
Firstly, Direct Consular Filing (DCF) is the name for filing an I-130, Petition for Alien Spouse directly through an embassy or consulate overseas. Thus, the processing is overseas rather than by the normal route. In contrast, the normal route is through one of USCIS’ stateside service centers.
While not everyone qualifies to do so, this process significantly expedites the process for those that do qualify. In fact, it speeds up the time in which a beneficiary can enter the United States and become a Green Card Holder (US Permanent Resident).
There are only certain direct consular filing countries. In other words, there are only certain countries in which direct consular filing for a US Spouse Visa can be done.
Specifically, direct consular filing is only done at US embassies abroad where US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has an international field office in the embassy. With regard to direct consular filing countries, see the USCIS list of International Field Offices. Therefore, direct consular filing is only done in these countries on the list.
With regards to the Philippines, see our country specific webpage for DCF Philippines.
Qualifications For Direct Consular Filing
U.S. Citizen Residing Abroad
U.S. Citizens that live overseas in a direct consular filing country have the right to file the I-130 for a foreign spouse, child or parent at the US Consulate or USCIS Field Office governing their foreign country of residence. With regards to this, the U.S. citizen typically must reside abroad in the direct consular filing country for a period of at least 6 months or longer prior to submitting the I-130 petition(s).
Specifically, the U.S. citizen must show proof of their living status in the direct consular filing country for at least 6 months or more. For example, acceptable methods of proof include combinations of the following:
- Tourist Visa extensions in U.S. Passport
- foreign visa
- Home or condo mortgage, lease or rental agreement
- Apartment rental agreement
- Foreign driver’s license
The U.S. citizen really needs to show evidence that they truly live in the direct consular country currently and previously for 6 months or more. Conversely, just traveling abroad as a tourist does not qualify for DCF.
Others that Qualify
In addition, U.S. citizens living in the direct consular filing country may petition for a I-130 if:
- There is an emergency case , such as life and death of health and safety.
- The case is in the national interest.
- Spouses of U.S. citizen members of the U.S. armed forces who are (or will be) deployed
In fact, for these type of cases, the residency requirement goes away.
For example, cases of family emergencies include medical reasons or other reasons.
In addition, examples of national interest include facilitating the travel of United States military and other USG direct hire employees assigned overseas.
Advantages and Disadvantages of US Spouse Visa By DCF
For those that qualify, there are several advantages of applying for a US Spouse Visa by DCF. For example, these advantages include:
- In the first place, the biggest advantage is the much faster time frame to obtain the visa than stateside filing. For instance, a US Spouse Visa by DCF usually takes about 3 – 4 months currently. In contrast, stateside filing of a US Spouse Visa takes about 8 – 12 months currently.
- Secondly, the total US government fees to do a US Spouse visa by DCF is less than doing the visa stateside. In fact, it is $120 less expensive. To explain, a stateside filer must pay the Affidavit of Support Fee of $120 during the National Visa Center (NVC) phase. Different from stateside filing, a person filing DCF does not go through NVC. The Affidavit of Support fee is specifically only due if NVC reviews the Affidavit of support form. Hence, you save $120 by filing DCF.
- Thirdly, when filing the I-130 visa package in person at the US Embassy, the consuls are usually very helpful in pre-reviewing your package right there with you. For example, they make sure that you have all the forms and supporting documentation. In addition, they look over your forms for any mistakes. As a result, you can change things if you find a mistake. On the other hand, with stateside filing, there are no consuls doing a pre-review of your package when mailing in to the USCIS lockbox.
Disadvantages and Challenges
On the negative side, there are several disadvantages or challenges of applying for a US Spouse Visa by DCF. For example, these disadvantages or challenges include:
- Firstly, the biggest disadvantage or challenge is that many expats living abroad have a hard time meeting the minimum income requirement on their own. For this purpose, see our blog post on the Minimum Income Requirement for a U.S. Spouse Visa. Nevertheless, you may use a co-sponsor or assets instead to meet the minimum income requirement. Even so, it makes the application process a little more difficult to do.
- Secondly, many expats living abroad have difficulty proving domicile in the United States. Whenever a petitioner is filing to obtain a spouse visa for a beneficiary, they must specifically prove a domicile in the United States. In fact this is a challenge for some people who have completed uprooted and moved abroad. However, there are ways to prove domicile. For this purpose, we discuss these ways further as part of our Direct Consular Filing Embassy Phase page. In addition, see our blog post article on Proof of Domicile.
- Thirdly, the U.S. citizen must show proof of their living status in the direct consular filing country for at least 6 months or more. The US citizen must be careful not to leave the direct consular filing country for either a visit or a visa run within six months of applying for a Spouse Visa via DCF.
US Spouse Visa Information
The IR-1 or CR-1 Spousal Visa is an immigrant type visa. The spousal visa is for a foreign citizen (beneficiary) that is a spouse of a U.S. Citizen (Petitioner). The purpose of the spousal visa is to allow the foreign citizen entry into the United States to live and stay with his or her U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse. The IR and CR visas come with a permanent residency card (green card), unlike the K visas.
The IR-1 (Immediate Relative) type of spousal visa is for a couple that has been married for two years or longer. The IR-1 visa entitles the foreign spouse to receive a green card within the United States for a period of ten years. Then, renew the green card within ninety days before the ten-year period is up.
The CR-1 (Conditional Relative) type of spousal visa is for a couple that has been married for two years or less. The CR-1 visa entitles the foreign spouse to receive a conditional green card within the United States for a period of two years. Ninety days before the conditional green card expires, the foreign spouse can, through an adjustment of status process, apply to remove conditions and he or she will be issued a new ten-year regular green card.
