It’s been more than three years now since I first sent in Winnie’s immigration paperwork. Even though she did gain a visa for entry into the US, after only 20 months, this was just a “temporary” visa, good until her permanent one was approved.
Today, we’ve finally received an appointment for her permanent visa interview.
The way family visa’s are set up, I could have sponsored Winnie as either my fiancee, and married here in the US within 90 days of her arrival, or marry in China and sponsored her as my wife. As Winnie really wanted to marry in China, we chose the later path, theoretically the same for wait times. But as it turned out for us, it’s been a very long process.
Winnie arrived in Los Angles on what is known as a “K-3” visa, which amounts to a glorified tourist visa good for two years. I applied for the K-3 after receiving proof of filing for her spousal visa, and part of the filing package for a K-3 is proof of filing for a permanent visa.
Under the K-3 visa, she could not work, could not even drive in many states (including Virginia). This visa only allowed her to be with me in the US while waiting for the real visa to be approved. It’s supposed to shorten the family separation time, which I guess is nice. A 20 month wait is still shorter than the 38 months we’ve waited so far.
Winnie has been able to work these past months in Mississippi and now here in Virginia because I filed for her work permit, a filing separate from all the other INS filings, after she arrived. I needed to file for the work permit so she could gain a social security number, which she needs for just about anything and everything she is required to do as a US resident.
We did file for the work permit immediately after she arrived, but was delayed six months by the chaos of hurricane Katrina. She ended up receiving her work permit and SSN number this past March, 2006. With her work permit and SSN, she was allowed to earn her driver’s license, a small fact the Virginia DMV apparently wanted to ignore.
The other catch to a K-3, is with the different bureaucracies involved with immigration. Ever since our government created the creepy, corrupt, inept misnamed Department of Homeland Security (DHS), immigration has been split between State Department and DHS. The State Department now handles all immigration visas abroad, and DHS handles them here in the US. I had to file for Winnie’s permanent visa before filing for the K-3, when she was still living in China. So everything was filed via the State Department.
However, once she arrived in the US, the State Department no longer had jurisdiction. After she received her work permit and SSN, I had to re-file with DHS all the paperwork I had filed over two years prior for her permanent visa. At the time, I had every reason to suspect we’d be waiting another two years for DHS to act.
This past week, after our unpleasant run-in with the Virginia DMV, I felt the need to push again on the status of Winnie’s application. Part of my concern was learning that, after all the pain we went through to gain her Virginia’s driver’s license, it was only good until her K-3 expired this coming July. I was concerned about the DHS/INS shifting over the paperwork from the field office responsible for Mississippi, to the office responsible for northern Virginia. I was also concerned about the DHS/INS even acting before her visa expired this July.
So Monday evening I drafted a letter to our local congressman, Representative Tom Davis (R, 11th District, VA). His website advises that people writing on immigration issues provide specific information, and will receive a letter acknowledgment upon receipt.
I know, based on experience in getting Winnie’s K-3 approved, that the office of an elected representative can work miracles – once they’re on your side. I also had honest doubts about getting the office of Congressman Davis on our side right away, given my prior experience.
When I was attempting to get help with Winnie’s K-3, back in the spring of 2004, I was first ignored by the office of Congressman Gene Taylor (D, 4th District, MS), then ignored by the office of Senator Trent Lott (R, MS). I lost four months waiting for them to assist before finally asking for help from Senator Thad Cochran (R, MS), who’s office did provide all the assistance I could ever possibly have hoped for. Yes, I am still angry about being ignored by those two elected representatives. This time, I was not sure what would happen from my letter.
I mailed the letter Tuesday morning, and this afternoon actually received a call from Congressman Davis’s office! A woman, I regret not catching her name, advised me that yes, in fact, the DHS/INS had properly registered our new address. Then she explained that – we actually had an INS interview scheduled for February 21 to finalize the application!
She was honest also – she admitted she’d like to take credit for this but couldn’t, as the appointment had already been arranged. I did feel a bit amused at the time scheduled, 2:01 PM. Like after waiting 39+ months for this interview, people were lined up and scheduled using a stopwatch.
Sure enough, tonight when I arrived home there was the long-awaited letter from the DHS, informing us of this appointment. The wonderful lady from Congressman Davis’s office strongly advised me that I should have my 2006 income tax papers at least prepared going into this interview, as “Proof of Supportability” would be a major interview point.
So, I think I’ll be setting a new record for early income tax filing this year. And I am completely impressed by Congressman Tom Davis.
Passed the Interview and On Her Way Here! : Another milestone in Winnie’s Efforts to come to America.
The Long Wait : On my efforts to get Winnie to America after our marriage.
The Virginia Governor’s Office Replies : Another issue with Winnie’s efforts to assimilate into American culture.