How To Marry A Non-US Citizen and Move To The United States (Part 1: Frustrations With Form I-130)

There isn’t a whole lot of help on a niche topic such as this, except maybe from an immigration attorney or from message boards full of people complaining. I’d rather not waste money on something I can surely figure out on my own (or by consulting friends who have gone through similar challenges). And I prefer not to read the whining on message boards since I have enough whining to do on my own.

As a US citizen not currently living in the US the process of marrying a non-US citizen (specifically a Polish citizen) and moving to the United States is complicated, confusing, frustrating, and generally anger-inducing. Hopefully this will help others who are in a similar situation, if for no other reason than to commiserate. And hopefully this doesn’t mess up my and my wife’s lives in the process. Meaning, I hope when all is said and done we’ll both be allowed to live happily ever after in the US.

I will try my darndest to keep emotions out of this and stick to the facts. But I know that’s difficult so you will probably see anger and irrationality seep out on occasion.

My thoughts right now

I feel like a criminal. Guilty until I prove otherwise.

You fell in love in a foreign country and got married? Ha! Well, let’s see if your love can withstand all the hoops we’re going to have you jump through. I hope you’re wearing comfortable shoes and a cool temper because these hoops are on fire.

OK, I’m being hyperbolic. But it’s not completely off base. Onwards …

USCIS01

I want nothing more than to move back to the United States with my wife. I’ve been traveling or living overseas since 2009 and I’m tired of it. I’ve been living in Poland since 2012 and it’s time to move on. But before moving on I needed to figure out how to bring the love of my life with me. I thought it was going to be quick and easy.

My wife and I had been dating for nearly 3 years and I decided last year I was going to propose to her on Pi Day 2015, a geek’s favorite US “holiday,” March 14, 2015. It was a special once per 100 years Pi Day, 3.1415, and I wanted to make it more special. I like themes and got her an infinity engagement ring to keep things going on theme. I also hand-made an engagement ring box out of curly makore. That’s not on theme, but it turned out quite nice and I like making stuff.

After hearing a few horror stories about getting denied a fiancée visa to the US my wife and I decided to get married in Poland. This way there could be no fiancée visa denial with the accompanying time delay. We wanted to get married in the US, but so it goes sometimes. Thankfully my wife is good at going with the flow so we went to the courthouse and scheduled a civil ceremony in short order. There was no real wedding party although my Parents took two weeks off, flew to Poland and we got together with the extended families for a small 4 hour celebration. Truth be told neither of us like parties so that worked out OK.

But if you read into that you can probably tell I’m not completely happy that we felt forced into the decision to get married in Poland. But so it goes. Whatever made it easiest (or so we thought) to move to the US.

You might be thinking, “well, why didn’t your wife just visit the US on a tourist visa and get married to you while visiting?” First, because that’s not legal. Second, because my wife is educated (Master’s in Econometrics) and wants to work (and currently works at a large multinational you have heard of). If we had gotten married on a tourist visa — and many people do — she wouldn’t be able to work for a long time. So, as much as we want to live in the US, we’re also not going to do something stupid. (Thankfully, I’ve been working online for the past 15 years so I have some freedom and can stay in Poland for however long it takes.)

And we do want to live in the US. My English-speaking wife hasn’t been yet, but I love it in the US. Sure, it has its problems. But I feel like, more than anywhere else, these problems are solvable. I know that’s my bias shining through, but it doesn’t change the fact that I’m happy I grew up in the US and would love to be able to live there again and use it as our homebase. But I feel stuck in Poland. In no small part due to (read that as: 100% due to) a frustrating and confusing US immigration process for spouses of US Citizens. Particularly for spouses who are Polish citizens (my wife) and couples who got married in Poland (my wife and I).

Can I point out again that I am a US Citizen? I feel like I should make that stunningly clear.

As a US citizen I am allowed to live in the USA without any issues, of course. As a US citizen I am not allowed to bring my wife to live with me in the USA without a multitude of issues.

I obviously understand that there needs to be some kind of process to move a US citizen’s foreign spouse into the country. But you’re going to have a hard time convincing me the current process is the best, or anywhere near good. It’s terrible, demoralizing, time consuming, and expensive. If you don’t mind spending an unknown amount of time apart from your spouse the process is fine. Still terrible, but fine. It’s easier to handle all of this stuff if the US citizen is in the US.

How time consuming is this process?

Well, nobody knows. Maybe 6 months. Maybe 2 years. Maybe somewhere in between. Maybe never?

And how expensive?

