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.