An IR-1/ CR-1 Visa is essentially what to use if you want to get your Thai spouse into the United States with permanent residence (green card). See the other options such as a K1 Visa or a K3 visa while in Thailand.
ADVANTAGES OF THE IR-1/ CR-1 VISA FOR A THAI SPOUSE
The advantage of this type of Visa is that it has the Green Card essentially “built in” to the visa. When your Thai spouse is processed through immigration at her point of entry into the US the stamp in her passport is essentially her temporary green card until one is issued by the government. It usually takes about two months for the government to issue the green card to the Thai spouse. With the K-1 Visa Thailand or K-3 Visa the green card process must be completed once inside the US. Some find the green card process to be very arduous and frustrating while others claim it is a very easy and straightforward procedure, either way with an IR-1/ CR-1 visa the process is already finished and your Thai spouse does not have to worry about obtaining a green card.
CONS OF THE IR-1/CR-1 VISA FOR A THAI SPOUSE
One school of thought with regard to immigration to the US basically states, “Get the (Thai) Immigrant to the US as fast as possible and then once in the United States worry about the rest.”
In certain cases I tend to be a proponent of this argument because the point of bringing your Thai loved one to the US is to be with them. It stands to reason that by getting the Thai spouse out of Thailand and into the US quicker the US citizen spouse gets to be with the Thai spouse more. This is one of the drawbacks of the IR-1/ CR-1 Visa, these Visas take a lot longer to obtain than the K-1 or the K-3 Visa, because as an immigrant visa applicant the Thai spouse is placed under increased scrutiny. In essence, the government’s reasoning is: this person (the Thai Spouse) is entering the country with the express intention to take up residence, so we had better make sure this person is someone we want living in the United States.
Generally, the IR-1/CR-1 Visa takes about 12 months to obtain (as opposed to about 8 months for a K-3 Visa) so the waiting time can be very daunting for a Thai/American couple. This could mean that the Thai spouse will have to remain in Thailand while the Visa is processed and could cause problems for both parties by basically putting their lives on hold. However the upside of this is visa is that once in the US a great deal of the “heavy lifting” has already been done.
A NOTE ON THE IR-1/CR-1 VISA FOR US CITIZEN EXPATS IN THAILAND
If you are an American Citizen and you have been resident in Thailand for over one year then the IR-1/CR-1 Visa is probably the best course of action to take with regard to getting your Thai Spouse into the United States. The reason for this: the policy of USCIS in Thailand is that they will accept petitions made by Expats in Thailand provided that the Expat has been resident in Thailand for over one year. The upshot of this policy is the fact that USCIS in Thailand has a far smaller caseload than either of the USCIS service centers in the United States.
The result for the Thai/American couple is that they can reduce their waiting time to a considerable degree. Usually, the Thai/American couple that is able to file for an IR-1/CR-1 with USCIS in Thailand can expect their visa to be processed in about 8 months as opposed to 12. This means that the Thai spouse can get her visa (with green card “built in”) in the time it takes to get a K-3 visa which is considered the “expedited” marriage visa. Therefore, for a resident expat in Thailand, with a Thai Spouse, the IR-1/CR-1 is very likely the best way to go.