Wednesday, July 22, 2009

10 Hints for the Green Card Application

The mass of papers and junk and forms you have to fill out if you want to bring your spouse to the USA is daunting, but here's a few tips from me.

There's the time line, good to know:
  1. Fill out all the application forms and get the needed documents
  2. Reserve a date and time (2:00PM or 2:30PM) at the American embassy in Tokyo.
  3. File those papers on that date. (Only you need to go, but both of you is better.)
  4. Receive a package from the American government.
  5. Schedule an interview at the American embassy in Tokyo.
  6. Get your background and health check done.
  7. Go to the interview. (Only your spouse needs to go, but both of you is ok.)
  8. 2 weeks or so after the interview you'll receive your visa. You have to go to the USA with in 6 months of getting that visa or it will become void.
What if you're not sure when you want to move to the USA? In my case I'm planning on going back to the USA for grad school sometime in the next 5 years. I haven't even picked a school or applied. So why did I start Yuko's green card process now? Because between step 4 and 5 you can wait for as long as you want. So we can hang on to this packet and sit on it till I figure out when I'll be starting school and when we want to move to the states. We'll schedule the interview sometime 3-4 months before our arrival in the USA.

Some of those PDF's don't let you save your work half way through so block out an afternoon to sit down with your spouse and fill them in. Make sure to print out 2-3 copies just in case. Also, don't fill them out by hand. You can do it all on the computer, it looks much better.

You might need a someone else to help prove you can provide for your spouse in the USA. Here's the deal. You need to prove that the person you're bringing into the USA won't be a burden to the public welfare and health care systems, so you need to prove that you can make a steady income. I make my living in Japan as a bartender and teacher. I cannot prove that I can make the same amount of money working the same jobs in the USA, so I will need to get a co-sponsor. I think together the sponsors need to prove that they have $18,000 in the bank or as income.

You'll need to prove you're relationship with pictures and notes. Don't bring in your whole family photo album and actual letters. Copies work. I printed off another copy of our wedding announcement letter, two posts from this blog about Yuko, and I skimmed my photo library for any photos of Yuko and me and printed them out contact sheet style.

The application requires passport style photo of you and your spouse. The form says "most Japanese photo booths take acceptable photos" but they don't say which setting to use. Most Japanese photo booths have 4 photo sizes. Choose the one where you'll get two 50mmX70mm photos. It's commonly the last option. When you get to the embassy there are photo cutters you can use to make the photos 50mm square as per the instructions. Don't forget they have to be in color. There is a photo booth inside the embassy, but it costs ¥1,000 and what happens if it's broken?

Getting into the embassy is like getting on an airplane. There is a full security check. Don't bring your laptop or a bunch of electronics since you can't take them in with you. For the electronics you just normally carry (I had my camera, ipod, cell phone with me) they will keep that for you in the guards booth. You can't bring drinks into the embassy, but there are vending machines on the inside.

A copy of your spouses' family register will work for her birth and marriage records. When you got married s/he got their own. You'll need to translate it however. I made a template you can freely use. There's a so-so version on google docs, but if you email me I'll send you the nicer looking Pages or Word document.

Be organized! It makes this process easier on you and them. I didn't think I did anything special, but the clerk told me my application was the most organized he'd ever seen. That was the greatest complement ever! My Filing Technique is Unstoppable! (P.S. David Rees is great and check out how Jamba Juice totally ripped him off.)


Get started on the I-130 Petition Checklist page! Good luck!

I hope this helps. Yuko and I are only on step four and I'll try to keep you updated about the rest of the stuff.


McAlpine said...

Don't do it! Don't take her back to the States!

David said...

Uh, I need to go to grad school and she want's to live abroad also. We'll be back in Japan eventually... hell, we haven't even left!

sixmats said...

Excellent info. I don't plan on going back anytime soon, but it's better to be prepared. Just in case.

Smilingcake said...

Are you serious ? And all that just for bringing spouse to whom you are married home ? :)

Why not just leave that country alone and become expat ?

David said...

I want to go to grad school.

I want to hang out with my mom.

The Yuko wants to experience living in another country. (Why do I get all the fun, you know.)

Everything in this world requires dealing with things like this. It's part of being an adult. You can deal with it, and be at it awesome. Or, you can complain. I like being awesome.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info!

Do you have any idea how long the whole process takes if you don't wait between any of the steps?

Thanks again!

David said...

Depending if you can get a reservation when you want it, and if there are no hick-ups I'd say a couple of months to half a year. We've postponed going to the states for a few years now so I'm just sitting on everything.