Monday, December 20, 2010

Summary of immigration process

I thought it'd be a good idea to do a summary of the major steps needed from the filing an I-130 all the way to becoming a US citizen. I've linked every step to that specific blog post about it.


-File an I-130


-Send the DS-3032

-Send the I-864

-Send the DS-230

US Embassy:

-Have the medical

-Have the interview


-Go through the border, get the green card and SSN

-Remove conditions (only if a CR-1 visa holder)

-Get naturalized (optional)

And those are all the steps to getting a spousal visa. Not that many steps, but each step is very time-consuming and includes a lot of paperwork needed.

The rest of this blog will be specifically about my own personal experiences since I explained every step in as much detail as possible (unless something gets changed about a part of the process). There will be a lot to write about during the NVC process and I can't wait to write about my experiences through that. Very soon I shall be!


Saturday, December 18, 2010

Naturalization explained

*Reference link to abbreviations/terms post*

I'm not 100% sure yet if I want to later become a US citizen, but I'll describe the process if it's ever done.

First off, eligibility. For those applying for US citizenship under the basis of being married to a US citizen, the minimum amount of years being a lawful permanent resident is 3 years, along with having been married AND living together for three years. For those that are applying for US citizenship without being married to a US citizen, the minimum amount of years being a lawful permanent resident is 5 years.

Of course, this is an optional step, so I don't need to apply after exactly 3 years. I can apply in 5 years, or 10 years, or even 50 years, or never, doesn't matter.

To apply for US citizenship, the first step is to mail in the form and supporting evidence. The form to fill out is called the N-400. As with removing conditions, a copy of the front and back of the permanent resident card must be sent in. Also, 2 passport pictures taken within 30 days of filing must be submitted. We must also send in a copy of Ben's birth certificate (to prove he's a US citizen), a copy of our marriage certificate (to prove our marriage), along with other documents proving our relationship. These would be the same kinds of things submitted with the removing conditions package.

The birth certificate, marriage certificate, and evidence of the relationship is obviously not necessary for those applying as not being married to a US citizen. Under those circumstances, I'd assume only the form, passport pictures, and the copy of the permanent resident card is required.

Additional documents might be needed, depending on each person's circumstances. If one's had a criminal record, then court records are needed. If one's been in the military, military records are needed. Etc, etc. The whole document checklist and eligibility guide can be found here.

The fee currently is $595 for the form and then $85 for the biometrics, bringing the total to $680 to become a US citizen. Of course, by the time I get to this point, I'm sure the fees will have changed.

An interview isn't mandatory, but like with removing conditions, one can be called in for an interview. Also similar to removing conditions, biometrics need to be done, presumably at a local office as well.

Once approved, the applicant takes a test (reading, writing, US citizenship test) and then takes an oath. The naturalization certificate is then, I assume, mailed off.

This process requires a bit more than removing conditions as tests are done. Reading and writing won't be a problem for me, but I would definitely need to brush up on US information, specifically branches of government and such. Also, the form to fill out is very long, 10 pages, the longest one throughout all of this I believe. But of course, this is optional, so I don't need to do it if I don't want to. Although, at the moment, I'm leaning toward becoming a US citizen and having dual citizenship. We'll see in a few years though.


P.S. Only a few more days till Ben is here! Yay! Oh, and he turned 22 yesterday ^_^

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Removing conditions explained

*Reference link to abbreviations/terms post*

Before I begin, I'd just like to say I received my police certificate in the mail this morning! Clean record :) I thought the certificate would be bigger but it's tiny. Maybe half the size of regular printer paper. And it's yellow! I wasn't expecting it till later this week, but it came early. Now I have all the papers I need for the DS-230.

Anyways, on to the topic of this blog post: removing conditions. Now, since I'll be getting a CR-1 visa, I need to remove conditions within 90 days of the 2 year mark after I go through the POE to the USA. For those that get the IR-1 visa, they don't need to do this since their visa isn't considered "conditional". It's only for those that have been married less than two years. The green card I'll be getting is only good for two years, so I have to apply to remove that and get a 10 year green card. Those that get the IR-1 visa receive a 10 year green card from the start, so removing conditions isn't needed for them.

This step is pretty simple compared to actually getting the visa. The form to fill out is called the I-751. It's really basic. It simply asks for my information (name, date of birth, address, etc, etc). Also asks the same information about my spouse. Nothing too much more than that.

Along with sending the form in, a copy of the front AND back of the permanent resident card (aka green card) is also needed, as well as evidence of our relationship (such as joint leases, joint financial records, joint insurances, affidavits, pictures, etc).

And of course, there's a fee for the form, so a check must be included as well. The total cost will be $590 ($505 for the form and then $85 for the biometrics). Now, the price may change by the time I have to remove conditions, but as of today, those are the current fees.

Later on, I'm going to need to go get my biometrics done (fingerprints, photograph of my face). I'll get a letter in the mail telling me where and when to go to get this done. If it's going to be done at a local USCIS office, I believe the closest one to where I'll be living in South Dakota is all the way in Minneapolis which is a 6 hour drive. I wouldn't mind the road trip, but I'd prefer something closer. I'll just have to wait and see!

An interview may also be done, but it's not done for all removing conditions cases, so I'll just have to wait and see. I doubt it will be as stressful as the interview to actually get the visa.

And that's all. Once you get approved, I'd assume the 10 year green card is then mailed off. I haven't read much into this part of the immigration process. I just know the bare details which I have already mentioned. It doesn't seem to be as hard as the visa part, but it still requires forms to be sent in and such.


P.S. Ben will be here next Wednesday at midnight! Yay, one more week! ^_^

Saturday, December 11, 2010

POE, GC, and SSN explained

*Reference link to abbreviations/terms post*

Today's blog entry is going to be about what happens after receiving the visa.

The first part is POE. At the border, whether at an airport or the land border, there is a process that gets done at customs. Along with getting the visa in the mail, there's also a large envelope containing important documents about the intending immigrant. This envelope is NOT to be opened under any circumstances. It is handed over at customs and they open it. Once everything is checked out, the beneficiary can continue on their way, either by car or plane. Since I haven't personally gotten to this point yet, nor have I read that many in-depth reviews about this step, I can't say exactly what they do at customs. I also can't say how long it takes. It all depends on which airport/land border and whether or not it's busy. If taking an airplane though, I would ensure to have minimum an hour in between flights (if there's a connection), preferably a bit more.

Once a beneficiary has actually landed in the USA, they are now considered a resident. At customs, a stamp will be put in the passport and this can be proof that you're a resident as one waits for their GC and SSN. The green card and welcome letter usually arrives in the mail within a few weeks after going through customs. The green card will be needed at any POE if they decide to leave the USA as it is proof that they are an LPR.

