How I met my wife, fell in love and got my green card. Thanks America!
By Neil Singh
I am not new to the immigration process. My parents migrated from the Island of Fiji in the Pacific to Australia when I was two and then eventually to New Zealand, where they settled. As a result, I spent nearly 34 years of my life in the trans-Tasman or Australasian circle, with the majority of that time in New Zealand, where my family adopted citizenship in the late 1990’s.
Today, people worldwide are able to communicate with relative ease using the Internet. In my case, online games led to me meeting my wife, Kristen, in 2014. With me in New Zealand and Kristen in Cleveland, there were definitely challenges we both had to accept in forming our relationship. It took more than two years of letter writing, video conferencing and communication for us to establish that we were right for each other and that it was time for us to move forward and test the tangibility of our relationship.
In September of 2016, I decided that it was time to take action and visit the USA. At first, I spent much time, many months in fact, researching my best options for coming here. New Zealand happens to be one of the few lucky countries that shares a Visa Waiver program with the U.S. New Zealanders can visit for up to 90 days without a visa.
So I opted to visit the U.S. by applying for a visa waiver, not knowing what to expect when meeting Kristen. I booked my plane tickets with a return date to New Zealand within the 90-days allowance. I figured if our relationship was indeed genuine, as it seemed then, living together as a couple for three months days would certainly validate it.
I arrived in Texas from Auckland on December 26, the day after Christmas. Two months later, Kristen and I decided it was time to make a serious commitment.
Because neither of us knew the immigration process very well, we looked online thinking that we could follow the typical Fiancée Visa application and change my status from a tourist on a visa waiver to a fiancée of an American citizen. That would have been a mistake.
That process would have required me to return to New Zealand once my travel visa ended and then wait nearly 18 months to be reviewed, interviewed and processed by the U.S. Embassy in Australia. The last thing I wanted to do was to go back without knowing when I could see my loved one again.
Global Cleveland referred me to Erin Brown, who operates an immigration law firm in Cleveland. Erin was candid. She asked me whether I wanted to stay here or not and what steps was I prepared to take to make it possible.
My goal was a Permanent Resident card, also know as a Green Card because it once was green. As a Legal Permanent Resident, or LPR, I would be allowed to live and work permanently in the United States and could apply for citizenship down the road.
The staff at Global Cleveland provided me with guidance and support at this challenging time when my immigration status was in limbo and often I did not know what to do. Wenzhu Sun was especially helpful. She had gone through the same process to be with her husband, who is from Cleveland. She explained to me how things worked and constantly reminded me to stay positive.
So I visited Erin Brown and discussed my case. Erin outlined the fees and the conditions of the application in a contract and confronted me with a decision earlier than I expected. She advised that we should get married and file a new application with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
On the 13th of March, 2017, Kristen and I got married. I returned to Erin, who then guided me through the immigration process step by step. We had to submit the following documents to USCIS:
- I-130 Petition for Alien Relative
- I-485 Application to Adjust Status
- I-765 Application for Employment Authorization
- I-131 Application for Advanced Parole
- G-325 for Petitioner and Beneficiary (enclosed within the I-130)
- I-864 Affidavit of Support from petitioner and co-sponsor
- I-94 Admission Record
- A sealed medical examination conducted by USCIS approved clinics
- Birth certificates and passports
It was a lot of paper work, and each step of the process took time. We filed in March. It took four months for USCIS to process the application. The cost including, legal expertise, was around $4,000. If you choose not to use a lawyer, then you can probably do it for about $2,500. But I recommend an immigration lawyer. It is a lot of paper work and not wise to make mistakes on any of the forms required in the process.
Each form was submitted at the request of USCIS and followed by certain testing processes conducted by the Department of Homeland Security. These include a biometric test, where I had to report to be fingerprinted and have my eyes scanned for a background check.
Finally, there was a face-to-face interview.
I dressed formally, as instructed. Both Kristen and I were ready to answer personal questions. We were asked for details about how we met, how long we had known each other, our communication prior to me coming to the USA, and whether we had met before my arrival. (We had not).
For genuine couples like Kristen and I, these questions were no problem. We know each other very well and have spent years forming a close relationship.
The interview took about 30 minutes. At the end, we were told that my application was successful.
I can’t describe the feeling. I was relieved. It had been many months of waiting nervously and hoping that the outcome would be successful. The focus was very much for my wife and I to start our lives together.
With a green card, it means we can finally create the life and family we want. I was very happy and so was my wife. When I told my family, they were happy as well.
I worked hard in New Zealand to earn my master’s degree in business and marketing but the career opportunities were just not available to me in that smaller country. Coming to the USA means greater opportunities because it is a much bigger country, one that appreciates innovative, creative and entrepreneurial people like myself who desire to contribute and create success here.
In my heart, I know that this is only the beginning. It is simply one opportunity and must be used as a foundation to create others and this is how I feel now.
*My immigration process is unique to my situation and will not necessarily apply to you. I hope you enjoy my story, but I caution against applying it to your own situation if you hope to immigrate to America. Each case is different, and so is the process that the U.S. immigration system demands.