filing for US greencard (I-130) Advice requested.
August 2, 2013 2:34 AM   Subscribe

I am a US Citizen applying for a greencard for my Chinese wife so she can join me in the US. I am filing the I-130. If anyone has any advice in the process (such as what materials to include alongside the application), I would welcome the advice. Thx, -Matt
posted by earthwalker7 to Law & Government (14 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Visa Journey is the best place for all US visa questions.
posted by caek at 2:35 AM on August 2, 2013

Yup, VisaJourney, and in particular, here is an I-130 checklist.
posted by atlantica at 3:37 AM on August 2, 2013

My advice: Don't do this alone. Find an immigration attorney to assist you.
posted by Faint of Butt at 4:15 AM on August 2, 2013 [6 favorites]

Used to be an immigration paralegal. I agree that you should find an attorney.

Here are things you should include as supporting documents:

Marriage license
Photos of your wedding
Photos of you meeting each others families
Full copies of every page of both of your passports
Copies of both of your IDs
Copies of both of your birth certificates, your wife's with a certified translation
Letter of employment from your employer stating your salary
Bank documents showing a joint bank account held by you and your wife--this should have a good amount of money in it
Documents showing accounts (utilities, cable, gym memberships, car title) held jointly in you and your wife's name
Apartment lease or home mortgage shown jointly in you and your wife's name

And then you'll also need to pay really close attention to how you live together, because one of our clients was actually asked during their interview (husband and wife in separate rooms) which direction the ceiling fan in their living room spun.

You should get a lawyer.
posted by phunniemee at 5:00 AM on August 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

FYI, many people complete this process without a lawyer. However, you will most definitely need a lawyer if either of these applies:

(1) you cannot read instructions (i.e., the Visajourney checklists -- many USCIS instructions are truly incomprehensible)
(2) you are not good at paying attention to detail
(3) your case is non-standard / has "red flags"

Disclaimer: Not a lawyer, but hold a green card derived from a marriage to a US citizen (and did not use a lawyer).
posted by yonglin at 5:40 AM on August 2, 2013 [4 favorites]

I went through this process for my wife last year, and visajourney was very helpful. I lived in China and was able to file DCF (direct consular filing), so your situation may be different. According to my notes, in addition to the I-130 and G-325 forms, I included the following:
  • Copy of my birth certificate
  • Copy of all pages of my passport (to show Chinese visas)
  • Copy of my lease (to show residency in China)
  • Copy of Chinese marriage certificate, translated and certified *
  • Copy of wife's Chinese birth certificate, translated and notarized *
  • 2 Affidavits of bona fide marriage (one from a friend, one from parents)
* I translated and "certified" (swore correct) the Chinese documents myself, and was able to get my I-130 approved. However, for the visa application step of the process you'll need the official Chinese government translated documents -- birth certificate, marriage certificate, and proof of no criminal record -- from the Ministry of Civil Affairs in your wife's hometown. Some people have said that they were required to use these official translations for their I-130s, too. I say better safe than sorry.
posted by bradf at 6:41 AM on August 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I went through this process some years ago with Mrs. Tanizaki. This is largely a paper-pushing exercise, so a lot of people do go through it without a lawyer. However, we elected to use an immigration attorney to handle this paperwork. It made the process a lot easier and I think it helps to have a lawyer's name on the papers. If you elect to use a lawyer, this sort of work will be done for a flat fee. I think we paid $1,500-1,800. I think it was worth it.

At the end of the day, we were not asked any questions about the color of the carpet in the living room or if one of us snores. Our lawyer advised us that those sorts of questions as depicted in "Green Card" are rare nonsense. Perhaps they only occur if something smells about your application, but I think they are not SOP.
posted by Tanizaki at 6:55 AM on August 2, 2013

In China, anyway, the immigrant visa interview only involves the applicant. The US citizen isn't even allowed in the building. My wife wasn't asked any personal questions about me or our life together ... the interviewer didn't even look at our pictures. The only questions were: "Oh, you visited the US before? How did you like it?" and "Are you a member of the Communist Party?"
posted by bradf at 7:01 AM on August 2, 2013

We met with a lawyer for a one-time consultation, just to make sure that there were no "red flags" in our case that we weren't seeing. It cost $100. Then we just filed the paperwork ourselves. It was a lot of work, but not super complicated. I apply for federal grants as part of my job, so I'm accustomed to completing long confusing forms. I also recommend using VisaJourney to clarify the process and to measure your progress alongside others who have applied around the same time.
posted by jrichards at 7:01 AM on August 2, 2013

Former immigration paralegal here as well. Nthing consult/use a lawyer. Having a lawyer prepare and file the application is an admittedly expensive form of insurance. Even if there are no red flags, the US government occasionally randomly does weird stuff and it's better to have an attorney involved in the process.

