You like the movie “The Proposal“? Then you will like this story. When people hear my story, they think that immigration process looks like the one in the movie. But this is not the case.
I am an immigrant. I am married to an American citizen, and together we have one child, but that doesn’t mean that I automatically become a citizen. People think that if you just marry a U.S. citizen, it is easy to stay in America. But that isn’t true. There is a whole process involved with staying in the United States.
My husband and I married on leap year, February, 29, 2016. For me to be able to stay in the United States, we had to, once we were married, fill out a bunch of paperwork with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and pay a large sum of money. I was on a student visa (F1), that expired in August 2016, so we had to file our paperwork before its expiration date. Different visas have different windows of how long you are allowed to stay, so make sure you know how many days you can stay on yours (if you are currently in that situation).
Our first step: filling out form I-485, I-130, I-131, I-765, and adding all of the about 40 supporting documents. They basically want to know that your marriage is “real” and not faked, like Margaret’s and Andrew’s in the movie (at first), just to stay in the U.S.. The goal for me was to, through this process, obtain a green card, which shows and proves permanent residency in the United States. As a permanent resident, you have all the rights that a citizen has, except for the right to vote, and you cannot work for certain (mostly federal) government agencies.
Once our paperwork was submitted, the wait began. After a few weeks, I received a letter with an appointment time at the local USCIS office for a biometric appointment. Here, they go over all your general information (especially name details), and take fingerprints and a headshot. I was very nervous for this appointment, but the lady who took me back to administer all the biometric information was really nice and made me feel at ease. But in general, the whole green card process from start to finish was anxiety-inducing.
The next step in the process was to go to an interview (with your significant other). The portrayal of the interview in the movie is somewhat fictional. They do not initially ask you to do separate interviews. They only interview each individual separately if they believe the marriage could possibly be a fraud. Fortunately, we only had to do the joint interview. In the interview, they ask you about details such as, “How did you meet?” and, “Where did you get married and how many people were at your wedding?” They also asked for additional evidence, in addition to what you had already submitted, with the initial paperwork. We had submitted joint bank statements, joint car insurance, our licenses with the same address on it, plus all the other individual documents they wanted such as a copy of my husband’s pay stubs and tax documents so that it proved that he could financially support me as his wife. To the interview, we took a whole album of photos with us, from when we first started dating until the present day (early Summer 2016). Finally, at the end of the interview, they told us we were approved. We now just had to wait for the green card in the mail, which arrived within about a month.
The green card came fast. However, it was a ‘conditional’ green card, that is only good for two years. They do this for all newly married couples, so that you can’t just get a divorce and keep your green card. So two years later, in 2018, we got to do the whole process over again. We had to resubmit paperwork. Then wait and wait and wait to see if they would approve our case. In some cases, you have to come back in for an interview, but most of the time this only happens if you have “insufficient” evidence.
We were invited for an interview, and had to do the whole process over again, which made me think our evidence wasn’t good enough, and it made me all nervous again. But when we came in, the lady who helped us said that she was not sure why we were asked to come back for an interview, as we did have plenty of sufficient evidence. Anyway, the lady approved our case and soon after we received our 10 year green card in the mail. The next step would be for me to apply for citizenship, then pass the ‘civics test’. You are eligible for citizenship if you have been married to a U.S. citizen and have had permanent residency (a green card) for a minimum of 3 years. Otherwise (if not married to a citizen), you are eligible after 5 years of permanent residency.