When being In limbo is a gift: immigration paperwork

20140301-140607.jpgThe last 20 weeks have been a whirlwind. A whirlwind of changes, of immigration paperwork, of realising just how little i understand about being a military spouse. This time last November, RM had just proposed and we were figuring out wedding plans and all of the permissions needed for us to make our late January wedding date work.

But work it did and it was beautiful.

It required permission from different parts of the AirForce in different parts of the world. It was quite the introduction to life as a military spouse.

Life took on a new cast very quickly.

The next couple of months were full with both of us very busy with work and with plans to ship all my household goods in two separate shipments in advance of setting out on the Overland from Oz adventure. There was purging and packing, and saying goodbye.

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Then life threw us a curveball with me being able to travel to spend a little time with with RM in New Mexico after a two month separation instead of completing my Overland from Oz trip straight away. In the midst of this unexpected time together we were also able to put together the remaining aspects of our immigration paperwork packet. I was able to complete to complex medical examinations — including a chest xray to show I don’t have tuberculosis and enough blood draws and vaccinations to make my arms really sore for days – and for us to compile almost 200 pages of documentation and evidence that we have a bonafide marriage relationship.

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The medical examination process was quite the adventure — and not for the faint of heart. In as remote an area as we are located there is only one civil surgeon and so unless you want to drive for 90 minutes to find an alternative then you go where you are told. The doctor’s office administrative staff seemed confused about the availability of appointments and the cost. The cost for completion of the report was $450. This is an expensive process!

The doctor’s office was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. To say it was run down might not quite get at it. The skirting boards and door jams were missing, there were stained ceiling tiles, the floor was covered in dust (although to be frank that’s pretty usual around here), the upholstery on the patient’s examining tables were ripped, the cabinets in the consulting rooms were broken. It made for quite the contrast to the Medical Clinic on base where I had to have blood drawn, immunizations done, and a chest xray done. The military medical corps were professional, efficient, and focused on the big picture!

Having to have another Tuberculosis test was always going to be a frustrating experience! Even though I have records stating that I’ve had a TB vaccination, I was still tested by the civil surgeon, which was going to result in an inevitable reaction. Hopefully, I will never have to have that test again! So too, the civil surgeon had a strange request at one point — he wanted a note from my mother that I had indeed had Chicken Pox. I think I managed to convince him that I had had the chicken pox when I was a kid!

I was quite the pin cushion that week…i think it was a total of 8 needles in four days. I don’t even mind needles, but this wasn’t much fun.

In the end, I had to return to the doctor’s office three times before the forms were completed.

But this change of plans caused us to field another curve. Right now, until we receive a decision, I am not able to leave the country without it effectively cancelling our application (unless I apply for a parole document which still doesn’t guarantee that I would be able to enter the US after leaving while we have an immigration application pending). Thus, our four month old marriage needs a lot of documentation so that I will hopefully receive my conditional permanent residency and be able to travel freely to see my family. Yep, this immigration paperwork thing is not for the faint of heart!

For those following along who are maybe facing the same kind of situation, these are the forms we submitted in our Immigration Paperwork packet:

I-130 Application for immigration for a relative (including Spouse)
I-485 Application for adjustment petition
I-765 Application for Employment Authorization
I-864 Sponsor’s financial statement
I-265 Medical Report

In addition to all the forms and the money that is required to file each form, there is so much documentation that has to accompany each of the forms — as well as at least half a dozen passport photos!

The forms cost approximately $1500 to file including the biometric fees. So, in total, with the fee for medical examination and the fees for different records, like police checks, it was just over $2000 US Dollars to file!

It was time to write about all of this because our immigration packet has been received and is undergoing initial review. While I lived in the USA for graduate school back until 2009, when I moved to Scotland, this is completely different. This is for keeps! This isn’t a visa enabling me to study, this is the immigration process to enable our family to live together! I’ve had to grapple with what may eventually mean citizenship. The whole “Your people will be my people” part of the Book of Ruth is becoming a whole lot more real!

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We figure that it is likely that there will be Air Force mandated separations, and as much as I have so many adventures ahead of me, just as we do together, I’m really glad that we are now on the road to being able to be together when we can.

We’ve had a few people ask about whether or not being active duty military can make this process quicker. In short, the answer is no. Simply being active duty is no longer enough for approval of expedited processing. If you have evidence of an upcoming deployment it can be awarded but that isn’t even a guarantee. In short, I’d rather not have my husband deploy again, just to make my status here in the US clearer, quicker.

Until the end of the July my current visa is valid, but since the USCIS has accepted our application and is in the process of making a decision, I am now in limbo — I’m awaiting the processing of my permanent visa, but I am unable to seek out employment, sort out a driver’s license, sort out banking, and change my name formally with the Social security administration.

In the meantime, I’m the one over here making lavender infused gin and vermouth de provence so that they can steep until RM’s birthday next month and reviewing the lovely invitations i’ve had designed. Until i get authorisation to work in the US, i’m a lady who lunches, plans parties, bakes and gets dinner on the table every day. If i wasn’t also writing and exploring the neighbourhood with my camera I’m not sure i’d recognise myself in the mirror.

IMAG2556Gluten Free Coconut Cream Pie and fresh Strawberries!

Disclaimer**This is a personal account of part of our immigration experience, this is not to be considered legal advice and you should consult your own attorney before acting on any aspect of the way we’ve gone about our application for relative immigration**

copyright 2014: Anna Blanch Rabe

Please ask for permission before using these photos or text in any medium.

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Listening. Observing. Participating. Writing. Photographing. Reflecting.

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Anna Blanch_Gill Gamble_blogAnna Blanch Rabe is an Australian-born writer and photographer. You can follow her adventure on Not A Pedestrian Life, or Facebook.  

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