Friday, March 2, 2012

Visa Applications... Frequently Asked Questions For You And Me! Part One...

  • What's my I-94? - This is the green card that is stapled into your passport upon landing in the States and during your venture through Security. However, if you're anything like me you already jumped on board with the new ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) tourist visas and in doing so eradicated the need for a physical I-94. Now I can only speak from my own experience, but in this situation leaving the I-94 number question blank worked just fine and I was never requested more information regarding this issue. 
  • What's my A#? - This is your Alien Number, which recognizes you as, well, you! This is effectively your identification code within the USCIS system. I personally did not receive one until just before I was interviewed and ready to fly off to get married so don't panic if it doesn't arrive along with your NOA1! It can usually be found a the top of the page on NOA's and begins with the letter A (smart, huh?)
  • What's an NOA? - NOA stands for 'Notice Of Action'. As far as the K1 visa goes, you will receive NOA1 typically around 3-14 working days after your initial application of the I-129F packet (provided they don't need anymore evidence or other forms from you) and an NOA2 typically (for the UK) around 5 months after that, when you application has been accepted and is being moved to your local US Embassy ready for your interview. That's an exciting one! Always keep, copy and store all your NOA's as you will be asked to produce them at certain points in the immigration process!
  • What's an RFE? - An RFE is a 'Referral For Evidence'. This will arrive in the form of a letter from the USCIS much like an NOA and can require many different things. It should specify on the letter exactly what they want from you. 
  • Should I really keep copies of everything I send out? - Short answer; yes! The USCIS is a wonderful system that I refuse to knock since it has gotten me to where I needed to be in the end, BUT don't trust them with your lives! Things inevitably do go missing, yes even entire applications. Gather everything, have way too much evidence, make 2 copies of each form in case one blows away, do whatever it takes to be prepared and peaceful with this process. It is challenging at times especially when you are apart from your future spouse, but allow yourself to enjoy it when you can... you are getting so close to that new life together and this is an path not that many people get to tread! 
  • What happens if I have court records? Will this affect my application? - This really depends on the seriousness of the charge, time served etc. but I can shed just a little insight from personal experience. My one and only brief encounter with the law resulted in a minor misdemeanor citation here in the US, long before I met my husband-to-be. No I was not actually misbehaving, yes it was a misunderstanding. Put it this way; I was dressed as Dumbledore from Harry Potter at the time and working for the Girl Scouts... Does that shed sufficient light on my hardened criminal pastlife for you? Regardless of what actually transpired I was left with an expunged court record that never actually disappeared and was technically still floating around the US legal system at the time of my application. Here's what I did: called the municipal court where I was cited and clarified postal address and costs for certified copies of the expunged records (cost $1 per sheet for me), applied in writing for those copies (get 2 of each if you can), make your own copies and store for your records. Most importantly of all, always be honest from the get go. It can be so tempting to want to omit certain things, especially when they are already expunged or occurred a long time ago; truth is though, that unless you have hired a lawyer and paid to have it officially removed from all records it could still pop up and you hiding it will earn you no favors. Plus it is not as likely as you may fear for a record like this to be questioned! 
  • Once married, do I use my new married name on the Adjustment of Status forms for my Green Card? - Yes! This one is always tricky as everything up until that point including your passport, K1 stamp/insert and Social Security card (if you got one as soon as you made it to the States on your K1) will have your maiden name on it. Ladies, each time you are asked for your 'family name' on these AOS forms, if you legally changed it on your wedding day, then go by it now. There are a couple of questions to keep your eye out for where it asks your for 'other names' or 'maiden name', and that is where you declare your previous last name. Rest assured that when you combine your new name with your Alien Number etc. it's clear who you are! 
  • When should I get a Social Security card? - You can get one as early as the day after your arrival into the States on your K1 Fiance visa, or as late as after you are married, it's totally up to you! Bare in mind though that if you plan on changing your name once married, you will have to revisit the lovely social security offices to change that information on your card and a wait (around 2 weeks) is involved. As far as we immigrants go, Social Security cards allow us to do such things as apply for a drivers license (temporary!) and open bank accounts. 

If you have any specific questions, please do post them in the Comments section below and I'll be happy to answer what I can for you! 

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