Permanent Residence a.k.a. Green CardMon, 13th Jul '09, 7:55 pm::
After being in the US for nine years, as of today I am a permanent resident alien a.k.a. a green card holder. Juliet and I had our interview in Tampa and other than a long wait, everything went pretty smoothly. We had memorized so many little things about each other because the USCIS (previously known as INS) interviewers do whatever it takes to find out if the marriage is bona fide or not. If they suspect that the marriage is not real, they separate the couple and ask them questions independently, like "What was the last movie you saw together?" or "When did you last go out to a restaurant together?" However in our case, we weren't interviewed separately and the interviewer didn't ask any difficult questions because it was pretty easy to prove using our existing documents that our marriage is indeed real.
We have joint bank and stock accounts, we bought a car together, we have spent our holidays with each other's families, we filed joint income taxes, and we refinanced our house together. The view of the INS is that real couples do all these things because it makes better financial and social sense for couples that intend to stay together for the long haul to plan their finances and social lives together. Fraudulent green card marriages usually have tell-tale signs like separate bank accounts, separate assets, spending holidays away from each other etc. The other thing that made our case easy was that neither of us has ever been arrested or been in legal troubles aside from a parking ticket or two.
I am very thankful to all the people who helped us with this entire process. My coworkers Kelly & Vinnie, my boss Eric, and most of all, my friend Arthur who agreed to be the co-sponsor along with Juliet because she is in school and does not have a full-time job at the moment. Arthur was more than willing to help us in any way he could and unlike me, did not procrastinate on preparing any paperwork. INS requires that the sponsor of the green card via marriage (i.e. the US Citizen spouse) hold a full-time job to support the applicant (i.e. the immigrant spouse). If the Citizen spouse does not have a full-time job, the couple needs to find a co-sponsor with a job who is willing to spend a LOT of time preparing documents and mailing paperwork.
We hired an immigration lawyer, Mr. Creighton Shafer from Diaz Shafer in Tampa, because I did not want to get into problems because of technicalities like above. Had we not hired an immigration lawyer, I would not have known about the requirement of a co-sponsor in our specific case and would definitely have been in some trouble because of it. I'm sure eventually everything would have worked out but missing or incorrect paperwork often causes months to years of delays, during which I couldn't leave the country easily. Fortunately, our lawyer told us the right way to go and we got Arthur involved as a co-sponsor from day one.
Mr. Shafer was with us all day today and had made sure beforehand that we had every single document in order. Originally I had planned on going through this process on my own but later realized that there are so many gotchas when it comes to US Immigration laws that the best thing to do is revert to a professional. Since our case was pretty straightforward, it would have been possible for us to be fine without a lawyer and Mr. Shafer himself assured us of that, in case we could not afford his services. However, we went ahead and hired his services because honestly, I did not want to take any chances with the INS in case there were any issues. Thankfully there weren't any.
After the interview, Juliet and I celebrated by having a big lunch at P. F. Chang's in Tampa. We had the biggest dessert they offered and as usual, I ate 90% of it. We got home, napped for a few hours, and here I am.