The “you are preselected for a new credit card,” and the junk mail from cable companies are some of my least favourite kind of mail! The kind you rip up or shred without even taking a look at them. On the other hand, the white envelopes with the US citizenship and Immigration Services blue logo have become some of my favourite kind of mail.
At each stage, they have heralded some little step forward.
This time we are moving a leap forward!
Last week, RM and I headed to Albuquerque for our immigration interview at the USCIS office. The atmosphere was orderly but less tense than for our biometrics appointment. The security guards were efficient but friendly making jokes.
Don’t discount the making jokes. You see, USCIS is notoriously not interested in making jokes with non-us citizens. Aliens, legal or otherwise are treated a little differently (to say the least) at immigration points and offices.
As an example, let me share a little personal anecdote: When my husband and I arrived back into the US after our wedding, we were directed to go through immigration together even though I was on an Australian passport. At this point, I should note that RM and I had different impressions of our encounter with the immigration officer: I found the officer helpful and more friendly than usual – I made sure to answer his questions, and to reassure him of my plans to leave the country and the date of my return ticket. RM, on the other hand was suprised that the agent asked so many questions of me and so few of him. You see, I found the encounter much more relaxed than I would in the “non-American” line and RM experienced just a little of what it is like to be an alien in America.
We waited about 30 minutes to be called. The muffled voice of the immigration officer at the window made it hard to tell who he was asking for, but in the end it wasn’t the window that we were going to be interacting with.
A petite older lady with white hair came out of a side door and asked for “Mr and Mrs Blanch” – I think that’s the first time RM has ever been referred to my last name (but perhaps not the last). Before we entered the hallway, she warned us about the yelling we might hear from another office. We followed her down the hallway into a small office. As we sat down across the desk from her, she told us about the video camera that would be filming the interview. She then requested that we stand to be sworn in.
To tell the truth is not hard when the truth is all you know.
We sat with our files and binders full of documents that we had already submitted copies of with our application, examples of our life together, the original letters we have sent to each other when we were still living on different continents.
We answered questions about where we live. She noted that my file should have been annotated with “military spouse” but that it wasn’t. I answered questions about my own military service, and about whether I’ve ever been a member of the communist party or killed anyone. I haven’t.
The immigration officer noted that she already had all my documents, including my medical documents, and the financial statements of sponsorship prepared by RM.
After about 20 minutes, she told us that she was approving the I-130 petition prepared by RM on my behalf, and then shortly after, the I-485 adjustment of status visa application. This means that I have been approved for a CR6 visa.
This means that I have a conditional permanent residency visa on the basis on marriage to a United States Citizen. After 21 months I have to apply for the conditions to be removed. At that time, the visa will be adjusted to an IR6, which is unconditional permanent residency, with the card valid for 10 years.
Yep, I am now a fully paid up member of the Green Card Club. Believe me when I say fully paid up — this process is very expensive!
The next obvious step will be an application for citizenship. In most cases, a citizenship application cannot be made for 5 years. However, as a consequence of RM being active duty military, I will be able to make an application in 3 years from the date of the card production for the CR6. There are a couple of other events that could shorten that timeline. For example, should we receive orders overseas, or should RM be deployed for over a year, then I will be immediately eligible for US citizenship.
So, I’m going to start thinking about citizenship classes sooner rather than later because I really don’t know what is around the corner and I want to be prepared.
This experience has helped me develop a greater understanding of US immigration law, and the emotional and psychological experience of being an immigrant is a peculiar experience all of its very own. Definitely food for thought in terms of my professional aspirations.
Disclaimer**This is a personal account of part of our immigration experience, this is not to be considered legal advice and you should consult your own attorney before acting on any aspect of the way we’ve gone about our application for relative immigration**
copyright 2014: Anna Blanch Rabe
Please ask for permission before using these photos or text in any medium.
Listening. Observing. Participating. Writing. Photographing. Reflecting.
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Anna Blanch Rabe is an Australian-born writer and photographer. You can follow her adventure on Not A Pedestrian Life, or Facebook. For more domestic things take a look at Quotidian Home or her previous website, Goannatree.