(written to give you an idea of what has always been at the back of my mind for these past months, as well as trying to help anyone involved in the process themselves. Note: this is a case that took place in Argentina, 2013-2014.)
In November 2013, I sent what is called the I-129F to the Dallas Lockbox (which just so happens to be located in my hometown). They received it and sent me a message saying that they would send that to the National Visa Center pending acceptance.
Included in the packet:
- cover letter
- check to cover cost of submission
- I-129F filled out
- G-325A filled out for Cristian and for me
- passport style photos of each of us (in a ziplock bag stapled to a piece of paper. labeled.)
- my birth certificate
- signed and dated letters of our intent to marry
- proof of having met
- proof of ongoing relationship
Proof means a plethora of receipts and photos and knick knacks (photo copies because they keep it) that show we spent time together on a regular basis. My first set of proof included a short list of items on a piece of paper and following that list the different items (again, photos, movie stubs, receipts, etc.).
Also, there is an option that allows you to receive notification via email as to when paperwork has been received. It is free and helpful!
Two weeks later, they had sent the dreaded RFE, or Request for Further Information. In one sense, it is dreaded because it requires more work. As I always like to look on the bright side, I was thankful that they didn't straight up reject us, and were giving us another chance. Plus, they sent it with about two months time to gather as much evidence as possible. Very helpful.
UNIQUE TO OUR CIRCUMSTANCE, but something to consider, is the mail system. Sending in the I-129F, I used the general postal service available to the country. Due to exchange rates (and not being on a deadline), I paid the equivalent of 15 dollars to send these important documents to the correct office, and it arrived in about three weeks. For the RFE, which is on a deadline, I sent through FedEx to guarantee its safe arrival.
The return messages were the downfall. While technically, the RFE was sent to me two weeks later, it did not arrive until 4 or 5 weeks had passed. "Or", because I happened to have been on vacation with my boyfriend when it finally made its way to my Argentine home. In addition, the rain had seeped through the poorly made mailbox and let's just say I used a hair dryer to get me out of that mess.
Moral of the story, what is your courier situation? If you are applying for your fiance while overseas, maybe the return address should be to someone you trust in the States who can send you the needed information must faster (the original RFE had to be included in the packet). Some information, as noted, is sent to email, but not all!
Now to the RFE. The RFE packet included:
- original RFE (made a copy for my records!)
- cover letter
- clearer information on circumstance of our meeting
- clearer information on on-going relationship
- subsequent proof
While the I-129F included a list of about 10 things as proof of our relationship, the RFE included 9 proofs from the meet cute alone, then 41 proofs of our on-going relationship. There were maps, credit card invoices (with a description of each purchase), more pictures (and this time with his family!), receipts, bus tickets, blogposts (practically like a diary!), and memorabilia from a conference we went to. Putting these in chronological order, labeling them well, highlighting the most important info (dates, proof that we were together in the circumstance described, etc.) took plenty of time. Not to mention, I made three copies of everything.
1 for the government, 1 for me, 1 for my (at this time) fiance.
Anything in Spanish was translated by a friend who majored as a translator, since I was not allowed to do them myself. She signed and dated all of the translations.
My debacle was due to the fact that I officially received the RFE after vacation; a mere two weeks before it was due!! Hence the further need for FedEx to get it there on time! Then, since you are given what is called a WAC number, you can daily check online for the status within the office.
In only 4 days, we were accepted!!!! In 3 weeks, we received the email about the next list of things to send, this time, to the embassy. In about 6 weeks, I finally received the letter explaining the acceptance. See what I mean about courier issues??
Thankfully, I had told Cristian about all of the vaccinations he would need and he had started all of this in October-November 2013. Our acceptance would last 4 months, or until June 27th, meaning the list they asked for would need to be turned in as soon as possible.
This is the list:
- DS-160 online confirmation (not the whole packet, just the confirmation)
- more passport style photos
- fiance's passport (any previous if they exist)
- birth certificate
- any previous marriage certificates/death certificates/divorce certificates
- any military record info
- police records
- court and prison records
- physical exam
- evidence of support
- evidence of relationship (again??)
- fee payment
- translations (this time outside of English or Spanish since it is going to the Embassy within the country)
- DHL registration
Once again, the embassy is really nice in this aspect. They thoroughly explain what they mean by each item on the list. Special notes include the need to legalize any official document (such as birth certificates or police records), so please include time to getting those signatures. Take note of how long a police record last. Some last for a year, some 30 days, and in our case, only 5 days. Passport style photos need to be current (don't send the same ones as for the I-129F).
MOST IMPORTANT!!!! Support and the physical exam. Let's go with support. Make sure you send in the document they ask for. There are two affidavits of support out there. One is for the visa process, one is for if and when the person already in the US wants to work. Include the bank letters, perhaps a letter from the employer stating how much one makes, life insurance policies (if necessary), W2s and the previous year's tax forms. Check the percentage of how much money will be needed to support the incoming visitor!
The physical exam. Will cost a little more money (as well as the fee.. woohoo... sarcasm..), and there are designated doctors for this kind of work. It will probably take a day to take care of this part of the list as there is a chest x-ray, blood tests, and a general look over. We were there from 8am to 3pm. It finishes with a packet that Cristian will have to carry with him on board the plane!
Two days after turning in our documents, we were sent an email of when the interview date would be. Other than the obvious of being on time, they might ask you for a few more documents. Bring a copy of the previous list any way.
Cristian described the interview process (as I was not allowed to accompany him). They get your fingerprints, double check your documents, ask you a few questions (in this case, focusing on how we met), and then hold on to the passport. Approved!
We were waiting for him outside the embassy, across the street. It was such a beautiful moment to yell for him and see him give us the thumbs up!!! We're gonna get married!!!!!