Dokodemo Door!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

K-1 or not K-1?

The story of Mari's Green Card is so uneventful as to be banal.

I came back to the US from Japan in early 2005, Mari came 5 months after I did. Our plan was that she would enter, we would get married a few months later, and then we'd apply for her permanent residency status.

I was somewhat worried because it would require her to enter on a B-1/B-2 visa (temporary stay for business or pleasure) rather than on a K-1 visa (the famous fiancé visa). Why? Well, entering on a K-1 visa would require her to get married within 90 days and that wouldn't have meshed well with our wedding plans. With a B-1/B-2 visa, she could stay for 6 months before having to change her visa status.

I ran this plan by the visa section of the US Embassy in Tokyo. I phoned them while I was still in Japan (it wasn't a free call, running something like $7 for ten minutes) and the jittery-sounding fellow on the other end advised me that there wouldn't be any serious problem with our plan. But he said it in a way that didn't inspire much confidence.

I returned to the US, followed by Mari 5 months later. We did as planned: we got married after several months, filled-out the astonishingly thick pile of forms required for a Green Card, paid something like $700 in fees (the fees were raised to $1,900 this year!) and scheduled her interview.

The interview was something we were rather nervous about. If you miss it, it's not easy to reschedule. The interview was intended to gauge the authenticity of the marriage; we were to bring various proofs of our relationship (i.e.: photos of ourselves gadding-about with relatives, photos of the wedding, that kind of thing) and get our life narratives straight. Part of me imagined that we'd be questioned separately by officious-looking gasbags under hot lights in one of those inquisition-style rooms with a two-way mirror.

On the appointed day, we marched into the chilly new immigration building downtown which had clearly been built with the Oklahoma City bombing in mind. Inside the doorway, we were required to clean-out our pocketses and cram everything into an airport X-ray machine under the watchful eye of Wackenhut rent-a-cops. Water bottles were not allowed.

We entered the appropriate office and the interview took under 15 minutes. The office was like what you'd imagine a middle-aged female civil servant's office would look like, complete with a tchotchke bowl of chocolates on one corner of the desk. The interview was really no sweat at all and I could've done it standing on my head. I wonder what all the fuss was about?

This was followed by fingerprinting and Mari's application was finalized.

Sadly, some people didn't have it so easy. Making mistakes in getting visas and permanent U.S. residency status can sometimes lead to Kafkaesque results. I imagine it's even worse if your spouse is from a controverial country. Feel free to read a few of the horror stories at American Families United.

One sample:

David, an American citizen, met his wife Karina at work. After giving birth to a son, Karina returned to her home country to see her own family and they were married. From outside of the country, David and his wife started the immigration process. David was honest and reported the offenses of a sub-contracting company that employed his wife. No matter, his wife was barred from entering the country for 10 years, effectively banishing David and their son as well. In contrast, the company that employed workers illegally and hid information from the government faces no sanctions. David and his wife have had another son since, but they have been prevented from visiting David’s parents with their new American baby.


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