Monday, March 31, 2008

U.S. Immigration Timeline: From K1 to Conditional Permanent Resident

Above: Marilyn, shown in a web cam image from early 2005. This was still a whole 2.5 years before she arrived on U.S. soil.

>>> NOTE: To read about my experiences as an American in Dumaguete meeting my now-wife Marilyn for the first time you can jump to this post, and then use the links under "Previous Dumaguete Notes" to navigate. Or, continue below as I share our ongoing experiences with immigration. Enjoy! <<<

When I first began to ponder the idea of bringing Marilyn over to the U.S. from the Philippines, it was indeed an intimidating thought. However, I found solace in the writings of fellow Americans who were kind enough to share their experiences with the immigration process. At every point along this journey, from inception to the present moment, I have forged friendships, both online and outside of the virtual world, with those who have walked in the same path. As a way of giving back to all who, knowingly or unknowingly, helped guide me through this adventure of a thousand steps, I wanted to provide an immigration timeline that nicely summarizes the path Marilyn has taken from Dumaguete, Philippines to the U.S. If you are about to embark upon a similar journey you must take heart, for you do not go alone. God surely goes with you, as do so many friends who have been there...friends you have yet to meet.

Okay, enough of the wordy introduction...:)
  • January 18, 2007 - K-1 (Fiancee) visa petition is received by USCIS
  • May 16, 2007 - We receive notice that our petition has been approved and forwarded to the NVC (National Visa Center) for further processing
  • July 27, 2007 - Appointment for medical examination (Note: Due to Marilyn's lack of a real street address in Dumaguete her application packet never arrived. I received a copy of her appointment letter a few weeks before her exam, so she had to locate the appropriate application materials and complete them in a matter of days. In the end, though, it was still more than enough time...phew!)
  • August 3, 2007 - Visa interview appointment and subsequent approval (Thank the Lord! She said the consul who interviewed her was stern at first, but then became quite warm and easy to talk to)
  • August 11, 2007 - Marilyn recieves her K-1 visa via courier
  • August 16, 2007 - Marilyn attends her CFO counseling program. This is a day-long class required by the Filipino government for all citizens wishing to leave the country. Marilyn took her class in Cebu.
  • September 12, 2007 - Arrival in the U.S. in the great city of Minneapolis. A few hours later she takes a connecting flight into Detroit where she is greeted by myself and six other members of the family.
  • October 20, 2007 - Beautiful wedding ceremony in Lansing, Michigan
  • December 7, 2007 - Adjustment of Status application (I-485), work authorization application (I-765), and supporting documents are mailed to USCIS.
  • January 8, 2008 - Date of biometrics appointment.
  • February 11, 2008 - Employment authorization card received in the mail. Now, Marilyn can be an official taxpayer! :)
  • February 25, 2008 - Date of initial interview for adjustment of status.
  • March 31, 2008 - Welcome letter received from USCIS. Marilyn has officially been declared a conditional permanent resident of the U.S. Yippee! The notice mentions that her green card should arrive in 3 weeks.
  • April 4, 2008 - Green card arrives in the mail. Wow, that was a quick 3 weeks ;)
We now have a bit of down time since our next immigration step will be to file the I-751 after Christmas of 2009.

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Monday, February 25, 2008

Adjustment of Status (I-485) Update: Initial Interview Completed

Many worlds removed from the warm sun of Dumaguete, Marilyn poses in our snow-covered yard in Cincinnati.

Marilyn had her green card interview this morning. Of course, being the basis of her eligibility for the green card, I was asked to accompany her. I'm not quite sure what I was expecting, but the "Request for Applicant to Appear for Initial Interview" we received early last month sounded rather threatening. It plainly stated that a failure to bring all items in the included checklist would result in a denial of the application. Well, I was rather sure we had everything we needed, but some of the items were written in rather ambiguous terms. How could I be absolutely positive that we had both the originals and copies of all supporting documents submitted with the application? What exactly is a "supporting document", and how could I know that I was thinking of the same thing they were? Or, what if we didn't have the proper documents that would "substantiate our relationship"? Then, I tried to remind myself that our interview was with a human being, not a robot. There is a certain level of subjectivity to be expected on the part of the interviewer, and that is exactly what we encountered. The officer was friendly in her questioning and there was even time for some casual chatting after the interview was finished...far from the stereotypical robotic or blatanly strict demeanor we seem to attribute to such officials.

