The paperwork culminating up to that point was immense.
Since Oct '04 I'd been in and out of the U.S. on a tourist visa; getting married during that time would have been a violation of the tourist visa conditions. So in November '05 Kosh applied for permission to apply for a Fiancée Visa. Among the submission requirements was of course proof of relationship. The engagement ring receipt, photos of Kosh in Malaysia "meeting her parents", photos of me in the U.S. "meeting his parents", and personal statements from the both of us were among the items provided.
Once that was approved (~March '06 - I was back in Malaysia by that time in order to not overstay!), I then could apply for the Fiancée Visa itself. From Malaysia. It ended up being a long 6 month separation :( Again, proof of relationship had to be provided. Taking into consideration what had been submitted before, I provided copies of the "I Miss You" cards Kosh had sent since I'd returned to KL, plus the birthday card sent by his parents, as part of the "evidence". Didn't like the encroachment of privacy, but what to do...
July '06: Fiancée Visa granted - yay! The limit of that type of visa? Must get married within 90 days of entry. Hence the small ceremony we had for immediate family only - no way we would be able to organise anything on a large scale within that time limit! Got all that done, then filed a ton of paperwork to adjust my status from "visitor" to "conditional permanent resident". This of course included proof of the marriage and therefore of relationship. The Conditional PR was granted in Dec '06.
Now it's time to "petition to remove conditions on Permanent Residence" (must be done within 90 days of the 2nd anniversary of having been granted the conditional PR). And guess what? More "evidence of relationship" is needed.
You know, I understand that this step is very very important, because once the PR is granted, I'm pretty much "home free". And US permanent residency (i.e "being a green card holder") is a valuable status, one that is not easily granted. I understand that the government would want to make sure ours is not a "sham marriage". I totally understand, and don't question the need for closer scrutiny at this stage.
... BUT ...
I'm really really irritated by their instructions on what needs to be submitted as "evidence of relationship" this time around. I find these open to interpretation, ambiguous, and therefore unclear.
So, let me ask you this: When the instructions say "The documents should cover, but not limited to, the following examples:", do you think you MUST submit EVERYTHING in the subsequent list of five types of items?
Because I certainly don't take it that way. Especially since some of the items are just NOT APPLICABLE anyway. We ain't got no kids so we can't produce no birth certificates of "children born to the marriage". And since Kosh had to get the lease to this apartment done without me around, it's under his name only, and it's just less of a hassle to continue to just renew it as-is rather than have a completely new one drawn up just to have my name on the thing as well. So oooops, that's two out of five that are immediately out the window.
But that's okay, the instructions say the list of five types of items "should" be covered. Not MUST. Which is fine, we have more than enough things to throw at them to fulfill items #3 & 4. Of course, #4 seems to be a catch-all: "Other documents you consider relevant to establish that your marriage was not entered into in order to evade the U.S. immigration laws."
Hmmmmm.... so if that's #4, what's #5?
5. Affidavits sworn to or affirmed by at least two people who have known both of you since your conditional permanent residence was granted and have personal knowledge of your marriage and relationship. (Such persons may be required to testify before an immigration officer as to the information contained in the affidavit). The original affidavit must be submitted and also contain the following information regarding the person making the affidavit: his or her full name and address; date and place of birth; relationship to you or your spouse, if any; and full information and complete details explaining how the person acquired his or her knowledge. Affidavits must be supported by other types of evidence listed above.
Wait wait wait... what?????
The wording makes this item seem compulsory. And yet, this is one of the "examples" that we "should" cover. So, do they mean "if you choose to go the affidavit route, you must have at least two of them," or, "notwithstanding the items listed above, you MUST have at least two affidavits..."?
I wanted it the be the former, but had this sinking feeling that the latter would be the case.
So we called up the USCIS helpline. Took forever to figure out the right combination of menu answers before we got to talk to a live person. Who, after a few minutes to "research your question" returned with the answer: the affidavits are a must.
Can you guys please re-phrase the entire Evidence of Relationship" section so that this is UNAMBIGUOUS please???
Stepping back, I need to reiterate, I completely understand that this being essentially the point of no return, the government would want to make sure that evidence provided is not *all* of it provided by the couple that potentially has been playing the system all this while. I totally get it.
What I am pissed off about is the ambiguity of the instructions.
Because I thought I could spend about a day or two getting the documents together, and send the package off by the end of this week. Instead, we've had to kinda scramble to figure out who could provide the required affidavits... it's not like we're the most social of people.... Sure, I have my yoga group, and I'm sure many of them would be happy to help, but they are *my* social circle, Kosh has only met them once. Ditto with my pottery, Spanish and French circles. So that's a no go. And Kosh's social circle was limited to work, and again, it's not like he wanted to socialise during his precious time off, nor did he want to subject me to (nor me subject myself to) many of the people there.
Yes, we need to get out more. But that's beside the point.
We have identified two people with enough appropriate "personal knowledge of (our) marriage and relationship", and they are happy to help. Yay!
Oh, but did you notice the last line of item 5? "Affidavits must be supported by other types of evidence listed above". So not only do these two kind souls have to draw up some sort of statement saying that they know ours is not a sham marriage, but they MUST attach some supporting evidence. There's just no satisfying them, is there?? So in addition to alllllllll of that, I figure we best err on the side of caution and get their affidavits notarized, even though two years ago, the Affidavit of Support Kosh had to sign did not require notarization, and that was a very important declaration. Seeing how ridiculous this all is, we might as well just go all the way with it, eh?
I feel angry, guilty, and even rather embarrassed that we have to impose such ridiculousness on them in order to get our business settled.
But hey, hopefully by early next week, the entire package will already be in the hands of the USCIS.