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.