My husband came to America a few years ago on a work visa. We met through friends and after slowly building a friendship, buckled in for a whirlwind romance and tiny wedding! When we started talking about the legalities of our relationship, we realized our safest route to not being separated by immigration laws in either of our countries started with a marriage based Green Card.
Recently we crossed the finish line on our Green Card Journey! Here’s how our timeline played out:
My husband, as a British citizen, was the “applicant”. As an American citizen, I was the “sponsor”.
We applied from New York City.
Most Green Card cases file three forms:
#1: Adjustment of Status (AOS) to change your legal status to a more permanent status, typically from a limited type of visa (like a work visa or fiance visa).
#2: Advance Parole (AP), which is temporary permission to travel out of the USA in case of emergency.
#3: Employment Authorization Document (EAD), to begin or continue working legally in the states. We filed for all three.
January 2020: After our Christmas Eve wedding, we took a few weeks to gather all documents, photos, and evidence.
We decided to use the services of Boundless (not sponsored!) to help us prepare our packet. This service was so helpful with navigating mistakes, forms, issues, or things we didn’t need to complete. We loved the option to email our customer service rep or lawyer at any time with questions- it’s natural to have tons of questions and not paying per conversation with a lawyer saved us money!
Boundless sent our packet to us when completed, with tabs for all pages that needed to be initialed or signed, and for pictures needing to be inserted. While working on the forms I created a scrapbook of photos with captions documenting our entire relationship and submitted it as our ‘evidence of relationship’. Boundless printed it in color with our packet.
Feb 21st, 2020: Mailing day! Included in the packet were forms for Adjustment of Status, Advance Parole, and Employment Authorization Documents. (I-485, I-131, and I-765); and checks for our fees. The packet was sent via UPS and sent to a Michigan drop box.
Feb 24th, 2020: We received a notification via text message that our application was received.
March 10th, 2020: Biometrics appointment notice arrived in the mail for an appointment on March 23rd, 2020.
March 12th, 2020: NYC shuts down because of an increase in covid-19 cases. We spend the next ten days watching the USCIS website for official notice of possible closures of our processing center.
March 23rd, 2020: On the day of his biometrics appointment, the website announces that the processing center is closed until further notice.
April-July, 2020: We spend an anxious few months mostly inside our apartment. The sounds of ambulances ring non stop through our neighborhood for months as seemingly everyone around us contracts covid. At some point we receive notice that the biometrics appointment would be rescheduled. The USCIS website has no update on when field offices will open again.
We feel unable to leave town because the biometrics request will only give us about a week’s notice before we would have to report back. We felt trapped in our neighborhood and isolated from friends or family. Our little fire escape perch becomes our one escape.
August 3rd, 2020: Biometrics appointment notice in the mail for August 10th!
August 10th, 2020: Biometrics appointment completed, and we set off into two weeks of car camping, so relieved to finally be escaping New York City.
August 18th, 2020: The USCIS website updates that our “Case is ready to be scheduled for interview”.
August 20th, 2020: Notification “EAD card is being produced”.
August 26th, 2020: EAD/Advance Parole card arrived in the mail. His EAD card was combined with the Advance Parole card, and granted authorization for my husband to work and for us to travel out of the states if needed.
Couples who have applied for AOS via marriage are not allowed to leave the country without the advance parole. If we had broken this law we could have had our entire application rejected!
Late Oct, 2020: Still waiting on an interview to be scheduled. Meanwhile a notice came with a second biometrics appointment scheduled. We were very confused but went anyways.
Nov 10th, 2020: Second “biometrics appointment completed” posted on our portal- it turned out some of his fingers required recapture. Apparently this is fairly common! We are glad we didn’t ignore this second summons and showed up for a second biometrics capture.
January-February, 2021: We try at multiple medical clinics in NYC on multiple dates to get medical checkup and packet finished, amidst covid packed clinics and employees not understanding what needed to happen. The approval came from an authorized doctor on a video call at a clinic!! Yet another crazy covid moment.
Feb 8th, 2021: Website is updated to “Interview scheduled”!! From our previous experience we assume we will get a letter sent to us in the next 14 days.
Feb 18th, 2021: There is a USCIS envelope shown in our USPS “Informed Delivery” email- but letter never gets delivered to our mailbox. We assume mail is slow from a recent snowstorm, but worry about missing our appointment. The end of this week marks an entire year since we sent our packet.
March 22nd, 2021: My husband has been calling the USCIS since 2/18 with no luck. After weeks of trying to get through to a Tier 2 agent (the only level where you can get answers about your case!), we receive notice of interview date via email from the agent.
Our interview was scheduled for three days later!! Thankfully we had kept our paperwork on hand. We spent the evening before our interview printing out every single piece of paper we think might be needed for our case, including updated bank statements, letters of employment, and a few pages to add to our scrapbook of pictures – including some photos of our newly adopted dog.
March 25th, 2021: The morning of our interview. The Interview took place in the NYC Federal Plaza- right across the street from where we got married at the NYC Marriage Bureau! Entering the building was similar to airport security and I wish we had given ourselves more time to get upstairs.
We completed covid screening and waited in a big lobby of people. I looked around the room and thought about how wild the journey of every single person in that room. Immigrants are the true heroes of America. This journey is not for the faint of heart.
From our seat in the waiting room on the 10th floor we could look down and see the Marriage Bureau where we got married just 15 months before. It felt so full circle to look down on where we were and how far we have come.
After about 20 minutes of waiting our case was called and we followed an immigration officer to his office.
We were surprised that our officer didn’t ask us anything about our relationship! He asked a few logistical questions about our apartment and asked what paperwork we had brought. He took lots of the copies we had brought and loved seeing pictures of our dog (obviously, he’s the cutest thing!). After a 10 minute interview, the officer gave us verbal affirmation that we were approved!
When we got home, our case had already been updated to reflect the approval!
March 26th, 2021: “Card has been printed”
We knew our immigration journey would have some bumps but we could have never foreseen the difficulty of Covid and having all processing centers closed for months.
In hindsight, our timeline was shorter than other NYC couples pre-2020, and I contribute that to the amount of people who moved out the city during 2020.
My advice to anyone in the Green Card process!
- Subscribe to USPS informed delivery emails.
- Make sure your apt. mailbox is secure and correctly labeled with your name (or request your mail held at the post office!).
- Get as many shared financial accounts, utilities, and documents as possible, and save all originals/make copies of everything.
- Get legal help from a lawyer or service (like Boundless) if possible!