US Spouse Visa Requirements
The following are requirements of the IR-1 or CR-1 Spousal Visa:
- The IR-1/CR-1 spousal visa is specifically intended for use by U.S. citizens who are petitioning their foreign national spouse for immigration.
- The petitioning husband or wife must be a U.S. citizen and the beneficiary must be their spouse.
- The marriage between the U.S. citizen and foreign national spouse must specifically be valid in the country or jurisdiction where they married.
- Just living together does not qualify a marriage for immigration.
- Common-law spouses may qualify as spouses for immigration purposes depending on the laws of the country where the common-law marriage occurs.
- In cases of polygamy, only the first spouse may qualify as a spouse for immigration.
- There is no minimum age for the to file a petition for a spouse. However, the petitioner must be at least 18 years of age. In addition, the petitioner must have a residence (domicile) in the U.S. before they can sign the Affidavit of Support form.
- The petitioner must maintain a principal residence (domicile) in the United States. By the same token, list in the application where you plan to live for the foreseeable future. In fact, living in the United States is required for a U.S. sponsor to file the Affidavit of Support, with few exceptions.
- The U.S. government does not discriminate against a petition of couple with same-sex marriage.
- The U.S. government does not discriminate based on religion.
Children of Both Petitioner and Beneficiary’s Blood Relation
A child born abroad to a U.S. citizen parent or parents may acquire U.S. citizenship at birth if certain statutory requirements are met. For this purpose, a Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA) is done.
The CRBA is explicitly the child’s documentation of meeting the requirements acquiring U.S. citizenship at birth.
As a result of getting the CRBA, the child may obtain a US passport. As a result, the child does not require a visa to enter the United States. In other words, the child enters the United States as a US citizen on a US passport.
Also, the child may obtain dual citizenship. Therefore, the childs may receive citizenship in the country abroad as well.
When traveling to the United States, use the child’s US passport at U.S. Immigration and Customs.
See our blog post, “CRBA, US Passport and Dual Citizenship“, for more detailed information.
Children of Beneficiary’s Only Blood Relation
Unmarried children, who are under the age of 21, of the beneficiary may also apply for a visa (IR-2/CR-2) at the same time with the U.S. Citizen as the Petitioner.
The child or children require the submittal of a separate I-130 petition application and supporting documentation.
Likewise, separate fees, affidavit of support and other document requirements are necessary for the child’s petition.
As a result, the child or children becomes a legal permanent resident and receives a green card.
Furthermore, the child may also become a US citizen in the future after meeting naturalization requirements.
DCF Phases and Timeline
Phases and Timeline
There are a several phases to the Direct Consular Filing IR-1 or CR-1 spouse visa process that spans an average of approximately 2 to 4 months from the start of the application to receiving the visa(s) in hand.
- United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Phase (1 to 2 months)
- Embassy Phase (1 to 2 months)
These times can be shorter or longer depending on your situation.
Some of the factors that can affect your timeline are:
- The current embassy workload
- The quality of your submission
- Whether you get an approval, Request for additional Evidence (RFE) or denial
- The quality of your submission
- Your ability to gather required documents in a timely fashion
- If you need to have documents transcribed from another language into English
- Other factors beyond your control
DCF Spousal Visa Fees and Costs
The following are the government fees for a spouse visa through Direct Consular Filing, as of December 2016, to obtain a IR-1/CR-1 spousal visa:
Filing Fee $535
Immigrant Fee $220 (Paid on-line after getting Visa, but before entering U.S. )
Immigrant Visa (IV) Fee $325
Affidavit of Support (AOS) Fee* $0
Total Government Fees $1,080
*There is no Affidavit of Support fee for filing a spouse visa by DCF. The government only charges the AOS fee if the AOS is reviewed by the National Visa Center.
The following variable costs depend upon on your circumstances:
- Application Preparer
- Self $0
- Visa Consultant $450 – $1,500
- Visa Attorney $1,500 – $3,000
- Medical Fee $60 – $300 (Depending on the country). For this purpose, check the foreign embassy website to see the medical facility for that country. Then, go to their website and look up the cost and other information. In addition, read embassy-specific instructions and get a list of approved doctors on NVC’s Medical Examination page. Also, see our blog post “What to Expect at your K-1 or IR-1/CR-1 Visa Medical Exam” for more information on your K-1 Fiance Visa medical exam.
- Application Preparer
Other costs to consider include the following:
- Costs for obtaining evidence (birth certificates, marriage license, ect…)
- Passport size photos (Petitioner, Spouse and Children)
- Travel costs
- Specific requirements of the spouse’s foreign country
- Passports (for both beneficiaries and Petitioner)
- Visa, if applicable, for U.S. Citizen to enter the spouse’s foreign country
- Translation of documents into English, if necessary
DCF Required Forms
The following forms are required to be completed in order to obtain a IR-1/CR-1 spousal visa by Direct Consular Filing:
- Form I-130. The I-130 needs to be completed for the Petitioner and Beneficiary. Also, a separate I-130 needs to be completed for any children of the Beneficiary if you are intending an IR-2/CR-2 Visa for them.
- Form I-130A, Supplemental Information for Spouse Beneficiary (PDF, 955 KB) Specifically, this form is for supplemental information about the spouse beneficiary.
- G-1145, E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance-(optional)- Specifically, this form is for the Petitioner or applicant in order to receive an electronic notification (email) that USCIS has received the application. Thus, this is a good thing to do as it gives you your USCIS number. Also, a separate G-1145 needs to be completed for any children of the Beneficiary if you are intending an IR-2/CR-2 Visa for them.
While all attempts are made to present correct information, it may not be appropriate for your specific circumstances and information may become outdated. See our Disclaimer page for more information.
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