Thursday, 20 February 2014

With my memories and photographs

Warning: Boring, technical, nitpicking content.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, it's that time again: immigration paperwork! I currently have what's known as a 'conditional green card', which means it's a green card with a two-year lifespan (the norm for anyone on an initial K-1 visa to receive post-wedding). Therefore, three months before it expires, I have to apply to have the conditions removed by way of providing evidence about my life here and will then, if the petition is successful, be granted a 10-year, unconditional green card - with the option of applying to become a US citizen after a certain period of time.

As learned from previous experiences of providing all the documents ever, I've already got every available piece of evidence listed already lined up; I've written a cover letter with a full contents breakdown of aforementioned evidence; I've practiced filling in the form (the I-751); I've checked and re-checked the fee required ($590); and I've also retained the services of an attorney, at least for the initial stages of the process, due to my having to file as married while Ben and I are and remain separated. This is the only 'relationship status' option available to me on the I-751 form, as we are not divorced, I am not widowed, I have not been subject to abuse, and returning to the UK would not cause me 'extreme hardship', which are the only allowed categories were I to file to waive what's known as a 'joint petition' and instead file on my own.

Under NC marital law, a couple cannot file for divorce until they have been separated (in separate residences) for at least one year, and so due to this state-specific legal nuance and consequent mismatched timing of this window with that of my green card's expiration, I am bound to file my USCIS petition as a married person (legally this is sound) because there is no other option. Were we able to file for divorce earlier, I would then be able to apply to the USCIS for a waiver for the joint filing requirement, include my divorce decree as part of my documentation (just then having to prove that the relationship was entered into in good faith and provide proof of its existence up to the point of divorce), and ask for my petition for removal of conditions on my green card to be considered based on me and me alone. This is not uncommon, and other people in my situation who got married and/or live in other states have followed this path, as they are not required to wait a full year before filing for divorce.

So, that is the cause of my filing confusion (not to mention anxiety), and why I will be seeing my attorney tomorrow to work out how best to approach this particular nuance of North Carolina law. I always aim to be honest and straightforward, because that's who I am and, especially in this case, because I haven't done anything wrong. Presenting a joint petition when I am separated makes me anxious, and I do not want to appear to be misrepresenting myself. I did not move to the US with anything other than happiness, hope, and a sense of magic about what Ben and I were embarking on as a couple. The US, and Charlotte in particular, have become so important to me, but they were not the reason I came here in the first place. This just happened to be where Ben was from. That the Queen City has since become my heart's home is a beautiful - and now immensely soothing - sidebar.

I'm told I'm probably worrying about nothing; that cases like this are seen all the time; that it may not even be called into question and will simply be an administrative matter that will be more annoying than stressful; and that if it is called into question that there are several appeals processes I can follow. I know this is a legitimate, genuine case all with good intent and plenty of evidence to show good faith and a bona fide relationship - because that's what was there. But the idea that my staying here could be tenuous, that I could be torn from my friends, dogs, house, job, home now because I have no real claim on my own life here... I think I'm dealing with a different kind of heartbreak at the mere possibility.

6 comments:

  1. It is very stressful but I'm sure you'll be okay. The system does take into account different scenarios. As long as you are diligent, you will be fine, I'm sure.

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    1. Thank you, Paul. It is stressful, but I am diligent. I'll do my best not to worry and go through the process as prescribed. There's nothing more I can do.

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  2. Good luck with it all, Eve. Sorry to hear about you and Ben - I just skipped back through the blog to see when that happened. I filed to remove my conditions in July 2013 and in August received the common 1 year extension letter. My case was straight forward but still involved all the paperwork and appointment for biometrics. Then it was 3 months of nothing before being approved in Dec 2013 and finally getting the actual 10 year green card. I'm sure you're aware of potential timescales and I hope the complexity of your case doesn't cause too much delay.

    It's great you've been able to really set up a life in Charlotte, one that you really want to keep despite you change of circumstances. As happy as I am in the US, I'm pretty sure I'd be off back home sharpish if things didn't work out.

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    1. I must admit, I would probably scoot off back to the motherland too, were my marriage to break down.

      It is a pretty strange and difficult situation having to prove that an ex-relationship was genuine, must be very emotionally stressful, as well the more familiar stress related to dealing with a bureaucracy that has so much power over your life - I don't envy Eve one bit!

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    2. Thanks, Scott. It's good to hear your case went through just fine. :) I'm really happy for you!

      Delay would be a good thing given the timing required for me to file for divorce, but all the same, I hope the whole thing is over quickly enough, as the stress and pain is overwhelming at times.

      My life here is still very lovely, even though it's a life I planned to have with Ben and he is no longer in it. I'm very lucky that I know the people I do, have the amazing job I've got, and have been able to set up a new home even after he left. I do know that. There's also a lovely life back home, so although I want to stay here, I'm not saying there's anything wrong with England or how life was there either. I just feel like this is my home now, even through the heartbreak.

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    3. Paul, you are absolutely right. It's painful, emotional, and stressful. The psychosomatic symptoms (from significant weight loss when he first left to literal heartache right now) have been awful, and I'm actually going to see my doctor to discuss my sleeping problems and stress-related physiological issues because it's getting too much to deal with. I can cope with the USCIS side of things for the most part (and the attorney agreed that I can file my own paperwork without his help, as I have everything in order), but having to go back through everything that showed how happy we were, relive the exhilaration of being able to be together and the joy of actually getting married, is incredibly hard. To then know that this breakdown could also cost me not only my heart but a life I built here and love is further, sometimes almost all-encompassing pain and stress. I would very much like to just hide.

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Thanks for taking the time to write! I try to reply to everyone, and I love to read your comments.