Friday, March 27, 2015

8 Misconceptions about the US Immigration Process

Wrong assumptions | 8 Misconceptions about the US Immigration Process

We Write... 

We must have received a number of suggestions and unsolicited advice from family, friends, and acquaintances on how we can be together through a successful petition to the United States. Aside from the advice, we’ve heard several stories about how other visa applicants prepared for their documents and interview to guarantee visa approval.

While some recommendations came in handy, there were also some suggestions that turned out to be either misconceptions or which were no longer applicable.

It was funny how the most vehement with advice usually came from those who never actually experienced the situations they were giving advice about. But we digress...

Below are some of these misconceptions as well as some of the most ridiculous recommendations that we’ve heard.

1. The forms are complicated and difficult. 

The forms and requirements are very comprehensible and easy to follow. They are not codes that need to be deciphered. One only needs to read the directions carefully, follow instructions and remember that thousands of applications are being processed at the USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services), which is why adherence is first and foremost. 

2. It could only be done correctly if you hire a visa consultant to help you. 

Hiring a law firm is something that we considered and explored for a while. But after a law firm representative asked Kira to write her name in Tagalog, we saw the idea as a waste of money. It did not help that instead of evaluating the initial documents that we forwarded to them, they prepared to submit our Form I-130 even if what we gave was an authenticated copy of our marriage certificate instead of the required NSO (National Statistics Office) copy.

These two instances made us decide that the processing was just too important for us not to be hands-on with our application. 

Hiring a law firm is still a couple’s prerogative, however. It still depends on the complexity of one’s case as well as the degree of comfort and how much control of the situation is wanted. Consulting an expert has worked for others. For example, a friend from Nevada hired a visa processor to double-check their submissions and to guide them through their next steps. 

3. You need to have known each other for years for the relationship to be “real.” 

The only advantage of having known each other for years is that you have had more trips, dinners, sent more cards and gifts and attended more social functions together- and this results in more evidence such as photos, receipts and plane tickets to submit.

We also heard that a history together- having met at a party 10 years ago, having mutual friends- would help cement the relationship in the eyes of the USCIS.

We knew each other only for 11 months when we got married. 

4.  Fiancée visa is the easier option. 

Between the spouse and fiancée/fiancé visa, the latter is supposed to be the quicker and easier way to be with your partner in the US. However, the approval of this type of visa still depends on the authenticity of the relationship and the compliance with all requirements.

Although processing a fiancée visa might have been shorter than the nine months that took us to process ours, it has several disadvantages. Coming here as a spouse, Kira received her social security number 10 days after arrival and her green card in less than a month.

Those who come here on a fiancée/fiancé visa need to file for change of status first before they can apply for social security and green card- and in extreme cases this can take six months to a year. 

5. If you’re going to be petitioned as a spouse, you must get married in a grand church wedding to be believable. 

About 80 percent of Filipinos are Catholics and a wedding officiated by a priest is still considered more binding by some. Spending a huge amount of money on a wedding celebration is also supposed to signify that the relationship is indisputable.

We neither got married in Catholic rites nor did we spend more than P20,000 ($500) for our wedding preparation and reception.

We got married in a simple civil ceremony with less than 20 family and friends as guests, but it didn’t mean that we loved each other less or that the marriage was not legal and binding. 

6. Your chances of getting a visa improve if you have been to the US. 

The notion is that if you can afford a trip to the US on your own, then you must have married your US citizen spouse for love instead of the promise of opportunities in the “land of milk and honey.”

It is also assumed that an applicant stands a better chance if he or she has traveled abroad.

This is so far the most discriminating misconception. If you have been to the US before, you will most likely get asked during your interview about the nature of your trip and further verifications will be made to check on the accuracy of your answers. 

7. If you make it to the interview, wear ethnic beads/clothes and pretend to be a member of a minority group. 

This is the oldest advice we’ve heard on this list. Looking back now, it just sounds so ridiculous.  Not that we mock those who wear their ethnicity loud and proud but if you are not a member of any minority group, this is tantamount to misrepresenting yourself. Also, it’s not really as if the interviewers are going to scrutinize your outfit and base their decision on your wardrobe and accessories. 

8.  You will be asked difficult questions about events and things that you know nothing about, and immigration officers intentionally set out to trip you up in the interview to catch you in a lie. 

When we went for the scheduled interview, we were fascinated by the whole process at the U.S. Embassy in Manila. Occasionally, we overheard faint conversations around us. We recalled one lady who was apparently processing for a work visa, and couldn’t answer some basic questions about her previous employers and about how she came across the job opportunity.

We were puzzled about how she made it that far in the process up to the interview, but wasn’t prepared to answer basic questions about her work history.

And then there was the man who fainted a few seconds into his interview. Apparently the immigration officer just asked where in the U.S. he would be going before he passed out and medics had to bring in a stretcher and an oxygen tank. We overheard the man’s wife relating the incident to passers-by.

Based on what we went through, we believe that the immigration system only asks you questions about things you should know, as well as confirms the veracity of your intentions. Of course, if you’re asked about facts that you made up, you’re bound to get caught in a lie.

Every interviewee takes an oath to tell the truth and nothing but the truth and signs the oath before finishing the interview. And if you’re building the foundation of your life as an immigrant on a lie, well, then maybe immigrating isn’t for you.

Most importantly, relax and have a decent meal before going to the US embassy because you will have to stay alert and awake as you fall in line at dawn for an early appointment and then wait for your number to flash on the screens.

One of the off-topic pieces of advice that we also used to get from friends and relatives is how the National Visa Center (NVC) will issue the visa quicker than we think, and how nine months or so of a wait time is small in comparison to the years we’ll be together. Even though the waiting was excruciating, it was a temporary thing and should be regarded as such. Falling into the trap of misconceptions, however, can feel like eternity if you make the mistake of believing them. #

Related Entries:

CLARIFY your case: Tips on completing Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative

No comments:

Post a Comment