The fee to file Form I-130, Petition For Alien Relative is currently $420. Don’t worry, it’s going to cost more than that since this is just the first form. But I don’t mind the fee(s). What I have a problem with is the uncertain (and long) time frame, and how to even pay the fee in the first place. To wit: “Bank drafts, cashier’s checks, certified checks, personal checks (See Check Instructions below), and money orders must be drawn on U.S. financial institutions and payable in U.S. funds.

As a US Citizen living in Poland I must file with the USCIS (United States Department of Immigration Services) Chicago Lockbox facility. Let me repeat that. I am living in Poland. I must file Form I-130 in Chicago, Illinois, USA. I cannot go to the US Consulate or Embassy in Poland or in any other European country (Poland is in the European Union). And there is no online or phone payment option. Can you figure out how to pay $420 in US Currency while not living in the US while simultaneously using a US bank? Me neither. Confusing and anger inducing already, and we haven’t even begun the process.

I do have US bank accounts of course. And they do have bill pay type check writing services. But there is no way to get one of those checks sent to me for me to include with Form I-130 so that’s not a good option. And I don’t have any normal checks from any of my banks. (Who uses checks anymore anyway?)

When I got to the bottom of filling out Form I-130 there was a possible solution. Section F: Signature of person preparing this form, if other than petitioner.

I am obviously the petitioner since I am petitioning for my wife’s entry to the US. But it seems I can have somebody in the US complete the form for me. Can this be? So my plan is now to send a completed form (or the information to complete the form) to my Dad (also obviously a US Citizen) and have him sign it and pay the fee. Hopefully this will not be a waste of $420, but as of this moment it seems it’s the only viable option. It does worry me to no end that this will mess everything up, but I don’t see any other good options.

Other forms that need to be filed with Form I-130

– 2 copies (one for you, one for your spouse) of Form G-325A, Biographic Information. Interestingly, it asks for an Alien Registration Number which, of course, your spouse will not have yet since he/she is not a permanent resident as of yet. Figure that one out and you get a cookie.

Form G-1145 if you want to get an e-mail or text message when your Form I-130 has been accepted. Yes, yes, I do. It’s the only logical, rational, intelligent aspect of this process so far.

Now that I have a headache and am sufficiently depressed I’ll stop here.

In Part 2 I’ll cover Form I-129f, Petition for Alien Fiancé(e). What? Another petition? Yes, Form I-130 establishes the spousal relationship and Form I-129f petitions for a visa for said spouse (or fiancée). The fee for this form is $340, but I don’t think I have to pay that. Coming soon …

“Besides the obvious luxuries what do you fantasize about when you imagine being super rich?”

This question was posed on Reddit recently and the responses are … interesting.

I wanted to go through the popular comments (those with 1,000+ upvotes) and offer up why or how some of these luxuries are obtainable without being rich.

But first, my answer.

I don’t fantasize about “obvious” luxuries anymore. Maybe that’s because there was a time when I did and when I finally got those luxuries it wasn’t luxurious. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t “rich.” I just had more money than I knew what to do with (the year I was 24 I earned ~$300k USD) and I didn’t have good examples of people doing smart things with money. That’s a lie since my Parents were a great example, but they were/are also more traditional than I am and I didn’t want to follow their lead. Although some of their advice was to buy a house, which was bad advice for me, and I listened to it. Basically, I was kind of your typical “young and dumb” guy who wanted to be rich and own stuff I didn’t really want. It wasn’t until I made friends with people who didn’t have a lot of money, but did a lot of traveling and other fun things, that I began learning how to live a better life. Luxurious in a different way. And not expensive by any stretch.

Also, for the record, I wasted nearly all the money I made in my 20s. Although I was smart enough to seed a 401k and other retirement accounts which will suit me well in 30 years.

OK, so that’s a bit of a cop out answer, isn’t it? So here’s my direct answer: if money was of absolutely no concern I wouldn’t spend any time figuring out how to pay for my sometimes wacky ideas (Roller Coaster Tour, for example). I would also buy a large piece of land and build a camp for friends/family to use. I’m actively trying to make this happen right now, and there are many hurdles. Mostly the cost of nice land and getting other people on board since I can’t bankroll it all myself. (Also, I’m currently not in the US which throws another kink in the situation.) This is still kind of a non-answer because I still do the things I want to do: travel, read, think, build things when I can, take lots of time for myself. All being rich does is solve the money problem. But solving the money problem is part of the journey of doing fun things and I don’t know that I’d appreciate life if that problem wasn’t there. (I readily admit this may just be a rationalization.)

So, onto Reddit. There were lots of answers to this question as it was quite a popular thread. Let’s get to it.

The luxury of time

This one is pretty simple. Not easy, but simple.

  • Get out of debt.
  • Stop spending time and money on wants.
  • Save more.
  • Earn more.

These can be done concurrently.

Why does this give you the luxury of time?

