4 years, 4 months and 16 days…that’s how long it took from start to finish to get Dan to taking the oath of US Citizenship. Because so many others have been through this process in so many different ways, the timeline varies depending on how you came into the country, what country you’re coming in from, and so much more.
With us, Dan became a citizen through marriage (known as the K-1 “fiance visa”), but it’s not as easy or quick as many assume! While the initial visa was crazy quick (and actually caused us to move our wedding date up several months), there were SO many steps to go through, with multiple sets of fingerprints, an encyclopedia-thick amount of paperwork proving who we both are (not to mention providing documentation of our relationship), financial and health documents, waiting months and sometimes years for a particular process to complete, and of course holding off on any international travel until this all finished up. So here we are, at the finish line, and with that I thought I’d share the timeline of events…
STAGE ONE: K-1 FIANCE VISA
JANUARY 2014: Visa application mailed (this is where he states that we are going to be married within 90 days of arriving to America).
FEBRUARY 2014: Petition approved (AKA start packing & planning wedding).
MARCH 2014: DS-160 Application completed online. Aimee completed Affidavit of Support and sent with tax return & relationship proof (pictures of us together, emails to each other, copies of flights back & forth to US, etc.). Dan got 3 more photos taken for medical exam + visa application. Paid $240 immigration application fee. Embassy in Sydney scheduled interview for April 8. Booked Dan’s flight/hotel from Melbourne to Sydney. Dan completed required Medical Exam, got vaccinations (anything he didn’t have proof of he had to get again – a LOT of pokes!) and obtained Australian police certificate(s), scanned/emailed to Aimee.
APRIL 2014: Dan received medical packet back required for immigration. Booked Dan’s one-way flight from Melbourne to Portland, Aimee booked flight for one week trip to help him pack up, have engagement party with family and friends, and bring him back home. Dan flew to Sydney for interview at US Consulate – visa approved onsite. Dan gave notice to employer + landlord. Dan received physical visa in the mail, paid $165 immigration fee online.
MAY 2014: Aimee flew to Melbourne, helping Dan sell everything of his that wouldn’t fit into 4 suitcases (Qantas allows 2 suitcases per passenger). Books, clothing, and a couple of art pieces. Engagement party at Graze on Grey in St Kilda. Flew to Portland w/ K-1 visa & sealed packet – Dan went through immigration line in LA (Aimee went through another and waited for him in baggage claim). Got through immigration surprisingly quick as it was a 6AM arrival. Dan applied for preliminary Social Security Card. We applied for marriage license. Dan received SS Card and got temporary Oregon ID card. Added him to joint bank account. MARRIED!
STAGE TWO – WORK AUTHORIZATION + 2 YEAR GREEN CARD
MAY 2014: Mailed marriage certificate w/ request for certified copies. Mailed Adjustment Of Status (converting his fiance visa to 2 year resident “green” card) and Employment Authorization Document (EAD – so he could get a job) applications.
JUNE 2014: Completed biometrics (fingerprint) appointment. Started volunteering at two local nonprofits to establish unpaid work experience.
AUGUST 2014: Received EAD.
OCTOBER 2014: Started new job.
JANUARY 2015: Completed and passed green card interview (10 minutes).
FEBRUARY 2015: Received 2 year green card and updated Social Security, DMV, and employer with new documentation.
STAGE THREE – 10 YEAR GREEN CARD + NATURALIZATION You are eligible to apply for citizenship after 3 years’ residency, but your 10 year green card must be approved before naturalization (citizenship) can occur, so these two processes overlapped.
OCTOBER 2016: Applied for 10 year green card (I-751 “condition removal”), which also temporarily extended 2 year green card for another 12 months.
DECEMBER 2016: Completed biometrics appointment.
OCTOBER 2017: Applied for naturalization (N-400) 10/20/17.
DECEMBER 2017: Completed biometrics appointment.
JANUARY 2018: Received 1 year extension on 2 year green card.
