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 …
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 …