The SSN is either really simple or not. On the DS-230, there's a section on SSN and whether or not the immigrant would like to automatically file for an SSN. Now, there can be problems with this. Some people who checked yes for getting SSN don't end up receiving it in the mail. They have to go to a local SSN office and apply for it there. There are people though that check yes and do receive it in the mail. If one does check yes and still hasn't received it in like a month or so, a visit to an SSN office is most likely needed.

With an IR-1/CR-1 visa, the beneficiary can work immediately. They can start working the very next day if they wish. The stamp in their passport is proof of the visa and don't need their green card or SSN to start work. This is a real benefit of this visa (compared to the K-1 or K-3) since no adjustment of status is needed like the other fiance/spouse visas.


Friday, December 10, 2010

Police check and two updates

*Reference link to abbreviations/terms post*

So, on Monday I headed to downtown Montreal to get a police record check. Found a cheaper place than my local police station. Someone on VJ linked this site and since it was $20 cheaper, decided to go for it. It's supposed to take 7-10 days, so I should get it sometime next week. I don't know if those "7-10 days" are business days are not, but either way, should get it by next Friday, latest the Monday after.

Still no news on our NOA2, but I have faith that it will be coming very soon. So many people have been getting approved with NOA1 dates in September. Looking on this site of VJ, there's already 12 people that were approved at the end of November, beginning of December.

Oh, and other good news, Ben booked a flight the other day to come visit me for Christmas! He'll be leaving Wednesday afternoon (the 22nd) after work and fly back Sunday (the 26th) evening. He won't be taking any days off since Thursday and Friday are holidays, so he'll have two vacation days (if I remember correctly) to carry over to next year. Oh, and I had much fun tracking his flight in real time at Flight Stats. You put in some info about the flight, and you can watch on a Google map where the plane is exactly. It even gives info on the plane's altitude, its bearing, how fast it's going, and much more. From now on, whenever Ben flies I'll be using that website. It keeps me entertained as I wait down the hours for him to arrive in Montreal. ^_^


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Interview explained

*Reference link to abbreviations/terms post*

Before I begin, just wanted to update that there have now been 8 people approved in CSC with September NOA1 dates. I keep telling myself that Ben and I's NOA2 is already on its way :)

Anyways, this blog post will detail the interview step. Some of this stuff can be applied to other consulates while some things are specific to Montreal.

After the case is complete at NVC, the documents are mailed off to the consulate where the interview will take place. In my case, the only consulate in all of Canada that does IR-1/CR-1 visas is Montreal. Because Montreal is the only consulate that does spousal visas, there is an incredible backlog for getting an interview date. Average times between case complete and interview date for other consulates is a month or two. At Montreal, it's about 5 months. It's one of the longer waiting times at a consulate. I think the only other consulate that is longer is Ghana which can take up to a year! Currently, people with December interview dates had case completes at NVC in July. I am really hoping that the backlog at Montreal is improved by the time I get to that stage. Even one less month would be great. I'd really like to be back in the USA by our one year anniversary, but because of Montreal's backlog, it's going to be cutting it close, and that's if we get our NOA2 this month and be out of NVC by the end of January.

A month or so before the interview date, a letter is sent out assigning the date for the interview and information on what to bring, along with information on the medical that needs to be done.

The things that MUST be brought: interview letter (you won't be allowed into the consulate without this), passport (need to hand over if approved for them to attach the visa to), two passport pictures, and medical report.

The things that are highly SUGGESTED to bring: complete copy of I-130 package, complete copy of I-864 package, complete copy of DS-230 package, and evidence of bona fide relationship that has been compiled since the submission of the I-130 (or even before if not given at that time).

Also, since I'll most likely have my interview next spring or after, I'm going to need to bring Ben's 2010 tax information since it might not be filed at the time of our I-864 submission.

Another note, if we do electronic processing, we MUST bring in our original copies of the I-864 and DS-230 forms and the original (plus a photocopy) of my birth certificate, police record, and marriage certificate. The photocopies of the civil documents will be handed over so they can have on file. I also believe they take the original forms with our signatures for their files as well.

Most people (from what I've read on VJ) arrive at the consulate between 6am and 7am as they open their doors early (I believe at 7:30am) and are first come, first serve. Even though people are assigned specific times for their interview, it's not the actual time you'll have your interview. Unless they change this in the future, that's how it is at Montreal. If there aren't any major problems, then one could be out of the consulate in a few hours. The actual interview isn't very long in most cases. The bulk of the time is mostly waiting to be called to various windows.

In the past at Montreal, the method of getting the passport and visa back to the beneficiary is by using an ExpressPost envelope. Now there's a new method in Montreal that has recently taken place. You sign up online for a DHL location closest to you and once ready, the passport/visa will be sent to the chosen DHL location and is then picked up by the beneficiary. The pro for this new method is that it is much faster than the previous one, but the downside is that it's not delivered to one's door. One has to go to the DHL location and pick it up themselves. For many, this might be a two hour drive. If I'm still in Quebec at the time of my interview, it will only be about a 40 minute drive.

This is by far, the step I am most afraid of. The interview determines whether or not I get a visa, so a lot rests on this one day, those few hours at the consulate. This will probably be, for the rest of my life, the most important interview ever. Hoping to get approved!


Thursday, December 2, 2010

3 months...

*Reference link to abbreviations/term post*

So, it's been exactly three months now that USCIS has received our I-130 package.

Some good news! Someone I became friends with on VJ (and later, Facebook) informed me she got approved Tuesday evening! She has the exact same NOA1 date as me, so it looks like CSC is working on September petitions. I also found out on Tuesday that someone with a September 3rd NOA1 date got approved as well. And just today, I found two more people with approvals (one with the same NOA1 date as ours and the other with a September 10th NOA1 date). So far, that's 4 people with September NOA1 dates that have been approved at CSC. Really good news! I believe the mass transfer of petitions from CSC to TSC really did help the load at CSC.

I'm checking the USCIS website even more often now. And I have my husband's email account open on my other monitor all day, so I know instantly when he gets an email. Keeping my eye out for one from USCIS about an approval.

In other news, Ben left Tuesday :( His flight in Montreal ended up getting delayed for an hour. We were both really worried since, with this delay, he wouldn't make his second flight. And neither would his luggage. But near the end of his first flight, thankfully, his second flight got delayed. He was able to make it (along with his checked bag). The plane ended up being delayed almost another hour on the runway since Chicago was backed up. He finally made it to Sioux Falls and got home around 3:30am my time.

