WELCOME TO THE USA
After coming to the USA last November (2013) me and Raven decided it was time to legalize me, i.e. get me a green card. Time was running out as my B2 visa only allowed me to stay until the 7th of May this year (2014) and it was already late March so it was time to get the skates on.
At first look the immigration docs look a formidable undertaking but we decided to do them ourselves. They are actually not too daunting when you get down to it, and it’s a lot cheaper than hiring an immigration attorney, but it does require you to get lots of copies of your docs such as birth certificates, proof of being together etc. etc. I therefore thoroughly recommend that you buy a cheap printer if you don’t possess one already. It will be a lot lot cheaper in the long run than paying a document copying service. This is also mainly because USCIS (US Citizenship & Immigration Service) require all your initial docs to be sent in as copies. DO NOT send your originals.
I found this site to be invaluable at the time http://greencardez.net/. It guided me through all the forms and processes I needed although I did occasionally need to use Google to clarify a few points. Greencardez is also free advice and good advice. Use it and again save a fortune on an immigration attorney.
If you are using my blog as a guide then here are my details. See if they apply to you first. I am a UK citizen and my wife is a US citizen. When we applied we had been married just over 2 years which does make a difference. (If you are married for less than 2 years you will get a conditional green card instead of a full one.)
Here we go then;
The forms we needed to complete were these and note that I haven’t posted links for the docs as they can change. They are all easily available/downloadable on either USCIS OR GreencardEZ’ sites
I-130 Petition for Alien Relative. This is filled in by the US Citizen of the partnership (Raven in this case).
I-485 Application to register permanent residence or adjust status. This was filled in by me. It is my application for a Green Card.
I-693 Report of medical examination and vaccination record. (You will need to have a medical for this form and that will be your first job. More on that in a bit.
I-864ez – Affidavit of support. This is completed by the US citizen to prove that they are earning enough to support you initially. If you have a large amount of cash in the bank you can use that towards it too. I didn’t…lol. You will need to supply tax returns/letters from employers etc. to back up your figures so lots more copying. The I-864ez is the quick form by the way for straight forward applications. If your income/circumstances are a little more complicated you will need to file the I-864 instead which is much bigger.
G-325 Biographic info. You need to complete 2 of these. One for each of you. These are to prove you are who you are and are the basis of your Biometrics interview when you will be photographed, finger-printed and retinal scanned. Although you both fill them in only the non US citizen will have their biometrics taken. More on that soon.
G-1145 – E-notification of application. This is an easy form and is for your own benefit. Add this in with your docs and USCIS will email/text you when they receive your docs. It is your receipt that they’ve had them. It takes about a week and usually comes late at night. All you need for this form is your email address and cellphone number.
I-131 – Application for travel document.
If you think you may need to travel abroad while your case is ongoing then you need to file this. It is free if filed while your case is ongoing so it doesn’t hurt to file it. If you don’t get it and leave the USA then your application will be counted as abandoned. Expensive…lol
I-765 Application for employment authorization.
Again this is free to file along with your other forms. It will allow you to work for up to a year and you will get an Employment Authorization Card which allows you to get a conditional Social Security card. Please note this is only a temporary work permit and is not your permanent Green Card. I got mine but didn’t really need it as my Green Card came through shortly after but if your application for the GC is delayed at least you can work if you want to if you have one.
ALSO IT IS WORTH POINTING OUT THAT YOU WILL NEED SEVERAL VERY RECENT PHOTOGRAPHS FOR VARIOUS FORMS. You can do these yourself which again is where the printer is very useful (a lot cheaper than Walgreen’s) but make sure you follow the guidelines as to size/backgrounds etc.
AND HERE IS MY PROCESS DIARY (Dates are approx. but close)
March – Visit USCIS or GreencardEZ and downloaded the required forms.
