Our Immigration Story, Part 3
Telling the story of my husband Kevin and I immigrating to the United States, is a story of privilege. Many are not so lucky and as such if you have the means and are interested in fighting for minorities rights please think about donating to ACLU.
If you haven’t read the whole story, you can catch up here
It's always when things seem to be going well that someone forgets something and it all goes a little crazy. When it comes to our immigration process everything so far has been going well. The day we got our EADs, two other envelopes arrived as well. These letters informed us of our second appointment at the immigration office in Milwaukee. The letters always arrive two or three months before the date so we had lots of time to prepare for it. I didn't think anything of it and neither did Kevin. Including when he got an email from work detailing a list of things that needed to be prepared for the appointment. He registered receiving the email but life got busy and it was forgotten until eleven days before appointment. This is where the little crazy comes in, because the list was rather long. After some minor panicking we were able to complete about 90% of the things we needed. Our printer ran out of ink before we were finished printing but for the most part we had everything needed and just had to wait for Amazon two day shipping to complete things. While the situation was stressful at the time there are two things really stick out, proof of relationship and I-693 forms.
First was needing documentation that our relationship was legit. It's not really something you need think about, especially after being together for 13 years! It also made me realize how little I print or keep records of the two of us outside this blog. Kevin wouldn't need to prove this fact just me, as he has the work visa and I’m the dependent. Gathering documents to prove our legitimacy was just a matter of pulling a lot of documents together:
Current and previous leases of joint tenancy.
Copies of jointly filed Federal Tax returns.
Joint policies of life, medical, car and/or home insurance to include documentation the policy is still in force; also documents showing me as main beneficiary.
Copies of driver’s license showing we share the same address.
Jointly held bank accounts, utility bills, cell phone, credit cards, memberships, etc…
Photos/itineraries of any trips taken together or special life moment.
Any other documentation you feel would add support proof of a bona fide marriage.
We were also told that my blog would be something we could show to them or that any social media we wanted to show would potentially help. Out of all the social media challenges, Facebook tends to be the easiest to pull up as it's the easiest place to find pictures of us from the beginning. Ironically the banking information was the easiest to gather. I do not keep statements, in fact I shred them because storing paper is annoying. If I had been in Canada and needed three years of statements, I would have had to go into a branch and pay ten dollars per month of statements, and it would have taken a week. But here I was able to get it all online and into PDF's that I was able to print. Super handy.
The second piece is where complications came into play. The I-693 is a report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record, and because we weren't aware of needing this until eleven days before the appointment, we were rushing around trying to get it done. This is not something you should leave till the last minute because it is not an easy process. I wasn't able to get Kevin into see a doctor until the day before our appointment and the paperwork would take up to two weeks to process. Meaning there was no way to have the documents in time. It wasn't a form his doctor could do and which meant going to a different clinic and paying for the visit out of pocket. Thankfully his mom had records of all his vaccinations as a child. While we didn't have the documentation ready in time for the appointment, it wasn't a huge effort to gather.
I was in a bit different of a situation. I was unsure of my vaccination history. My doctor was able to fill out the form for me, so after a visit and some discussion, they attempted to get my medical records from Canada. This was hugely frustrating as records are only kept for ten years, all documents are paper and I don't know name or locations of doctors from childhood. Besides the huge amount of bull crap served to myself and my doctor's staff, we did not manage to get any vaccination records from Canada. The first call said I could get them if I filled out a form and paid a dollar per page. Then next call said they only gave out documentation to doctors. The third call said I had to prove I was who I was, all because maiden name vs married name. And the fourth call was just a straight out no. Granted, I know that there are multiple people with my maiden name and date of birth in the system, so it can be super hard to find me in the first place. Frustrated we decided on blood work to test my levels and go from there.
We knew that there was no way to have these forms for the appointment, so we talked to the immigration staff at Kevin’s work. They said to go ahead with the appointment and if the I-693 was needed, they would give us time to submit the form (apparently this rule has changed since our appointment).
The thing with immigration is they have the right ask for all kinds of documents but they don't always ask. So you have to prepare for anything and everything. There is a huge amount of privilege to be found here. While we had to prepare a lot of documents, a good majority of it was prepared for by my husbands work and their lawyers. They even sat down with us eight days before the interview to chat about the documents and answer any questions we had. That prep and help took a lot of the stress from our shoulders. Yes, we were stressed about getting everything but we weren't alone.