I was sad to see him go, but I didn't cry as much since I know he's going to be back for Christmas. I had a great time while he was here. We saw Harry Potter together and went out to my favorite Japanese restaurant twice. We also had dinner with my grandparents and uncle and aunt. We also watched the whole Lord of the Rings trilogy over two days. He's never seen the movies before, so I was really glad we got to watch them. Plus, I haven't seen the movies in years and enjoyed watching them again. I can't wait to see him again in about a month! Hopefully we'll have our NOA2 by then.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Ben's third visit!

Ben's on the second plane to Montreal! I'll be leaving in a few minutes to go pick him up.

He was planning on leaving after lunch today and then drive to Sioux Falls. But yesterday when he got home from work, he told me that there was gonna be some bad weather in his area, so he decided to leave a day early and booked a hotel for the night.

He finally got to the airport later this afternoon when his two planes were delayed. His first was delayed so badly that they put him on another flight heading to Chicago. I was tracking his flight online and it seemed it had to stay in the air longer than it had to around the Chicago airport. Apparently the Chicago airport has been hit really bad by delays. His second flight was supposed to leave at 9pm, but then got delayed to 9:55pm. And even after he boarded and the plane left the gate, I believe that he was stuck on the runway for almost 30 minutes before his flight finally took off. He was supposed to have arrived already in Montreal, but because of the delays, he won't be landing for another hour at least.

I'm getting anxious, so I'm going to leave in a few minutes. I'm keeping all my fingers and toes crossed that Ben passes through customs without any issues.

Can't believe he's here till next Tuesday! *big smile*


Monday, November 22, 2010

Medical explained

*Reference link to abbreviations/term post*

So, after the case is complete at NVC, it's sent off to the embassy (in my case, the one in Montreal). An interview date is later assigned and I'll discuss all about the interview step in another post. Once the interview date is assigned though, a letter is sent out (not sure if it's to the petitioner or beneficiary, or both). In the letter, it describes what's needed for the interview and information on the medical.

Before the interview takes place, a medical examination must be done. And it can't be done by a family doctor. It MUST be performed by an approved panel physician. In Canada, there is a total of 4 approved panel physicians, two of which are in Montreal. Another one is in Ontario, and the last in British Columbia.

One thing that can be done by a family doctor is get the required vaccinations. I followed this website for what vaccinations I will need. The vaccines required are dependent on what age you are, and that website lists the different ones for each age group. Since I am 22, I'll need the following vaccines:

-Combination vaccine for: Tetanus Diphtheria (Td) and Tetanus Diphtheria Pertussis (Tdap)
-MMR combination vaccine for: Mumps, Measles, German Measles (Rubella)
-Chickenpox (Varicella)

If I understand my vaccination record and the specific instructions of the required vaccines, I believe I have all the necessary ones. I never received a chickenpox vaccine, but I should be fine since a verbal declaration is accepted. My mother has pictures of when I had chickenpox and I'm requesting her to send them to me and I'll bring them along with me as proof that I did indeed have the chickenpox and do not require the vaccine.

Also, there might be another required vaccine for influenza, but it's only needed if the interview takes place during the flu season. On the website I found the required vaccines for my age group, it states only people aged 50 and over need this during flu season, but I've seen people on the VJ forums that aren't 50 require it as well. I'll inquire about it once I get closer to my medical/interview stage.

For the medical examination, the beneficiary needs to bring: the interview letter, passport, 3 passport pictures, immunization information (such as a vaccination record), and money to pay for the exam. The actual medical exam will consist of a medical history review, physical examination, a chest X-ray, and a blood test for syphilis.

The cost of the medical will vary by country and which panel physician you go to. For the two in Montreal, it will vary from $200-300 and will cost more if vaccines are required. I know for one of the panel physicians, credit credit cards or Interac is not accepted, so the only methods they accept of payment would be cash, certified cheque, or money order. I better not get robbed on the way to the medical!

After the medical is done, the results can be picked up a few days to a week later and must be brought to the interview.

This is probably one of the parts of this whole visa thing I'm not looking forward to at all. I have a great fear of needles and I'm praying that I have all the required vaccinations. The only thing I know for certain is that I will have to have a blood test done. I've never had one done before and I'm not looking forward to it at all. There better be someone there to hold my hand cause I'm going to need to squeeze something.


P.S. Less than 3 days till Ben arrives here!

Monday, November 15, 2010

DS-261 and DS-260

*Reference link to abbreviations/terms post*

A few weeks ago, I came across the terms DS-261 and DS-260 on VJ. I had never heard of them before.

Apparently, the DS-260 is a new online form of the DS-230 that is required at the NVC stage. And the DS-261 is the online version of the DS-3032.

As far as I know, this is how the new process works:

Once a case has reached NVC and the beneficiary and petitioner get their NVC case number, they fill out the online DS-261 form to choose the "agent" where all future correspondence is sent to. This is similar to emailing/mailing the DS-3032.

The rest of the process is the same (payment portal, sending in the I-864 package). Once the IV bill is paid, the DS-260 can then be filled out online. Once the form is filled out online, the rest of the package still has to be mailed in (passport pictures, birth certificate, marriage certificate, etc).

At this time though, the DS-260 is only open to a few consulates: Amman (Jordan), Athens (Greece), Baghdad (Iraq), Ciudad Juarez (Mexico), Lima (Peru), and Montreal (Canada). NVC eventually wants this online form to be available to every country, but this process just started in October 2010 and they're currently doing testing of this new method.

This is different from EP since you still have to mail in the I-864 package and part of the DS-230 package. You don't scan anything and email it in.

Personally, I wouldn't want to do the DS-260. I'd prefer to do EP. I've seen screenshots of the online form and it's spread across many, many pages. It's the same information that's on the DS-230, but just seems way longer. In the long run, for those unable to participate in EP, I would do the regular DS-230 just because you can pre-fill it out. The DS-260, I believe, you can only fill out once the IV bill appears as PAID. With the regular DS-230, as soon as the bill appears as PAID, you can mail off the DS-230 package instead of filling out the DS-260.

Anyways, just wanted to write up a post about these new online forms.


P.S. Less than 10 days till Ben is here! ^_^

Monday, November 8, 2010

Mass CSC to TSC transfers

*Reference link to abbreviations/terms post*

So, perhaps more good news.

Within the last few days, there have been many petitions from CSC being transferred to the Texas Service Center on VJ. I've been following this one thread specific to this mass transfer and it might be good news for both those transferred and those still at CSC. Apparently, VSC did a mass transfer awhile ago as well to TSC and within a few weeks, many people were getting their NOA2s. TSC doesn't usually process I-130s, so most likely the processing times will be reduced for those transferred. Plus, with all these transfers, there's less petitions at CSC now, so petitions should be approved faster there as well.