APRIL 2018: Citizenship interview – passed. I-751 (10 year green card) had still not processed, however, so he couldn’t attend the Oath Ceremony that day.
MAY 2018: I-751 approved. Received oath ceremony invitation for June 2018!
JUNE 2018: Attended naturalization oath ceremony, officially making Dan a US citizen with dual US/Australian citizenship. Registered to vote!! Updated Social Security and applied for US Passport!!
I didn’t expect to be as emotional as I was watching the ceremony. We got down there about 1:00, found a seat in the waiting area and about 1:30 they called the new citizens in to a room while we all waited (forgetting to tell the friends and family that we would soon get to join them), then about 2:00 they called us downstairs into a big room where our loved ones who are about to get their citizenship were seated in the front three rows. 38 people in all from over 20 countries were represented, and almost everybody was dressed to the nines. There were families and coworkers and so many people around, and while I had gone to one of these for a Laos born friend friend a decade or two ago, this was way more personal. After all, my husband came to this country for me and nothing else. When he met me he was pretty sure he would never get married and of course never imagined that he would sell 95% of his belongings and get on a plane to move to America with a woman he met following her blog. And here we are, in the process of buying a home together on the Oregon coast with four plus years of marriage under our belt so far and now he has become an American.
So yeah I got very teary-eyed.
So back to the ceremony as some of you may have not been to one… We all piled in in the last couple of rows and they told us where the bathrooms were and not to get in the way when they were giving out certificates. They played a very moving video of the history of immigration to America including Ellis Island and the many citizenship ceremonies that have taken place all over the country over these past centuries, and I thought of how my mother’s family came over before the Statue of Liberty even existed and I thought of how my father’s family went through Ellis Island, all in search of a new life in a new land…and now here is my beloved in a beautiful expression of his love for me and our life together.
Then the cheesy portion began, where they asked everybody to stand up and do the Pledge of Allegiance (I haven’t done this since grade school and I have never understood why they inserted the word “God” into it years later, since we are a country whose Constitution gives us freedom of religion, which specifies the freedom to NOT be religious as well.), a video of someone singing America the Beautiful that was super rah-rah military, and the worst being a pre-recorded message…from that fuck wad in the White House. To listen to that condescending prick try to talk about how fucking lucky everyone was and how they all needed to learn to embrace the American way of life literally made me want to run out of the room and vomit, hearing the words of this misogynist, racist, disgusting rapist…particularly as he has a long record of insulting and trying to ban many of the people who were in the room.
I turned my head. Can you imagine how beautiful the moment it would have been if Obama had spoken on this video rather than this narcissistic hate-filled sleazebag?
Anyhow, then they had everyone take the oath, which strangely includes a promise that you will help the military if asked to (even though at age 50 my husband cannot be drafted) and forsake all other countries (even though this makes him a dual citizen of the US and Australia, as he does not give up his native citizenship to become an American), then you go up one by one to get your certificate. Strangely, even though they know they’re our friends and family there – and they do have a stage and a podium – they don’t have people come all the way onto the stage so that you can easily take a picture of them while they are receiving their certificate and shaking the guy’s hand from USCIS…so I jammed myself between two people as best I could to somewhat photograph the moment, and then took photos of him afterwards in front of the American and Oregon state flags.
Then we celebrated over a glass of American bourbon (Burnside made here in Portland, to be exact) at a Cajun bar near our house, he registered to vote online, and we went back to our lives!
We are both relieved that this four-and-a-half-year process is finally over. No more interviews, no more paperwork, no more appointments downtown, no more being in that purgatory where he couldn’t vote and either country (4 years of not being able to vote is pretty awful!), no more being nervous about going through airports because of all of his paperwork that took so long to process.
We found our farm house in the country and my husband has become an American citizen. Now all we can hope for is that great things come in threes and that a birth mother will choose us during this second year of waiting to adopt domestically (and 4 years trying to build a family in any way, shape or form).