Initially, I thought I wanted to write about the steps and process of obtaining the green card for K1 visa holders. But just before I started writing, my mind lead me to sharing tips on how to smoothly go through the process instead. It feels more personal, besides the USCIS website has an extensive and helpful information for applicants including forms, instruction in filling up forms, list of documents needed and even a tool to monitor your case.
What the website doesn’t have is my experience and the learnings I gathered from the whole nine yards.
I got my Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and Advance Parole combo card in early March 2019 and my interview for my green card was in June 13, 2019 and the green card arrived in June 22, 2019. That is 8 months since I sent my application in October 2018 and 1 day shy of our first year here in Hawaii.
With that being said, here are my tips to make your process of obtaining a green card less stressful.
- Get married as soon as you can. The basis of this article is the Fiance Visa or K1 Visa which provides that all holders of this visa, like myself, has to get married within 90 days of entry to the US. Dennis and I got married in August, almost 2 months after we arrived. Thinking about it, we should have done it earlier so then we could have applied for my papers earlier. Remember, you can’t apply for your green card or Adjustment of Status to Permanent Resident unless you are married and have a marriage certificate.
- Own the process. Unlike the K1 petition where it is the US Citizen partner who initiates the process, the green card process is yours. As much as my husband was there by my side, I knew it’s my responsibility. Setting my mind to this lead me to be on top of everything.
- Research. It’s crucial for me research because AOS is a very detailed ordeal and reading the forms, instruction, forums and asking questions helped me a lot in making sure that everything was complete. One miss could delay your approval for months.
- Gather your documents as early as you can. There is an extensive documentary requirement attached to the application and preparing and making sure all of them are available will be a huge advantage in the long run.
- Build your connection. We were asked for any billing or statement where both are names are there, only one I got was the internet and cable billing and our medical insurance cards. As early as you can, build your connection in paper as evidence.
- Budget it. This is tricky since K1 visa holders can’t work but talk to your husband/wife on how to pay for the $1200.00 fee. For my case, my husband paid for it (lucky me), but you got to figure out how to pay it one way or another.
- Do a all-in one application. There is an option to get a temporary work permit and advance parole, but there is a separate fee of about $500.00. I don’t think it’s worth it because it’s only valid for a few months.
- Start applying for jobs. Job application in every country is different- how applicants are screened and evaluated, interview dynamics are different and best practices vary, that being said, it might be good practice to get one or two interviews. I started sending applications on the 4th month of my green card application and it took 3 weeks to finally get an interview with a medical facility. Though they didn’t hire me, it helped me get to momentum until I found a job.
- Prepare your heart and mind for the interview. My K1 visa interview was less than 20 gruelling minutes. The green card interview took 20 minutes of sitting in front of the immigration officer and answering every question. You need to know your facts but it’s more important to know your heart because that’s your story.
- Be a team. The green card interview is an interview for both you and your US Citizen partner, so you need to do this as a team. Dennis and I were quizzing each other on dates and names days before our interview but morethan that, I knew that he’s with me all the way. Having him beside me as we tell our story to the person who will grant me my green card made me feel more confident.
- Never lie. There is no need to sugar coat or make your story more elaborate than it really is. The immigration people are not looking for fairytale stories, they only want a legit, lasting relationship. It doesn’t matter how it came to be or how ordinary you think it is, as long as it’s true, you’re good. We didn’t have a big wedding or an engagement ring and it was fine.
I wish I can say that the process of finally settling here in the US has been fast and smooth but it’s not. It’s a test of patience and focus on the goal. If this is really what you want, then accept that this is what you need to do. Eventually when all is done, you can enjoy it and you’ll know that it’s worth it.