Posts Tagged ‘life abroad’

Getting My Green Card part.I

In Green Card, United States on March 10, 2013 at 12:35 am

It’s been a while now since I’ve been meaning to talk about my experience applying to become a permanent resident of the United States, but I promised myself I would wait until my green card is set in stone so that I can give you as accurate of a perspective as possible. While for many this is a nerve-wrecking and agonizing process, I personally found it straight-forward, mostly painless, and do I dare to say easy? Well, easy as in no more difficult than writing a long, multiple-answer exam with a bunch of open-ended questions on a subject you suck at … which is actually not as bad as it sounds. You can still get it right with an average amount of effort, if you know what I mean.


Disclaimer: I’m not an expert and I’m only speaking from my own experiences.

Luckily for everyone, U.S immigration law was nicely straightened down over the last couple of years (thank you, Mr. Obama) so that virtually anyone who didn’t cross the line too many times can navigate the system with more or less sweating involved.

In this post, I would like to give you a general idea about the different issues – formal & informal – that surround the process. If you are interested in more formal details, stay tuned for Part. II. of this post.

Family-based Green Card Overview

Generally speaking, courtesy of an extensive grey area in the immigration law, spouse/fiance of a U.S citizen can normally expect lenient treatment from the U.S Citizen and Immigration Services – even in case of accruing illegal presence. As immediate family of U.S residents are considered priority applicants, the existence of such grey area allows people to make mistakes and/or accidentally omit bits and pieces of information, and still not get screwed up for it.

Through my observation, I concluded that the majority of people is frightened at the prospect of single-handedly completing all the paperwork, especially if they do not have higher education or aren’t confident in English as their second language. For this reason, it is a pretty commonplace practice to hire an immigration lawyer (which we did not end up doing). In fact, it is hard not to resist when you are just starting out your research when all you find is personal testimonials turned marketing materials advising you passionately against going forward with the process without consulting a professional immigration law firm.

In my impression, however, the USCIS resources are written in a language  plain enough for virtually anybody to educate themselves about their legal rights, or at least to figure out their options. But since their is no size that fits all, if your situation is  unique, complex, or/and you simply do not trust yourself with paperwork, you will certainly be better off with someone else doing the work for you. Now – if you can afford it.

The bare legal fees and hidden cost behind the most basic adjustment of status application comes down to around $2,000. Now, holy cow! Working with an immigration lawyer entails paying anywhere between $1,000-$3,000 on top of that. This is definitely not the kind of money people have just lying around, especially in times of economic meltdown. For me personally, not even a peace of mind seemed to be worth as much. After all, my overpriced bachelor’s degree should have (at the very least) taught me how to do research and follow the instructions…

 * * *

There are several types of circumstances that put you legally in the position to apply for the adjustment of status to that of a permanent resident. I’m only going to speak about the immediate family-based type as that is the only one I have first-hand experience with.

The fast track to permanent residency, as widely known of course, is through a marriage to a lawful U.S citizen/permanent resident, in which case however, people working at the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services are extremely alert to instances of fraud and as a rule of thumb give you the green light upon meeting these 2 basic key requirements:

a) you must prove “the bona fide status” of your relationship,

b) you must not have had the intention of becoming a permanent resident at the moment of entering the country (unless you entered on a K1 Fiance Visa)

If you are in a genuine relationship, collecting “the evidence” can be meticulous, but in practice it is actually pretty fun. The latter, however, is one to really be careful with.  I was coming down from Toronto on a tourist visa when me and Nathan got married in Texas. We were actually just spending a couple of weeks in the South before moving back to Canada for a year. I could have technically started my adjustment of status process right there, but it would have only complicated the situation. From the legal perspective, if I had been planning to get married in the U.S, I should have applied for a K1 visa rather than entered on a regular tourist visa. Second, if I applied within the country, it would obligate me to stay in the country (which I didn’t want to do just yet). We could have also theoretically file documents in Canada via U.S Consular services but the process is known to be a lot slower if you undertake it outside of the U.S.

For all of the above reasons, we strategically planned for me to enter on a F1 Student Visa the following summer.  I completed my summer academic course first, and then submitted my application as my grace period was about to expire (F1 students are given 60days to leave the country following completion of their program).

In other words, we looked into the nature of the legal consequences surrounding different immigration paths very early on. We were then able to identify the easiest legal path and purposefully arrange to file the application in the most favorable circumstances possible. This way we avoided legal traps, extra costs,  and  most importantly we were absolutely comfortable with the prospect of staying the U.S for the immediate future.