Thursday, September 20, 2007

Green card hell.

Torsten and I met with a lawyer this morning to discuss the steps that we'll need to go through in order to apply for a green card for him once we're married. Originally I had been thinking that we could just find the instructions and forms on the USCIS website and go from there, but AHAHAHAHAHAHA I must have been smoking crack when I was thinking that. The website is more or less impenetrable, so finally I found an immigration lawyer and gave her a call. She only charges $75 for a consultation, and it was well worth the money because I didn't know three-quarters of what she told us. NOR WOULD I HAVE BEEN ABLE TO LEARN IT ON THE US GOVERNMENT WEBSITE.

Sorry about the caps. I have a few venting issues about that website and how crappy and useless it is.

Anyway, here's what I learned about applying for a green card. Keep in mind that we are supposedly in the simplest situation because both of us already live and work in the United States legally. It's just a matter of applying for permanent residency for Torsten and switching his status from visa holder to green card holder. I think a bulleted list is appropriate here. I will note in parentheses which pieces of information I knew before and which tidbits were wholly new to me. Keep in mind that this is after hours of extensive research on the USCIS website.

  • Getting the green card issued will take about a year and a half. It might only take a year, but that's if we're very lucky. (DID NOT KNOW.)
  • We will have to fill out a total of nine different forms. (DID NOT KNOW.)
  • The cost of submitting all the paperwork to the US government will be $1,365. (SORT OF KNEW--but was hoping that I was wrong about having to submit one particular form that comes with a $1,010 price tag.)
  • This cost does not include lawyer's fees. If we wanted to have the lawyer submit the forms for us, it would cost an additional $1,000. (DID NOT KNOW.)
  • The fees for applying for a green card have tripled since July 31 of this year. (DID NOT KNOW.)
  • Torsten will have to have a full medical exam by a licensed civil surgeon, as well as submitting all of his vaccination records. (DID NOT KNOW.)
  • We have to send a couple of examples of our joint life together with the application, such as bank statements for a shared account, a lease with both of our names, shared health or auto insurance, or a shared cell phone bill. (KNEW.)
  • We will have to provide several additional forms of documentation of our joint life together at our interview. (DID NOT KNOW.)
  • We have to provide our tax information from the past 2-3 years in order to prove that we earn enough to prevent Torsten from becoming a "public charge." (DID NOT KNOW.)
  • All together, along with our nine official forms, we will have to provide approximately ten different forms of documentation about our lives, our birthplaces, etc. Also, seven passport photos of Torsten and one of me. (DID NOT KNOW.)

It's at this point that I would like to point out that the US government has a MONOPOLY ON GREEN CARDS. I feel very strongly that this is entirely against the principles of free trade that our capitalist government holds so dear.


  1. I have HEARD that this is a huge beating, and also that you should save every scrap of paper that ties the two of you together in any way.

    Didn't realize it was so expensive, though. HUGE FROWNY FACE OF DISAPPROVAL.

  2. Oh, it is so expensive! And the government expects immigrants making $6 and hour to come up with this kind of cash just to be legal? Bullshit.

    Anyway. I am glad you met with the lawyer and have a much better idea of what this is going to entail. Oh, I feel for you. This is going to be a bureaucratic mess! Hang in there!

  3. Too bad you're not trying to come to Canada. They just check for a pulse and you're in. Kidding. Kind of.

  4. Wow. I knew it was a long and difficult process, but I had no idea how expensive it was ($1,010 for ONE form?).

  5. Hang in there! There's nothing like an expensive bureaucratic mess to really bond a couple together!

  6. That is AWFUL. It makes total sense to me that people would be illegal instead, because that is so much money. On the other hand, now that I think of it, it's like buying citizenship, right? And the citizenship comes with pretty good perks. So I guess it's WORTH it--but it seems like there's lots of people who wouldn't be able to pay it, no matter how "worth it" it is.

  7. Tessie--That is GOOD ADVICE. I will never throw away paper that has anything to do with both of us again.

    Artemisia--I totally agree. It's not like we are leaking money, but the $1,365 is not a prohibitive expense the way it must be for a lot of green card seekers.

    Lori D--Really it's too bad we don't want to go to England. I'm a dual citizen (Britain and US) and Torsten, being a German citizen, can live anywhere in the EU, so if we wanted to move to Europe we'd be SET.

    P&D--Yes, $1,010 for ONE form but it's like a bonus--if you need to file two specific other small forms (which we do), you can sneak them under the same form. So it's like they're trying to make you feel better because it's like THREE FOR THE PRICE OF ONE. But really, it's not.

    Flibberty--That's a great point. I think you're right. We already kind of felt that way when the lawyer said that we will need to know things like each other's siblings' names for our interview to prove that we really have intertwined our lives, and the idea of not knowing such basic information about each other made us laugh. Or maybe we just needed release from the stress the meeting caused us. Either way, though, the bonding thing is a nice silver lining.

    Swistle--Unfortunately, even after all this time and money, he won't be a citizen--just a permanent resident. That definitely brings benefits with it, but not nearly as many as being an actual citizen.

  8. Oh man, I don't envy you guys! I remember learning about green cards in immigration law class in law school, and it sounded like quite a hassle. And I had no idea it was so expensive! Hang in there with it all! I hope it goes well (and quickly!).

  9. What the hell kind of form costs $1010.00?!?! And what a weird amount. Like someone thought, "Let's make it cost a thousand dollars, but then, so it doesn't look like we just pulled an arbitrary amount out of our collective asses, let's add ten."


    Maybe it was a typo that never got fixed. Like it was supposed to be $100.00, but the person typing accidentally hit another 1, turning into $1010.00. Can you imagine a government worker's confusion the first time he received a check for the wrong and much larger amount? After much head-scratching, he sees that the form is wrong. Then he goes to his superior to report that the form is in error. His superior calls a meeting, which leads to several more meetings. Finally, several years and thousands of wrong payments later, it is decided to leave the error, because refunding everyone's money would take too much time and effort. And besides, it's already been spent.

  10. What a hassle! I've helped a few co-workers get H-1B2 visas, so I'm not surprised at the expense, or the hoop jumping.

    Hopefully for your hubby, the "green" card (i think it's white now) will be worth it.

  11. dude. that's not cool. i'm sorry. i cannot BELIEVE that one form is over $1000. although HAAA i like jmc's explanation.

    also, lorid? snort. hee.

  12. Oh, but I know of the green card crapiness very well, having been an employer of 2 (we are obligated to help) and a sister in law to a frenchman.

    I hope you keep your sanity through it all, is all I'm going to say.

  13. Just go to They list a checklist with all the things you need, there's a forum where you can ask all kind of questions. It's pretty easy once you start the process. But it's so true that most Americans think, once you get married to an American you just stay and hand in one form to immigration and you are all set. Unfortunately it's expensive and a lot more time consuming.

    So you don't need a lawyer to hand in the forms!! Totally unnecessary.

    Good luck with everything!