Someone also mentioned in this thread I'm following that in March/April/May there were a lot of petitions sent, and now that CSC is through that (they're currently approving petitions from June), petitions will get approved faster since there are fewer petitions sent in June/July/August. Which is great news for Ben and I. I really do believe we might hear something by the end of the year. If we do, I might just be able to make it to South Dakota on time for our one year anniversary, as long as there are no major problems or hurdles.


P.S. Ben booked tickets a few days ago for another visit! Since he's in the USA, they have Thanksgiving at the end of November. His work gives November 25th and 26th off for the holiday. So, he's going to leave the 24th after lunch (he gets paid a full day if he leaves after lunch) and will return to the USA the following Tuesday, the 30th. Almost a week with my love! *excited*

Thursday, November 4, 2010

DS-230 explained

*Reference link to abbreviations/terms post*

Time to explain the DS-230! This form is the application for an immigration visa and filled out by the beneficiary (me!). It asks basic info about the beneficiary, their parents, locations lived, employment, education, etc.

This form is sent in at the NVC stage along with the I-864 that I explained last week. Before sending in the DS-230 though, the IV bill has to appear in the payment portal, then be paid, then appear as 'PAID'. Once that's done, then the DS-230 can be sent in.

The documents needed for this package are:
-cover letter explaining what is included
-receipt that you paid the bill and it was approved
-part 1 of the form (completed and signed)
-part 2 of the form (completed and UNSIGNED*)
-2 passport pictures of the beneficiary (with the beneficiary's name, date of birth, and NVC case number written on the back)
-copy of passport bio page of beneficiary
-original birth certificate, plus a photocopy**
-original marriage certificate, plus a photocopy**
-original police certificate***, plus a photocopy**

*Part 2 of the DS-230 is signed at the interview after the information is reviewed

**A photocopy of the birth certificate, marriage certificate, and police certificate is needed because the originals will be handed back at the interview and USCIS needs a photocopy for their records.

***The police certificate can either be obtained from the local police station, or in my case also the RCMP.

Back in August I went to my local police station for more information. It would cost me $60 to obtain, be valid for 6 months, and if no problems, would only take a day or two to get. Because it's only valid for 6 months, I'm probably going to get it in December. I'd like it to be valid for the interview as well since I don't want to pay another $60 for another one. I don't want to wait till our I-130 is approved in case it takes a bit longer to get the police certificate. But I guess I'd rather pay a second $60 than be delayed awhile at NVC. So watch out for a post in December about the police certificate (unless I change my mind).

I also saw a few people on VJ getting RFE's for prior visas. They've all been about J1 visas, but even though I had a different visa, I'm still going to include an explanation of my previous visa, just to be on the safe side. I had an L2 (child of an L1 visa holder) back in 2005. My mother had an L1 (intra-company transfer) when her work moved from Quebec to Florida. I moved back to Quebec 2 years later when I finished high school. I'm going to try to get from my mother a photocopy of our notices of approvals and I'm going to include a photocopy of my old passport with the stamp in it from July, 2005 when we went through the border with our visas.

Also, not to forget that the case number must be written on all pages in the package at the top right corner except for the bar-coded receipt page.

If Ben and I opt in for electronic processing, the process is a little different. The DS-230 requires 2 passport pictures, so a photocopy of 2 pictures with different named files should be attached in the email (as silly as it sounds). Also, a scan of the original civil documents. At the interview then the original DS-230 forms and documents are handed in (minus the original civil documents). I forgot to mention this in the I-864 post, but it would be the same thing. Scan all the documents and attach it in the emails and bring in all originals at the interview to hand in (forms, employment letter, pay stubs, etc)


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

2 months...

So it's been 2 months that our petition has been at CSC now. Still keeping all fingers and toes crossed that I get a Christmas present (or earlier ^_^ ) of an approved petition from USCIS.


Saturday, October 30, 2010

Renewed hope!

So, I get notifications to my email on a few threads on VJ and I got one for an August 2010 filer thread that I'm a part of. Anyways, I checked out the new comments on the thread and was shocked. Apparently someone who has an NOA1 of August 10 (about a month before ours) got their NOA2 4 days ago! That's amazing that it was approved in less than 3 months. The average time now for CSC is 5-6 months. This has given me renewed hope that it's possible for our petition to be approved by Christmas. I'm hoping that our petition at CSC lands on the same desk that the person above got because it must have been one speedy officer!


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

5 month anniversary

So, my husband remembered last night that our 5-month anniversary was last week. D'oh. We had both forgotten about it. And yet again, for the third month in a row, we spent our anniversary apart. In a way, I'm happy that we both forgot about our anniversary last week because I would have just been moping around all day wishing I was with Ben.

Ben did get me something last night in celebration of our missed anniversary. Recently, there was a new update to Windows Live Messenger (MSN) and I don't like it at all. I mentioned to Ben last night how I hate how slow the new MSN is to load on start-up. He told me I should try Trillian, another IM client that he's been using for years. So, I downloaded it and tried it out, liking it. He then bought me Trillian Pro (has more features and themes and such) for our anniversary. ^_^


Monday, October 25, 2010

I-864 explained

*Reference link to abbreviations/terms post*

Today I thought I'd explain everything about the I-864 form that's needed later on at the NVC stage (approximately 4 months from now, but hoping less than that). This form is essentially to show proof that the petitioner can financially support the beneficiary when they arrive in the USA.

Before sending in the form and supporting documents, you first have to wait for the AoS fee to appear on the payment portal. Once it is paid for and appears as 'PAID' on the site, then the I-864 documents can be sent in.

Ben and I will probably be using the I-864EZ form. It's essentially the same as the I-864, but if you don't have any assets, this is a shorter form to fill out. Since Ben doesn't have any assets, it would be better to use this form.

The documents needed are:
-cover letter explaining what is included in the package
-receipt that you paid for the bill and that it was approved
-the I-864/I-864EZ form
-last 3 years of tax transcripts (I've read on VJ that only one year is required, but just to be safe, send in 3)
-employment letter (signed by boss explaining what your job is, since when you have been employed, and your salary)
-pay stubs from last 6 months

On each page of the above documents, the case number must be written on the top right corner.

The I-864 is a pretty straight-forward package. If you're making more than 125% of the poverty level for your household size, then you're good to go. If you're not, then you will need a co-sponsor. At Ben's current job, he is making about $40k per year. As per the poverty guidelines, he is able to sponsor a household of 6. And since we're only two people, we'll definitely be good.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

DS-3032 explained

*Reference link to abbreviations/terms post*

I mentioned the DS-3032 in my post explaining the NVC process and today I'll go into more detail about it.