If you do file the paperwork yourself, make copies of EVERYTHING you submit (not just a list, copy the supporting documents, all of them!) and send EVERYTHING by some form of traceable post (return receipt or overnight carrier). Copies and records will save your bacon at least once in the process.
posted by immlass at 7:22 AM on August 2, 2013

We did the whole thing without a lawyer, though it was a very simple case and I was emigrating from Australia, I'd suggest a lawyer if your case is in anyway different from the norm or neither of you is confident in handling the sea of paperwork or if you don't have a good grasp of English as the forms can be confusing in their wording.

I used Visa Journey, and found the checklists helpful, but the forums rather bitchy, but a quick check shows that may have changed.

The thing I found most helpful was this book.

Include every single bit of paperwork you can think of that shows a connection. Any accounts in joint names be they bank, utilities, rent etc etc. Photos of the two of you together, of your wedding of you in both countries if possible, with members of both your families as well which you indicate as this shows a true combining of families and label your photos to explain what is happening in them. At my interview we got more questions about a photo of my husband with my niece and nephew in Australia than any other thing.

Affidavits from people that know you are married and if possible were there when you met and dated. Copies of anything showing joint property together be it a house or vehicles (both if possible). Insurance policies. Make sure any joint bank accounts are active accounts with decent amounts of money in and that look like they are used, a joint savings account with $50 in and no transactions will just look weird.

You'll also need copies of Passports, marriage licences (divorce or death certificates if previously married). Your birth certificates and if you weren't born here then paperwork that proves you are a citizen/legal resident, the Visa Journey checklist and the one in the Nolo book I linked are both really good at making sure you don't forget the basic stuff.

You will need translations of anything not in English. It is best if you get 2 copies of everything and keep one copy of a file that is exactly the same as what you sent in, and keep the originals where you can find them easily too. I used a binder and plastic pockets to store our and it was 2 inches thick by the time I was done, but being systematic and organised really helps you make sure you don't miss anything and it looks great at the interview when you can just hand them the original documents, the interviews are their own special hell.

TL;DR - Check out Visa Journey and the NOLO book linked to above. They have great step by step checklists and the book even walks you through filling out the forms question by question.
posted by wwax at 8:20 AM on August 2, 2013

I've done this personally, and it is very possible to do on your own without a lawyer.

On the other hand, I grew up in India where we have perfected British bureaucracy into a competitive sport. ("Didn't fill out your withdrawal request in duplicate? Back to the end of the bank line with you...")

If you're organized enough and know how to deal with paperwork, you'll be fine.
* Just keep copies of everything.
* Remember that no matter what anyone else says - visajourney, NOLO, etc. - the form and the instructions that came with it are the only things that matter.
* Read and re-read the instructions, follow them in detail.
* Over-document. Form asks for A or B and C or D and E? Instead of parsing and risking failure, provide A and B and C, at least. Preferably E too. (D is safe to skip in this scenario.)
* If the consular officer has any objections, remember that resistance is futile - just jump through the hoops. You do NOT want a "Denied" stamp in your (her) passport.

Tell your wife Welcome from us.

(My "interview" in Sydney was a joke - it took minutes. But coming in as an immigrant: LAX Immigration is the face that the US puts forward to welcome foreigners? Seriously?)
posted by RedOrGreen at 3:14 PM on August 2, 2013

UK to US I-130 here, we did it on our own, and our experience closely parallels RedOrGreen's comments above. Above all else it seemed like an exercise in bureaucracy.

The over-documenting thing: yes. We had a lot of supporting documentation with our Affadavit of Support; very little of it was actually examined on the day. But I suspect simply looking like you're well-prepared and well-documented goes a long way in making a good impression.

No "what color is her toothbrush?" tricks in my interview either.

But coming in as an immigrant: LAX Immigration is the face that the US puts forward to welcome foreigners?

I arrived on a flight connecting through Houston. Sitting in that Texas waiting room after they'd taken my documents and disappeared with them into the back offices felt like the longest wait of my life.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 4:42 PM on August 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Our interviewer did look through our photos of the two of us together. He even counted the different places where we'd taken them. So, absolutely submit pictures! And put labels directly on those pics of where/when taken. Our friends' affidavits were helpful too.
I did my own file. No lawyer. Used the Visa journey guide.
Best of luck!
posted by Neekee at 11:17 AM on August 6, 2013

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