Because when you’re not in debt you’re not forced to work more than you want to. When you stop spending time and money on wants (as opposed to needs) you have more time and money for yourself. And when you save money you can pay people to take care of the needs (cleaning your home and cooking, for example) that you don’t enjoy doing or you feel are a waste of your time.

Earning more is actually optional at this point. Though if you earn more it can obviously expedite your buying of time.

Traveling where I want when I want. Being able to just jump on a plane go somewhere without plans and just get a hotel without reservations.

I get this. This is almost my idea of absolute freedom. Except that I’ve travelled like this and wouldn’t like it full time. I suspect you wouldn’t either. I do like this style of travel every once in a while because it’s incredibly fun. So, again, I get this. (Actually, our honeymoon was, “Let’s go to the train station and take the next train leaving to somewhere we’ve never been.” I live in Poland right now and we have an extensive rail network.)

Here is how you can make this happen, although it has limits and I admit that. By doing it this way you will be able to test it out and see if you even enjoy traveling in this manner. Maybe you’re more of a planner than you thought.

Sign up for airline and hotel credit cards that have signup bonuses.

Gather enough bonus points from them to take you anywhere you want for a week. I think 100k (OneWorld or Star Alliance) airline miles should do it. Likely less, but I’ve never booked with points on a whim and am unsure if there are extra costs involved. I’m not sure exactly how many hotel points you’ll need, but it’s easy to figure out on the relevant hotel’s website.

That’s it. Only one real step and a bit of time.

To sustain this lifestyle will take a bit more work, but you could still do it with credit card points if you work hard at it. There are people who devote a lot more time to airline miles than me so just use Google and find them.

Not having a job.

OK, this one’s a bit more difficult. I could just say “quit, go on welfare” but I don’t think that’s practical.

That said, maybe it is. See, all you said was you didn’t want a job. So what do you have to take care of? Food, clothing, and shelter.

Shelter is possibly most difficult. While you still have a job, buy a bicycle and a tent. My friend Darren travels the world living like this, but you could do it by staying closer to home.

Next, food, clothing, and other things. Dumpster dive.

Yes, I’m serious.

Check out how much free food Rob Greenfield eats. It’s incredible.

Then check out Matt Malone who dumpster dives for electronics and sells what he finds, earning tens of thousands of dollars. That takes care of your clothing and other expenses. Possibly even enough for an apartment.

You could argue that this is a job. I would argue that I’m solving your problem and since you won’t be earning a paycheck it’s not a job. You could argue you don’t want to dumpster dive. I could argue, OK, that’s fine, me neither. But I don’t mind working.

Elaborate practical jokes. I’d hire 5,000 people, give them each $1000 to spend in a Walmart store and just buy everything on the shelves. A week later, after the store has replaced all their inventory with new merchandise, send all 5,000 people back to return everything they bought.

This isn’t nice. But let’s get my morality out of here!

If you really want to do this you only temporarily need $5,000,000 (5,000 x $1,000) since you’re returning all the merchandise. So the real problem is not that you’re not rich. The problem is you need to borrow $5MM.

To be honest, all my ideas for borrowing $5MM are only speculative and I don’t have a good answer. I just wanted to reframe your problem. This is a creativity problem, not a wealth problem.

Conducting large scale very expensive science and social experiments. Is it possible to cause rain by boiling massive amounts of water? What happens if every resident in the most crime ridden communities receives $1000 a week for 5 years?

You’re misunderstanding how and why it rains although I wouldn’t mind seeing you attempt to boil the water out of a lake (or even a pool) just for laughs. As for the other, fair enough you’ll need to be quite wealthy for that one. That’s $260,000 ($52k x 5) per resident. For a fairly small crime ridden community such as Flint, MI you will need $25,938,380,000 (99,763 residents x $260,000). There are only a few humans with that kind of wealth so you’ll have to consult with them as to how to make that much money.

Extensive travel and super high end dining.

See previous answer about travel and credit card points. The super high end dining isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, but I can understand why you’d want to try it. If you can save $2,000 (5 meals x $400) for your next trip and use credit card points to pay for the trip you can use the $2k to experience the high end dining instead of what you’d normally spend on flights/hotels. Massage the number as you see fit. Not every high end dining experience is $400. Some are more, some are less. Do it how you want.

I don’t feel like doing (whatever). I’ll pay some chump to do it.

Not the best attitude, but let’s ignore that.

See previous answer about the luxury of time. It’s simpler than you think to “pay some chump to do it.”

Handmade clothes. All clothes I own are tailored especially to fit me out of my preferred fabrics. I can grab anything out of my drawers and it all looks good together.