First off, the purpose of the DS-3032 is the 'Choice of Address and Agent' form. It basically informs NVC who you want to receive further correspondence. The beneficiary (for our case, that's me) sends the form out and, in most cases, elects the petitioner (Ben). People that use lawyers elect their lawyer for future correspondence.

It's a really simple, straight-forward one-page form. It just asks for the beneficiary's name and then the agent's name, telephone number, email address, and mail address. And then a signature at the bottom.

For electronic processing, when one sends the opt-in email, you also have to include the pdf version of the DS-3032 (signed, scanned, and then uploaded as an attachment). In the body of the email, include information such as the beneficiary and petitioner's names, dates of birth, and email addresses.

For those not doing electronic processing, there's two options. Either email in the DS-3032 using an email template. You don't attach the DS-3032 as a pdf, but write all needed information in the body of the email. Or the other option is to print out the form, sign it, and then send it off by snail mail to NVC.

In both cases, the NVC case number needs to be the subject of the email. The only difference with EP, is you include 'OPTIN' at the beginning of the subject line, followed then by the case number.

You email or mail this form out only after receiving your NVC case number and providing the beneficiary and petitioner's email addresses to an NVC operator. Afterwards, a DS-3032 kit will be emailed which includes the IIN information to continue on with the NVC process.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Ben's second visit to Canada

Ben arrived in Canada for the second time on Friday night. He didn't have much problems at customs. He was told to go to secondary inspection, but they only asked him two questions and then stamped his passport. He picked up my suitcase (I had left a bunch of clothes and things in South Dakota and he brought them back for me!) and then headed out the doors to where everyone was waiting.

It was a wonderful moment, finally seeing him again, being in his arms and kissing him! ^_^

We took the shuttle back to where I had parked and drove home. It was very late at night, midnight maybe, so we didn't do much the first night and just went to sleep.

Saturday we went over to my grandparents house and I introduced him to them. We all went out to a restaurant, meeting my uncle and aunt there, for supper. They all seemed to think Ben was super nice. He passed the "family test"! :D

Sunday was my 22st birthday. I had set an alarm for 9:57am (the time when I was born) and as soon as the clock ticked to the time, Ben wished me a happy birthday and gave me a kiss. Best birthday present ever. I was hoping all day that I would get a touch from USCIS, but nope. Nothing. Went out for dinner to my favorite Japanese restaurant here in Montreal and enjoyed a lovely meal with Ben.

I don't think we did anything worth mentioning on Monday. Just spent time together. Oh, we took some pictures of our rings. Ben finally got a wedding ring last month sometime and this was our first time together where we both had rings. So a picture of that was a must. Also took some pictures for a new profile picture for Facebook.

Tuesday was his last day here. I felt horrible the whole day, knowing that in a few hours I would have to say goodbye to him all over again. Finally headed to the airport around 2:30pm. Had some trouble at the kiosk, so we had to go to a person at a counter. We then walked to the security checkpoint, the point where I couldn't go any further. We sat together for a few minutes, and then we knew it was time to say goodbye. I of course cried, not wanting to let him go again. After a few tearful minutes, we finally kissed for the last time and he headed in one direction, while I headed in the other direction back to where I had parked.

He's only got two more vacation days left for this year. He said he'll come to visit me for Christmas, but I'm hoping to see him before that. Two and a half months without being with him will be super hard. It'll have been the longest time we've ever spent apart. So far, the longest time we've spent apart was a month and 2 days.

I would like to move to Winnipeg, so I'd only be a six hour drive away from South Dakota, making it easier for Ben to come visit me. It'd be nice if he just drove up after work on Friday night or something and stay till Sunday and drive back again. Doing this every 2-3 weeks would definitely make me happier than I am now. It'd be hard to move there on my own though. It's hard to get an apartment without having a job there first, and it's hard to get a job when you don't have an apartment. We'll see what happens though...


P.S. Almost a month and a half from our NOA1. Come on CSC, give us our approval! Pretty please.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

NVC process explained

*Before I begin, a note: I edited the abbreviations entry to add a few terms that I'll be using today that I forgot to include before*

I thought today I'd give a general overview of the whole NVC process which Ben and I should get into in about 4 months (hoping for less though!).

To start, there are two options for NVC: regular snail mail or electronic processing. But to note, EP is mandatory in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan and optional for those in Montreal, Canada and Guangzhou, China. All other countries are unable to opt-in for EP at this time and have to send in documents by snail mail. Unless there's a sudden slow-down or major problems with EP between now and when we get to NVC, I believe Ben and I will be opting in for EP as it will be cheaper (no sending packages overnight to NVC) and possibly faster.

The NVC process is as follows:

1. Receive NOA2 from USCIS
2. Petition is sent by USCIS to NVC
3. NVC receives file
4. NVC assigns case number (different from USCIS number)
5. Petitioner and beneficiary's email addresses given to NVC operator
6. Email DS-3032
7. Wait for DS-3032 kit and IIN info for payment portal
8. Pay AoS bill once it appears in payment portal
9. When the bill appears as 'paid', send in I-864 forms and documents
10. Pay IV bill once it appears in payment portal
11. When that bill appears as 'paid', send in DS-230 forms and documents
12. Send in additional documents if an RFE is sent [note: if no RFE, then this step is skipped]
13. Wait for SIF
14. Call an operator to confirm that case is complete at NVC
15. Once case is complete, case is sent off to the embassy in the beneficiary's country

If the petitioner and beneficiary are proactive at this process and don't have any problems with RFE's, then one can be out of NVC very quickly, an average of 1-2 months. I even saw on the VJ forums that one person finished with NVC as little as 19 days (and that wasn't electronic processing).

If you have all forms ready ahead of time, it can really speed things up. Ben and I have most of our documents already ready. Just a few things here and there, but I'll go more in depth about these when I write up entries about the I-864 and DS-230 in the coming weeks.

I don't think it's mandatory by NVC, but it's highly recommended by all VJ members that you write your NVC case number on ALL documents. So, as soon as we get our case number, I'm going to write it on all the documents then I can finally scan them all. Ben will do the same with his documents and then send me by email his photocopies. I'll then set up the emails with all attached forms and documents, ready to send them to NVC once we can. I would just have to include the barcode/receipts once the payment portal shows the bills as paid.

If one isn't proactive, this process can take months. You don't need to always wait for NVC to email/mail you things or otherwise contact you. You should be the one calling up NVC and asking if your petition has been received, or if your case number has been assigned, or giving in your email addresses. The only actual waiting you have to do is for your IIN, your bills to appear as paid, and the case complete at the end. Everything else is dependent on the petitioner and beneficiary.


