Sunday, 19 June 2011

A marriage of inconvenience: starting the visa journey

I've updated this blog with a number of backdated posts that I couldn't publish until after our wedding, although I ditched most of those about my DIY wedding dress as my mum documented the process of making the dresses rather wonderfully, here.

After the wedding, which was a blast, Mr Husband and I went away for a short but sweet honeymoon in Malta, and then spent a week relaxing in Scotland. I had half an idea of taking Mr up to the Highlands, but after all the buzz and excitement of the week leading up to the big event, and the travelling afterwards, we were happy to have a relaxing week at home. It also gave us the chance to begin the visa process for me to go to the States, and it was so refreshing and lovely to be able to tackle the tasks together rather than through laptop screens!

Several people have asked what happens now, and after asking if they are genuinely interested (and discovering that they are), I'm happy to explain:

The first step in this process is "filing an I-130 Immigrant Petition for Alien Relative". This is a form that a US citizen (USC) fills out to say that they have a relative in another country that they would like to bring to the USA. In our case my husband is the USC and I, his wife, am the direct relative (or 'Alien Relative'). This is a petition for me to be approved to apply for a visa. My husband is the petitioner and I am the 'beneficiary'.

We both also had to fill out forms with biographical information about ourselves, our parents, our birthplace(s), and every address we'd lived at for the past five years.

In addition to those forms, we had to include copies of birth certificates, passports, marriage certificate, US passport sized photos (which are a different size to UK passport photos), and evidence of an ongoing marital union. In our case we included: notarized affidavits from Mr's family members, joint invoices and contracts for wedding items, tickets from trips abroad together, tickets from trips to see each other, emails and facebook wall posts, photos, and evidence of my name on Mr's savings account (to show 'co-mingling of finances' as they like to put it).

The package was over an inch thick, and was sent to Chicago along with a cover letter/contents page, and the filing fee of $420.

This is but the start of the 'Visa Journey' and to be honest, most of that journey involves sitting, waiting patiently for nothing much to happen. But there are some points to note and some interesting quirks about this part of our paper-based adventure:

- We haven't hired a lawyer. We made the decision after familarising ourselves with the processes and the forms over a period of months. We decided that most of the required information is personal, biographical information that we (should) know best, and that we would rather be in control of the process at this stage rather than add an extra link for potential delays and errors.

- These are just the first lot of forms we'll need to do. So far it's not a visa application, but rather a petition for eligibility. We have to prove two essential things: That we are who we say we are, and that our marriage is genuine and in good faith.

- That's by no means the only fee we'll have to pay. We joke that ours is a marriage of inconvenience, though it will certainly be worth it in the end!