Thursday, 20 February 2014
With my memories and photographs
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.
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.