some of you may not know that, since october, bill and i have been working to apply for his u.s. green card. this mysterious process is very seldom talked about on the INTERWEB except on dodgy forums where you never know just who you’re actually talking to. so, in an effort to put some information out there about this process, i’m going to start blogging about it occasionally.
just to be clear, a green card is otherwise known as a permanent resident card, and there are several ways to go about applying for this. one is through employment – if your job or company decides that you are the only person on earth that can do your job, they can help you apply for a green card based on employment. i think this is a fairly common avenue for many green card applicants, most of whom work for huge companies.
another way to apply for a green card is through family connections, which is the way that we are applying. now, say you are a naturalized u.s. citizen (that means not born here but later became one), you can apply for your immediate family (like parents, siblings, spouses or children) to come and join you in the states. for most applicants, once you begin the process of filing for a green card, you are assigned a number and told to wait. when your number is called, they will begin the long, arduous process of processing your application. as far as i understand it, it can take more than a year just for your number to be called, and then another 8 months to a year to complete the application process. yike-a-dike. [tweetmeme]
luckily for us, american citizens applying for their spouses don’t have to apply for a number. we move directly to the head of the queue and our applications are processed “immediately” (if you can call anything relating to the u.s. government immediate). from everything we’ve heard and read, it usually takes 8 months to a year for a regular green card to be issued once you’ve begun the process of actually applying.
because bill and i were just visiting the states and decided to get married on a whim, he was already stateside with a visitor stamp in his passport. this means that, while some people (i.e. those buying russian wives off the internet) will have to file for a fiance visa in their home countries, we could go ahead and begin the process by applying for bill’s “change of status”. this means that he is going to change from “visitor” to (eventually) “permanent resident”.
here is the process as we’ve gone through it so far:
- american citizen (that’s me!) files the I-130 form, “Petition for an Alien Relative” (yes, i too am astounded that in 2010 we are still using the term ‘alien’, but whatever.) along with a $355 filing fee.
- “alien” spouse (that’s bill!) goes in for a medical check at a pre-approved facility. this can cost upwards of $300, depending on where you go and whether or not your spouse has insurance. luckily for us, we managed to go to a university of new mexico facility, where bill was seen by a student doctor and, thus, we only had to pay for the couple of vaccinations he had to have (around $80). so yes, if you are planning to emigrate, keep good care of your vaccination records.
- “alien” spouse files the I-485 form, “Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status” along with a $1,010 application fee. yes, that’s really how much it costs to become a legal resident of the united states. do you wonder now why there are so many illegal immigrants in this country?
- in our case, we also had to file an “Affidavit of Support” to show that we have financial help, because i don’t make enough money to be above the poverty line for a 2 person family (seriously). thankfully, my mom helped us with that.
- in our case, we also had to file a form requesting that bill’s working permission be processed at the same time as his green card application. the one nice thing i can say about USCIS is that they are allowing people who are going through all the legal channels and paying all the fees to work even while their green card applications are being processed. so, 90 days after filing the Big Packet (which weighed 1 lb 9 oz incidentally) he will (supposedly) be able to work! that lovely day comes march 15.
- send the Big Packet off. this contained: I-485 forms, other forms with biographical information on myself and on bill, Affidavit of Support, medical exam forms, work permission application.
- in the meantime, we moved out of my aunt’s house and into our own apartment, which meant we had to mail off two change of address forms (one for me, and one for bill).
the next thing that happened is that we got in the mail a letter stating that bill has an appointment at the local albuquerque USCIS office, where he is meant to give his “biometric data”. this means fingerprinting, retina scan and god knows what else.
after that, we will be waiting to see when we go in for the Big Interview. you’ve seen this in the movies a million times – some sniveling immigration officer forces the (inevitably fake) couple to prove their relationship by answering a series of questions like “what did he have for breakfast this morning?” and “does she have any scars?”. i am actually quite looking forward to this part, because it gives myself and bill a wonderful chance to relive a ton of great memories, exchange childhood stories again and memorize all those cute little details about each other that most married couples forget to remember.
the biometric data appointment is at 8 AM on the 20th (next week!). so, look for another round of green card blogs then!