Second Time at the Immigration Office
We had as much prepared as possible, and far too quickly, the day arrived and once again we were driving to the office. The appointment was later in the day so we did not feel the need to leave the night before. Instead we got up at our normal time, enjoyed breakfast and was on the road by 8:20am. We spent the drive listening to an audiobook. When we got to the office we were three hours early and decided to hit up a coffee shop before heading in. We hit up the Brewed Cafe, a quirky little cafe shop and enjoyed their drinks for two hours, before then heading back to the car to review documents and drive the three minutes to the location.
We parked and headed in. Only to walk in the door and realize we forgot to plug the meter, so we stepped out. Then after going through security, I realized I forgot my wallet, so I had to go back out and grab that. We made it through security eventually and headed up to the first floor. Spoke to one person, was directed to another person, this person looked at the letters we had been sent (that we remembered to bring with us this time), commented on my hair and then directed us to have a seat. So we did. There was a terrible baking show on the TV present and a room full of people. I am not great at waiting and I had already finished my book from that morning, so Kevin and I shared headphones and continued listening to our audiobook while paying attention for our name. 45 minutes later we were called and followed a lady down a hall.
I felt some irony in realizing how much sexism I still hold in myself. When I was called by a lady, I immediately thought "oh a woman, this won't be too hard." But that's not accurate at all. Women can be very tough and you never know which way a situation is going to go. My next thought was if we talk at all about my hair this will be a breeze because it's hard to be fully serious when you are talking about blue or purple or silver hair, all colors I have had and given photos of to immigration. But even with those thoughts, we have been coming from a place of privilege. Having a sponsor who has taken great care to prepare all the documentation you will ever need before hand and giving you copies, just in case, makes a difference.
We arrived at her office, she confirmed our names, and then had us swear to tell the truth. She took our pictures and imprints of each index finger and then worked through documents she had, check marking things in a red pen as she went, asking questions. She asked to see our passports (including Kevin's old and new one), our I-94s, and Kevin's work letter. The last document she asked for was our I-693, the Medical Examination and Vaccination Record, which we did not have. With that she signed off, had us sign, and printed off two letters for us requesting that document and we were done.
These letters stated that the I-693 needed to be mailed to the immigration office by particular date and once it was received and processed our application would be regressed and proceed from there. Regressed is an interesting term and this was the fourth time I had heard it. I still don't fully understand it, but I believe it means that our application will be held until another batch of green cards was available. Then she escorted us out. We stepped back into our car, sat down, and laughed with relief. The stress was passed for the moment and all the build up was gone. We both happened to look at the clock at the same time and realized that us being an hour early had again paid off, we were sitting in the car seven minutes passed our appointment time. Feeling a lot lighter we drove home to wait out the doctor's and continue the process.
Mix Up at the Doctor’s
Two days after we got home, we picked up Kevin’s documents from the Doctor’s. We already had mine and just needed his to finish things off. The second Kevin stepped back into the car and I saw his envelope I knew something was wrong. My envelope did not look like his, mine was just a standard one with nothing fancy. His was sealed, stamped, and initialed. We talked it over but figured it was fine as my doctor had insisted she was certified, so we put it out of our minds until he met with the immigration staff. Turns out my envelope was wrong, my doctor was not certified, and now we were two weeks before the deadline. The medical form has special rules, it needs to be done by a certified doctor, placed in a sealed envelope with special stamps and initialing. It can not be tampered with.
There are a few things that caused this situation. The biggest being a miscommunication with my doctor and the staff at the clinic. I had tripled checked while booking the appointment with the staff that she was a surgeon general, then again with the staff when I arrived, with her personally during the appointment, and again when it became apparent that she had never seen this particular form before. I was reassured that it was fine. All said she was certified and it wasn’t until I came back in showing them the different envelopes that they realized there was an issue. Once everyone was on the same page, it became a matter of fixing it fast enough for me. I had already gotten the required testing and just needed the approved doctor to do the paperwork and a quick visit. I managed to get it the next Monday, one week before the paperwork was due. A very lucky thing, as they are usually booked out a month ahead.
I showed up for the appointment, explained the situation. She looked over everything and said she would see what she could do and I left. The doctor and her staff were amazing and had everything ready for me that afternoon. I was able to gather up all the documents and take them to the immigration staff, who mailed them out the next day. This felt like a miracle.
With the documents on their way, it became a matter of waiting. Would our application be approved, how long would it take it find out, and how long would it take for the green cards to arrive. Our fingers were crossed that we would get them before August 2019, as that was when we were thinking about traveling to Canada to visit family.
Will continue on December 17
Project 365 has images that line up with a lot of the events I talk about in this post. Day 234 - visit to the doctor's office. Day 242 - the two of us in the coffee shop. Day 264 - finding out my envelope won’t work. Day 267 - at the doctor’s office again.
NOTE: I really do love my doctor, she’s fantastic, this situation was just an odd one.