Saturday, October 2, 2010

One month mark...

Really quick update:

So, it's been exactly one month from our NOA1 date. Processing times for CSC has roughly been 5 months, so I'm hoping there's only 4 more months to wait. Less than 4 months would be fantastic. I'm hoping to get a wonderful Christmas present from USCIS. Getting a birthday present would be even better, but that's unrealistic. I'm hoping CSC starts to speed up on processing times. I really, really want to be in South Dakota by our first year anniversary.


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Rundown on fees

So, obtaining a visa is far from being free. And today I thought I would give a rundown of the costs for forms, documents, medical, etc.


I-130 - $355 (going up to $420 on November 23, but we won't have to worry about that since we already paid this)
AoS bill - $88
Immigration Visa bill - $404
I-751 - $545 (going up to $590 on November 23 and will possibly go up even more by the time we have to pay this in approximately two and a half years)
N-400 - $675 (going up to $680 on November 23 and will possibly go up even more by the time we have to pay this in approximately three and a half years)

Other costs:

Police certificate - ~$60 (when I went to my local police station about a month ago, I was told it would cost $60, but I'm not sure if the woman and I were thinking the same form, so I shall see later on when I actually get it)
Passport-style pictures - $15 for a set of two (for this whole process, we'll need approximately 10 pictures of just myself and I believe only one was needed from the petitioner)
Medical - between $200 and $300 (this is for the medical alone, if I'm missing any vaccinations, then it will cost more)
Xpresspost envelope - ~$25 (this was needed at the third step, for the interview, but there's a change going on at Montreal right now to using DHL free of charge)

Long-form birth certificate - $45 for three (this included shipping, ordered this while still in South Dakota, not sure if I'll need all three, but at least I have the long-form now)
Mailing my I-130 documents to Ben - $40 (if we opt-in for electronic processing, then this will probably have been the only cost for mailing documents)
Mailing the I-130 package to USCIS - ~$40 (I'm guessing this was the cost for Ben to mail it to USCIS as it was express, with a signature, and it was a large package)

Flights to Montreal - $500 each time (this isn't necessarily a required cost, but Ben does indeed pay to come visit me because of this visa process, so I'm including it)

Other costs to think about that are unknown:
Hotel/flight to Montreal for interview (this cost depends if I'm not living in Montreal anymore and need to pay for a flight and hotel for when interview time arrives)
Ink and paper required for all the photocopies and print-outs of forms made

Approximate total cost for forms:  $2117
Approximate total cost for everything else: $550
Approximate total cost for flights: $3000

By the end of all this, it will have cost around $3000 in necessary forms and documents for the whole immigration process and another $3000 in flights from South Dakota to Montreal and back again, bringing the end total to approximately $6000.



P.S. Ben will be coming for a visit from October 8-12. My birthday's on October 10th and I really wanted to be together with him on that day. He's going to drive to the Sioux Falls airport after work on Friday and is taking the following Monday and Tuesday off as vacation. After this trip, Ben will only have 2 more vacation days this year :(

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Abbreviations and terms defined

I thought it would be a good idea to give a short list of the abbreviations I've used in the past and the ones I might use in the future, to help clear things up and to give explanations of some of the terms I've used.

A# - alien registration number

AoS - Affidavit of Support (I-864 form to prove that Ben can financially support me)

AVR - Automated Voice Response (system that can be called at the NVC number which has different messages saying when your case was assigned a number, when packages were reviewed, case complete, etc)

Beneficiary - foreign spouse who is getting petitioned for (in this case, me)

CC - case complete at NVC

CO - consular officer (person at the embassy that interviews the beneficiary)

CR-1 - conditional residency visa for spouses that have been married less than 2 years (the visa we're applying for, green card is good for up to 2 years, can be renewed for a 10 year green card near the end of the 2 year mark)

CSC - California Service Center (a center of USCIS where our case was sent to)

DoS -  Department of State

EP - electronic processing

GC - green card

IIN - invoice identification number (get this at the NVC stage, needed to sign in to payment portal to pay fees)

IR-1 - visa for spouses that have been married for more than 2 years, issued a 10 year green card

IV - immigrant visa

K1 - visa for fiance/fiancees

K3 - visa for spouses, administratively closed since February 1, 2010 (this is the visa that the immigration officer on August 28 told me to apply for even though I told him it was pointless)

LPR -  legal permanent resident

NOA 1 - first notice of action (it's a form from USCIS that informs us they have received our petition)

NOA 2 - second notice of action (it's a form from USCIS that informs us our petition has been approved and will be sent to NVC)

NVC - National Visa Center (where approved petitions get sent to for further investigation, two bills are paid for online and two different packages of forms have to be sent in)

Petitioner - USC or LPR spouse who petitions for a non-US citizen (in this case, Ben)

POE - port of entry (the land border to get into the USA/Canada or the border at an airport)

RFE - request for evidence (means USCIS or NVC want more information/documents to be sent in, this slows down the process and something that is avoided and not wanted during the whole process)

SIF - 'sign-in fail' (means you can't log into the payment portal at the NVC stage anymore, very good indication that your case is complete at NVC)

SSN - social security number

"Touch" - last updated on the USCIS website (term created on the VisaJourney forums for when something happens to our file at USCIS, could either just be moved or someone looks at it, can figure out if you were "touched" by logging in with the username/password on USCIS for a specific petition)

TSC - Texas Service Center (another center of USCIS that handles petitions)

USC - United States citizen

USCIS - United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (department that handles petitions for visas, they then send petitions to different centers, depending on the type of visa that is applied for)

VSC - Vermont Service Center (another center of USCIS that handles petitions)

VJ - VisaJourney (not technically immigration-related, but this is the number 1 website I use and visit multiple times per day)

Also, here's a very quick run-down of the different forms we have to send in:

First step in visa process:
G-1145 - an optional form sent in with the I-130 package, lets you know electronically (by email and/or text message) that the I-130 package has been received
G-325A - biographic information, need one for both beneficiary and petitioner, sent in with the I-130 package
I-130 - the first package sent in, the form is a petition for an alien relative (spouse, child, parents, etc), establishes that there is indeed a connection between the petitioner and the beneficiary

Second step in visa process:
DS-3032 - an email sent by the beneficiary to NVC to inform them that all mail and correspondence be sent to the petitioner in the USA
I-864 - the second package, form to show that the petitioner can financially support the beneficiary
DS-230 - the third package sent in, application for an immigrant visa, part 2 of this form is signed at the interview

After receiving the visa:
I-751 - a form sent within 90 days of the 2 year mark of entering the US with a visa to remove the conditions, after this form is sent in and approved, a 10 year green card is received
N-400 - a form sent in after a couple of years to apply for U.S. citizenship (after 3 years if married, after 5 years if not)

I already explained in a previous post about the I-130 package. In the following blog entries, I will go into more depth of the other forms we have to send in.