Let’s tackle the latter part of this first. If you want all your clothes to mix and match it has nothing to do with if they’re handmade and tailored to your body. But let’s ignore that and get to the handmade tailored clothes situation.

Let’s go with 1 suit ($2k), a pair of dress shoes ($300-500), and 7 tailored shirts ($100-500 each). This can all be had for a few thousand dollars, depending on your preferences. So, save up $5,000 and you’re likely good. Especially if you fly to Thailand on your credit card points to do it.

I’m ignoring casual clothing, but it’s easier to find well fitting casual clothing than it is nice work/dress attire.

So from the time I was a wee lad I always wanted a blimp. My family has joked about this enough that being super rich in our house is referred to as “blimp money.”

Hehe. You can lease one for $2,000 – $10,000 per month, which includes 8-64 hours of flight time per month. So now your new problem is coming up with an extra $2k/month. This is doable in myriad ways. I don’t know what that looks like for you specifically but it can be done. And you don’t need to be wealthy, just willing to throw away $24k+ per year. At which point you’ll probably get bored of having a blimp because it’s not going to impress anybody as much as you seem to think so. (I didn’t include the commenter’s whole message about impressing a girl because it was too long so read it on Reddit.)

A home theater. Screw mansions, cars or any of that stuff. All I want is a really nice home theater to watch movies. If I was rich I wouldn’t even buy a house. I’d buy an old theater and convert an upstairs floor into living space.

This took a turn from “home theater” to “non-home theater.” Being rich won’t help you figure out what you want, but it will allow you to have both.

Home theater: this is open ended, but it can be nicely done for a few thousand dollars. I’m not going to break it all down because it is so open ended. But you can likely already afford this.

As for buying an old theater, this is more difficult. Because first you have to find an old theater for sale. You can find them for about a million dollars right here. That won’t be easy, but it is doable. Especially since you can take a business loan out for one of these if you’re going to run it as a working theater. Maybe don’t tell anybody you’re living there though.

Paying for my parents’ retirement

This is a simple math problem. Your parents are going to get social security benefits which will cover something. The rest depends on lifestyle (and whether your parents already own a home), but you won’t need to be rich to take care of this if you want to. The biggest expense will likely be medical, but it’s too variable to determine without any more information.

Not working. I couldn’t care less about the luxury shit, I just want to not work.

Answered above. You could get by without working if you really wanted to.

If I was SUPER rich I always loved the idea of just going to random houses/families and giving them X amount of money. Nothing huge but enough to make their year somewhat easier. $20,000? Would be worth it to see their reactions.

This is one of those things where, yes, if you want to give $20k to random people on a regular basis then you’re going to need to be rich. But! If you want to know how this might feel you can start with $100. I never mentioned this story before, but just before christmas some time ago (I was 25 or 26 at the time) I got a handful of $100 bills ($500 total), went to a Goodwill thrift store, and handed them out to people who were buying toys. My rationale was if someone is doing their holiday toy shopping at a thrift store then they’ll probably appreciate an extra hundred bucks. It was interesting. The smiles and thank yous were great, but it didn’t actually personally feel as good as I had imagined. It actually felt awkward for me, but that may be due to my social anxiety at the time.

Conclusion

I’m now down to Reddit comments with less than 1,000 upvotes so I’m going to stop here. A lot of these “I wish I was rich” fantasies are far more obtainable than you might’ve imagined. Hopefully this got you thinking about how to create the life you want to lead instead of continually fantasizing about the life you don’t have.

The Biggest Problem With Alternative Medicine

If you’ve known me for any length of time you know I have no tolerance for quackery and lies. But my biggest problem with homeopathy, astrology, reiki, psychics, “healers,” et al. is not the lies and thievery. My problem isn’t even that a lot of these beliefs can actively cause you and your loved ones harm.

My problem is that smart people waste their time debunking the quackery, thereby taking time away from doing work that could further society. We know data doesn’t often work to convince people of something they don’t already agree with — and may even make people dig their heels in further on false beliefs — so it’s mostly all for naught.

If, for example, you have the patently wrong belief that vaccines cause autism or other medical issues then the data isn’t going to change your mind. You already know the data. But you listen to Jenny McCarthy. Sadly, my pointing this out is likely causing you to stick to your beliefs more strongly.

And so it goes as more people waste time trying to save you from yourself.

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If you’re interested in inoculating yourself against irrational thinking I give my strongest recommendation to Your Deceptive Mind by Dr. Steven Novella: http://amzn.to/1EG5m7i

I have listened to this 24-part lecture nearly 5 times since late 2014. I thought I was a decent critical thinker, but I had and still have a lot to learn. Your Deceptive Mind has helped me become more empathetic towards, as well as more vigilant against, quacks of all types.

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