The first job to do was to get the medical required for the I-693. USCIS’ site will give you a list of Doctors/facilities that can carry out the medical. I think I paid $80 for the medical. They take blood tests etc. to screen for nasty diseases like Syphilis/ Hepatitis etc. My first problem was foreseen and was this. In the UK we have a Tuberculosis vaccination called a BCG which can show up as a false positive for the disease even though in my case I had had mine 40 years ago.
The test involves a scratch to your arm and you have to return to the docs within 2 days for them to check it. If the injection swelling is over a certain size you will need to have a chest x-ray.
And so I had to have an x-ray. (I was told this would be another 80 bucks but they forgot to charge me… lol) But that was all clear and so I got my completed I-693 returned a few days later. A warning here. It is sealed. Do not open it or it will be invalid, meaning another medical. You do get a copy anyway if you ask for it.
APRIL 1 MEDICAL TAKEN
APRIL 4 RETURNED TO MEDICAL CENTER. TB TEST FAILED AS EXPECTED SO X-RAY DONE
APRIL 8 MEDICAL PASSED AND I-693 PICKED UP FROM MEDICAL CENTER
In the mean time I had been busy filling in the other forms and photocopying any supporting documents that were required and so;
APRIL 19 FORMS FILED
Sent to the Chicago Lockbox.
I received my texts telling me they had been received and then in the post two days later I received;
APRIL 27 I-797 RECEIPTS RECEIVED NOTICES OF ACTION
For i-765, i-485, i-130. These are paper copies confirming that USCIS has received your paperwork and they are OK to start the application process. Yippeeee time.
MAY 1 – APPOINTMENT FOR BIOMETRICS IN COLUMBUS OHIO ON MAY 22ND
This came through very quickly but we could not make May 22nd due to Raven’s work commitments. You can return the form requesting a different date. We did that and within a couple of days we received a new appointment for June 2nd. This was fine.
JUNE 2ND BIOMETRICS TAKEN
Fairly straightforward. I think we were there less than an hour. Just a matter of my picture taken, fingerprints and retina scan. Simple.
RECEIVE INTERVIEW LETTER.
This arrived a week or so later and it was for JULY 21
JULY 21 INTERVIEW IN COLUMBUS OHIO.
This was fairly painless. Raven and I were actually seen separately. The interview is videotaped by the way. I was asked a few questions about Raven’s family/birthday etc. All easy stuff but we had a couple of hiccups. They wanted to see old divorce paperwork from my first marriage which ended in 1985. I received a letter two days later (RFE or Request for Further Evidence) confirming this. It was the only problem and I had to contact Cambridge Court in the UK for a copy which cost me £45 as I could not remember the date or case number. But it duly arrived and was dispatched to USCIS.
JULY 22 EAD RECEIVED
Funnily enough my EAD (temp work permit) arrived the day after the interview and I was able to obtain a Social Security Card. The number will stay with you but it says on the SS CARD that it is only an interim one. If you work you will need to show your employer this and your EAD card also. When your Green Card arrives you will need to re-visit your Social Security office again to update your Social Security card (the number will stay the same)
AUGUST 21 GREEN CARD APPROVED
I received my Welcome to America letter. My Green Card is approved. Told to allow a few weeks for the actual card to come.
AUGUST 28 GREEN CARD ARRIVED
I am now a Legal Permanent Resident of the USA.
The whole process from sending off my application to receiving my acceptance letter took 124 days which I think was pretty good even allowing for losing time for our biometrics date and obtaining my divorce papers from the UK.
Filing fees were $1490 dollars.
Medical was $80
Cost of divorce docs from UK $70
Printer/ paper/postage etc. About another $70
Total of about $1700
We probably saved about $1000 by doing it ourselves rather than using an attorney.
ONCE AGAIN. Do not be afraid to apply yourself. It is not as hard as you may think if your case is straightforward. The site I recommended (GreencardEZ) is brilliant. They explain it all in simple language. Also Google is your best friend if you are not sure of anything.
© 2014 Stan M Rogers. All rights reserved.