Welcome to guest blogger – Wandering Seattleite! Visit her blog seattleiteimagery
Two weeks ago my British husband and I flew into LAX. He handed the immigration officer his sealed manilla envelope, waited in a sterile lounge for an hour, and came out a legal resident of the United States of America.
When I married Dan almost five years ago I had some idea how big a role immigration officers would play in our relational logistics, but this past year it hit home. Every day for 6 months the Green Card was on our minds: How long’s it going to take? What if Dan doesn’t get in?! Moving across the world is stressful enough without all the legalities.
Now that my alien spouse has finally made it into the country, the whole immigration process seems far away. But I’ve had lots of people back in England ask me for tips for getting their aliens into the States. So, whether you’re in the throes of the Green Card application process, or just thinking about what it will look like in the future, here are a few helpful tips.
1 – Have a meticulous husband
I can’t recommend this highly enough. Honestly, my husband’s detail orientation came into it’s own here as I watched him fill out the overwhelming and tedious paperwork I’d have placed in my “to do” pile(s) for months. Don’t worry if your spouse is less than organized though – set aside a few evenings and force yourselves to fill out the boring papers/ locate documents, etc. It feels like a lot of work, but it’s not that hard, so just get on with it. Then reward yourself with a bottle of wine and dreams of Mexican food and Trader Joes shopping sprees.
2 – Do your taxes & get your police checks
It’s easy to forget about your US taxes while in the UK. Very easy. But proof of filing those bad boys is one of the things the immigration office is going to want from you in order to let your sweetheart in. If you’re a bit behind, this guide will sort your out – http://britishexpats.com/wiki/Taxes_filing_with_the_US_IRS_in_London
. Another potential hold-up could be waiting for the police checks from every country your alien spouse has lived for a year since age 16. It took about 6 weeks to get the Japanese police check through, so if your spouse is at all nomadic I’d get on it straightaway.
3 – Keep calm and carry on, damn it!
When we were going through the process, waiting for dates, biting our nails, trying to plan our lives, etc., those red WWII posters were everywhere. They were my daily reminders not to freak out, to channel my inner Brit and just keep calm and carry on. This mantra honestly helped. Thousands of people apply for Green Cards and are accepted every year, often without a high school education or grasp of the English language. If they can do it, so can you. It feels overwhelming, but keep it in perspective and stop worrying. You will get there.
4 – Don’t be afraid of Plan Q
Before we applied we had it all figured out. We’d get the Green Card within three months, find jobs from the UK and move seamlessly to Los Angeles to start our lives. Well, Plan A became Plan B became Plan Q. The Green Card took 6 months, we spent the winter in New Zealand with my in-laws (highly recommended) and now we’re living at my parents house on an inflatable mattress in Seattle looking for jobs. Not Plan A, but not the end of the world either. My advice is to reassess where you’re at every week or so with the process and create a variety of plans depending on how long things take. Flexibility is very helpful!
5 – Interview prep
When Dan went for his interview he got all suited and booted and said no one else in the waiting room made an effort. I’m not saying my man’s appearance got him in, but I don’t think it hurts to dress like you’re taking this whole thing seriously either. The interview took just over an hour and was basically a final check of all the paperwork he’d so diligently rustled up. The one odd thing was when he handed the officer a letter proving my London employment, the lady said I needed proof of American employment! This seemed like a Catch-22 – how could I get a job in America until I knew we could both move over legally? Anyway, for some reason they let him in despite my lack of dual employment (because he was so well dressed?), and we didn’t need to worry about it. I’m not sure how other people have got around this though.
This list isn’t comprehensive, but it includes some of the things I found helpful going through the joys of getting a Green Card for my alien spouse. Have you gone through the same thing or are you planning to? I’d love to swap immigration stories.