Overall, I'd say the interview was no more than 15 minutes, though we were in the waiting room for over an hour. We arrived 25 minutes early for our 10:30am appointment, but weren't called back until about 11:15am.

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Monday, January 14, 2008

Biometrics and Adjustment of Status and EAD, Oh My!

Marilyn with one of her many new Filipino friends at a New Year's Eve party in Fairfield Township, Ohio

The seemingly never-ending immigration process continues, but at least it is a bit more bearable now that Marilyn is actually here. Still, I will be quite glad when all of the paperwork and appointments are finished. Sadly, that won't happen for another five years (when she can apply for citizenship), but it will thankfully become much more intermittent from here on out.

We filed Marilyn's I-485 (Adjustment of Status) and I-765 (Application for Employement Authorization) on December 9th. A few weeks later we received a notice containing her biometrics appointment information. The hardest part of that appointment was navigating through downtown Cincinnati attempting to locate both the J.W. Peck Federal Building and an available parking spot. In retrospect, my first foray into the bustling metropolis was rather uneventful. I actually took a vacation day from work in the event we were tied up for the entire afternoon, but after arriving 40 minutes early we were immediately waited upon and finished about 15 minutes before our noon appointment. I didn't actually accompany Marilyn back into the room where her fingerprints and photos were taken, but I could see her. I'm not quite sure why they call it a biometrics "exam", though perhaps it refers to the fact that her fingerprints will be examined by the FBI to insure she has no outlandish criminal history heretofore unknown by anyone. Anyway, the lady who actually took the biometrics told Marilyn to expect her Employment Authorization Document (EAD) in about five or six weeks.

We have our initial interview for the adjustment of status on February 25th, though it's anyone's guess as to when the actual green card will be processed. The sister-in-law of my co-worker was approved for hers about six weeks after the interview, so we'll see...

Ain't waiting fun? ;)

Friday, December 21, 2007

Adjusting to Life Away from Dumaguete & Following the K-1 Visa Trail

Marilyn sharing a special moment with her friend Cy Beny hours before leaving Dumaguete.Marilyn sharing special time with a friend, hours before leaving Dumaguete for the U.S.

It was over three months ago that Marilyn boarded a plane for Tokyo, leaving behind family, friends, and all she had ever known. Her journey would eventually span over 9,000 miles, culminating in an emotional homecoming of sorts in Detroit, Michigan. It doesn't seem so long ago, but in that short span a few major events have occurred:
  • we were married on October 20
  • we found a new house
How's that for an action-packed 90 days? ;) That doesn't include the daily struggles that Marilyn must face as she adapts to a brand new culture. Needless to say, her plate is full, but thankfully we have been doing some networking with the local Filipino community in Cincinnati, and that has already provided some great support for her. Once she receives her authorization to work she should begin to feel right at home :)

Marilyn and I experience our first Christmas together. Too bad there wasn't any snow left in Michigan, but the temperature felt like Christmas ;)

Here is Marilyn again during Christmas Eve. I was testing out the new camera ;)

I began this blog as a narrative of life in Dumaguete during my relatively brief two-week adventure in 2005. I had so many memories that I wanted to detail in writing and share with friends, family and anyone who happened to stop by. However, I have since abandoned this format in favor of providing intermittent updates on our immigration process, as that has been the central focus over the past year (though you may still read about my Dumaguete adventures starting at this post).

Friday, November 09, 2007

Long Way from Dumaguete

The long wait has finally ended. Marilyn officially arrived in the U.S. on September 12th, and our wedding date was October 20th (in Lansing, Michigan). Despite the short amount of time to plan, we could not have asked for a more blessed day. God is so good!