I hope this entry cleared up some terms and will help in the future when I use the above abbreviations/terms.


P.S. Yesterday was Ben and I's four-month anniversary. Unfortunately, for the second month in a row, we were apart for it. As long as we're together for our one-year anniversary. I'm praying and hoping that by May 21, I'll be in South Dakota.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Electronic processing...

Just wanted to give a quick update. As I said in my last posts, I've been checking the USCIS site every single day to see if there's an update. The last update in the system on our file was September 3rd. Nothing since then.

A couple of days ago, I found an interesting thread on VisaJourney. It was about electronic processing in the second step of our visa process. Once our I-130 gets approved by USCIS, it gets sent to the National Visa Center (NVC). Before I read this thread, we would send in all the forms needed at this step by mail. I soon found out there might be an easier/faster way than regular mail. Electronic processing was introduced in 2009, but only for those with consulates in Guangzhou, China and Montreal, Canada, and only specific visas at that. I checked further and for those applying for CR-1 visas in Canada, they can opt-in for electronic processing! It's not required, but is an optional method than sending forms by mail. Basically, instead of sending the forms in by mail, you attach everything in an email and send it off to the appropriate NVC email address. It's a bit more complicated than that, but that's the simple version.

I was reading a related thread in the Canada forum on VisaJourney on electronic processing. I found out all the information I could and begin writing up notes in NotePad. ^_^ There hasn't been anything posted in that thread since April/May, so I don't know if the electronic processing has sped up or improved since then, but I think Ben and I are going to give it a try. I think that if we do everything right and don't get an RFE (request for more evidence), then we can go through the NVC stage quickly.

Unfortunately, I was also reading that Montreal has been on a backlog for quite awhile on handing out interviews. It's been a 4-5 month wait from a case complete in NVC to an actual interview. I'm really hoping this speeds up soon.

Anyways, on to more waiting!


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

NOA1 received!

The NOA1 came in the mail today!! The email said 7-10 days, but it arrived in 4 days, 3 if Monday (Labour Day) was considered a holiday. I'm happy ^_^

Ben also created an account on the USCIS website to check if our package is looked at or if our case is updated. I'll definitely be checking daily :D


Sunday, September 5, 2010

I-130 transferred

Thursday night Ben got an email from USCIS saying that they received our I-130 package and that it's being transferred to the California Service Center to be processed. They also mentioned in the email that we should receive the NOA1 in 7-10 days. Yay for progress! And once we get that, we can start tracking our package on the USCIS website to see if anyone has looked at it. I'll be checking it everyday religiously.

In other sadder news, Ben will be leaving tomorrow morning. We need to leave my house at 5:45am to beat the traffic and get to the airport on time. I'm not looking forward to saying goodbye to him, but I know he'll come back and visit when he can.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

I-130 received and Ben visiting me!

The USPS website finally updated for our tracking number and the USCIS finally picked up our package from the PO Box. Now we just have to wait for the NOA1 and the check to be cashed. More waiting!

In other good news, Ben is here in Canada with me! The day I got denied, he decided to drive up 6 hours to Winnipeg and then take a flight to Montreal. He arrived at the airport at 10am and it was such a happy airport hello. We hadn't been together for more than 3 weeks and it was nice to be with him again. He was able to get a leave of absence so he's staying here until next Monday. I'm going to be sad to say goodbye to him, but I'm happy I finally got to see him.

My dad was planning on moving within Canada and he's been unsure of whether to move out west or out east. After what happened recently, he's now thinking of moving to Winnipeg to make it easier for Ben and I. If we do move there, it will be soon and it'll make it much cheaper and easier for Ben to come visit me. Hope we move soon if we do go out there.


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Denied again...

Well, to put it simply, I got refused at the border.

My dad and I arrived at the border around 9:30am. We gave our passports over, saying we were heading to Plattsburgh. Everything was okay until I heard the officer ask, 'Have you had any problems passing through the border, Lindsay?' And that's when my heart stopped. I said yes, and explained what happened since he wanted to know. After a few more questions, he sent us off to secondary inspection. We parked the car, and went into this building.

Once inside, we took a seat and waited to be called. My name was finally called and I approached the guy behind the counter. He asked some questions, I explained to him I was visiting my husband for 7 weeks, that we had applied for the CR-1 visa, I explained why I was refused last week, etc, etc. He told me that I wasn't allowed to come to the USA without a visa. I told him I had filed for the CR-1 and that I had the right to visit. He told me that I was an intending immigrant and that I would need either the immigration visa (which we applied for) or the K3 visa. I tried explaining to the guy that the K3 is basically obsolete, but he didn't believe me. He told me to take a seat.

I sat back down. I couldn't believe what was happening. I knew that the K3 visa was obsolete and if I had applied for it, the application would just get thrown out. And I knew I had the right to visit while this CR-1 visa was being processed. But this officer didn't believe me. I finally got called back up by the same guy. He told me that he spoke with some fellow officers and they all said the same thing, that I would need either a K3 or an immigrant visa to be allowed back into the US. I tried telling this guy again that if I filed for a K3 now after having submitted an I-130, that it would just get thrown out. Again, he insisted that wasn't right. He told me to take a seat again and someone would call me up to get my fingerprints.

I told my dad to listen for my name while I went outside and called Ben (no cellphones allowed inside). I told him what had happened so far and that it was basically over, I wasn't getting in. I saw my dad waving for me, so I said goodbye and headed back inside. This lady officer escorted me to a back room. The guy officer who I had been talking to was already back there, ready to take my fingerprints. Just like I had done last Tuesday. Once it was over, the lady officer escorted me back to the seating area and told me to wait till I was called up.

Again, I told my dad to listen for my name as I headed back outside to call Ben. Told him what just had happened. And throughout this whole ordeal, I hadn't started crying yet. But now is when I started to cry. I couldn't believe this was happening to me. I knew I was allowed to go through, but for whatever reason, this guy wouldn't believe me. After talking for about 5 minutes, my dad waved for me to come back inside.

The same officer had called me up. Told me he needed to take my left and right index fingers again, and then took a picture of me from a webcam. He explained that I was being refused entry. Told me that to get through to the US I would need either the immigration visa I applied for or a K3. And he explained that if I went to another border and tried this again with another story that it could lead to trouble, and might hurt my visa application, and it might even lead to being banned from the USA for a couple of years. Neither of which I want at all. So until I get my visa, I won't be visiting the US.

