Tiffany successfully applied for and obtained a permanent U.S. resident visa.
Navigating the U.S. Immigration Process
people found Tiffany's experience helpful.
I was born in West Yorkshire, England. Travel had always been a big part of my life and so when I became old enough, I knew I wanted to further broaden my horizons and visit different parts of the world. At 22 I decided to take a traveling vacation, starting in the U.S.
In 2001, I arrived in California with plans to spend a few months and then move on to another part of the world. I didn't count on meeting my husband. We hit it off right away and when it came time for me to move on, neither of us wanted to part. We talked about our options and the one that appealed to us both was my staying in the U.S.
We started with the intention of hiring an immigration lawyer, but soon realized that we could save thousands of dollars by filing the paperwork ourselves. The next few weeks were filled with logistics and legalities. I spent a lot of time online, reading through various help sites, forums, and FAQs. I combed through the U.S. Immigration and Nationalization website, and met people on message boards who were also going through the process. While there was a lot of encouragement, there was a lot of conflicting advice too.
The biggest challenge I faced was sorting out the good information from the bad. There is a lot of conflicting advice about the immigration process and some people feel it's too risky without an immigration lawyer. In my case, many warned me of accidental violations, mistakes, or delays that could not only lead to a denied application, but could also ruin any future chances.
The time constraints were another concern. All throughout the process there are deadlines. For example, your medical has to be done within a certain time frame of the application. Your fingerprints must be taken within a couple of weeks of your immigration interview. And so on. Each part of the process is dependent on another and with some kind of time restriction.
The time constraints and the conflicting advice were a little discouraging at first. I broke down the entire process into smaller parts and used a calendar to map out my entire immigration process. Every time I received an update or went through another part of the process, I noted it on the calendar. I kept a large folder, with all my immigration documents and any supporting documents I needed. I used checklists and continually checked and rechecked my information to make sure I was on the right track. If I felt unsure about something, I called the immigration office to clear up any confusion.
Despite my efforts, not all went as smoothly as I would have liked. If I could go back and do it again, I would have applied for my work visa earlier in the process. Not just because it would allow me to work right away, but also because it served as an ID. Lots of places that require ID don't accept a passport or driver's license from another country. Having the work visa made applying for other things I needed to start my new life in the U.S. much easier.
During the medical, I would have skipped the TB skin test and gone straight for the more extensive test. Being born in the UK and being subject to a routine tuberculosis vaccination when I was at school, my TB skin test came back positive. (The vaccine contains bacteria that are closely related to the bacteria that cause TB; this causes a false-positive). I had to revisit the doctors and have a follow-up chest x-ray and blood test. This caused a little bit of a delay in the process.
Advice I would Offer to Others
Schedule appointments early. Because everything is based on a time constraint, it's important to make sure you account for potential cancellations or hiccups along the way.
Don't miss appointments. The immigration offices are busy and you're often scheduling meetings and appointments months in advance, which means one missed appointment can set you back weeks.
Keep a calendar of events. Pay close attention to the time constraints. Again, you could find your application being delayed or even denied.
Expect appointments to take all day and be prepared. Many of the appointments were an all day affair; the lines were long and the process was quite slow. Take along snacks, water, and perhaps something to do.
Overall my experience was a very positive one. I received my temporary permanent resident card within a few weeks (and in record time according to others who had been through it). It was hard work, and paying close attention to the process was key, but it can be done without an immigration lawyer.