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.