Hoping Ben could come visit, but it wouldn't be for long. He has full-time work and only has a two-week vacation. Not sure how we're going to do this for almost a year. Hopefully we can figure something out and see each other soon. Please, if you're reading this, pray for us. We need all the good luck we can get right now.


Friday, August 27, 2010

Package arrived!

Ben just told me now that he was informed by USPS that our I-130 package finally arrived in Chicago. He thought it should have arrived by Monday, but he later found out that the lady who told him that didn't know what she was talking about and it would actually take longer. Oh well, I'm just happy it finally arrived. Now to just wait for the NOA1 to be sent.

In other news, I'm planning on visiting Ben tomorrow. I thought I would have a better chance at getting through US Customs if I went through the land border. Which is what I ended up doing. My dad and I will drive down to Plattsburgh tomorrow morning and I'll catch a flight at 12:45pm, connecting then in Boston, Chicago, and finally landing in Sioux Falls. I'm hoping nothing goes wrong at the border. I'm praying my dad doesn't mess anything up or the immigration officer doesn't ask too many questions.

If no post is put up tomorrow, then I made it through. If there is a post, it's not going to be a happy one. Keeping my fingers crossed that I make it through tomorrow and can finally get back together with my one and only love, even if it is only for a 7-week visit.


Sunday, August 22, 2010

The I-130

As soon as I got home from the airport, Ben and I began to research what we needed to do. We decided to file for the CR-1 visa (an immigration visa) since the K3 visa is unofficially not done anymore. We discovered what forms we needed to fill out and what documents we needed to send in. So much is needed!

-form G-1145
-cover letter explaining what's included
-check for $355, fee for the I-130
-form I-130 all filled out, signed and dated
-form G-325A from the petitioner (Ben), all filled out, signed and dated
-a passport picture of Ben
-form G325A from the beneficiary (me), all filled out, signed and dated
-a passport picture of me
-copy of petitioner's passport
-copy of petitioner's birth certificate
-copy of marriage certificate
-copy of beneficiary's passport
-copy of beneficiary's birth certificate
-evidence that our marriage/relationship is real

I knew what I had to do the next day (Wednesday), as did Ben. I needed to get passport pictures of myself done, as did Ben, and I needed to photocopy all airplane boarding passes from my previous trips to the US. I also photocopied some movie tickets from when we went to see movies together. I also needed to make a photocopy of my passport and birth certificate. Once I had everything done on my part, the next day (Wednesday) I sent everything by priority to Ben in the US. He received my package two days later, on Friday. He then spent that night putting everything together in the correct order. And into the manila envelope it went.

On Saturday, August 21st (our three month anniversary), he went to his post office and sent our application for my visa by priority mail.

And now the month-long wait begins. The immigration officer that I spoke with at the airport said this takes about 4 months. He was very wrong. On VisaJourney (the website where we got our information from), users frequently show their own timelines of their journey through immigration. Many of them have taken months just to get their I-130 approved. And then there's more steps after that which takes even more time. By the time most people have sent in their I-130 and have got their new visa in hand, it's closer to a year than 4 months.

So, I'm trying to remain hopeful. I'm planning on visiting Ben soon, but I will discuss the challenges I will face in another post.



Hello to everyone!

I have created this blog to write down my journey through immigration. Before I begin, I'd like to share a little background information of how I got to where I am now.

It all began on January 7th, 2010. I was on Facebook and going through the news feed when I saw an interesting post by one of my friends who re-posted from one of his friends (Ben). At the end of reading it, I made a comment about it. An hour or two later, I got a friend request from Ben. Usually I don't add anyone on Facebook I don't know, but I thought why not. So, I added him. And that's when our friendship began. That first day alone, we talked for two or three hours on Facebook chat, just getting to know one another. This continued on everyday.

One day, I was on the bus heading somewhere when I got a text message on my phone. When I view it, I see it's from Ben. He mentioned that he found my cell number listed on Facebook and decided to text me. And since then, we texted everytime one of us wasn't home or at work to talk online.

We eventually moved from Facebook chat to MSN as it was much easier.

We soon began to joke about me going to visit him in South Dakota (USA). Eventually, we went from joking to serious, and before I knew it, I was booking a flight from Montreal (Canada) to his little town in the US. Our first meeting was in mid-March and lasted for five days. Throughout the visit, I thought it would be so cool if he was my boyfriend. He was absolutely amazing and on the last day of the visit, I never wanted to leave.

Over the next week, Ben and I expressed how much we missed each other and soon began to reveal our feelings for one another. There was just one little problem...

At that time, I was actually with someone else (my first ever boyfriend), but had fallen out of love with him months before. We had our own apartment together for more than a year at that point. I had never broken up with anyone before, but I knew it must be done. He was in quite a shock when I told him. Within a week or two later, I was back to living with my dad's.

Ben and I thought another visit should be in order, so mid-April, I headed back to South Dakota, this time for only four days. It was technically even less since I arrived late Friday night and left early Monday. But, on April 16th, the first night I was there, Ben proposed to me. We had actually been discussing it since we knew we were right for each other and wanted to have a small courtroom wedding and then get me to the US as fast as possible.

After that April visit, I came back for another four days at the end of April/beginning of May. It had only been two weeks apart, but it felt like forever. I came in earlier on Friday, so we had almost three full days together this time. Again, we didn't want to say goodbye, but we both knew I would return in two weeks time and we'd have the whole summer together.

Two days after I finished my semester, I headed back to South Dakota, this time to spend almost three months there. On May 21, we got married in the courthouse in his town. His mother and grandmother were witnesses (his younger step-brother was there as well playing in the benches). We had decided to just have a small courthouse wedding to get all the legal stuff out of the way, and after some time, we'd have another bigger wedding with everyone invited, once we have the time and money to plan it.

My return ticket to Canada was a week into August. Neither of us wanted me to leave. And looking back, I never should have. But, it was for only 10 days and I needed to get some things done in Canada before I came back and began the process of becoming a legal permanent resident of the US. Leaving was mistake number 1.

Mistake number 2 occurred at customs at the airport when I was going to return back to South Dakota. I unfortunately mentioned that I was going back to apply for a green card. What I didn't know at that time is that you cannot cross the border to the US with the intention of immigrating. That is a violation of immigration laws. I was sent to the immigration area at the airport while I waited for an hour, not knowing what was going on. An immigration officer finally took me in, about 10 minutes before my flight was supposed to leave, and then told me the devastating news. I was not going to see my husband that night. He explained what I was doing wrong and told me that I had to either apply for an immigration visa or a K3 non-immigrant visa. And that I wouldn't be seeing my husband for 4 months. Never have I cried so much in my life....