Ending our Exile

You might have heard that we’re trying to move our family back to the U.S. The rumors are true! And I’m sure that some of you are exploding with curiosity about just how this will work. So for you masochists out there who are dying to feel overwhelmed by the details of the immigration process to the U.S.A., this page is where I’m sharing the love/pain (hehehe).

I’m only sharing my vague understanding to fulfill your inquisitiveness, so please don’t quote me on anything or ask me to represent you (haha). I will update here periodically when I have more information. Additionally, I’ll be writing blog posts about some aspects of this and repeatedly begging for your fortitude, faith, and cheer as we go about this very taxing and nerve-wracking process.


The beach is nice, but we wanna go back to our other home.


Step one in immigrating to the United States: Hire a good lawyer. Seriously. Even though theoretically all the information and forms are available to the public, even though it seems do-able at first glance, even though the idea of saving money is very tempting, DO NOT PROCEED without a lawyer. It’s not worth it. The system is not set up for us humble laymen (and women) to navigate it.

If you are from Mexico, or several other Latin American countries, pretty much the only way to get a visa to the US is if you have close family who are citizens or residents. It’s nearly impossible to get even a tourist visa without a ton of money. So the folks who are like, “Why can’t Mexican folks just come here legally?”  don’t have a clue what it’s like. Even the process to bring workers in is complicated and expensive, which is why most employers don’t bother. It’s to their benefit if someone comes in without documentation. But I’ll try to stay off of my soapbox for today. Here’s the story on us:

Conan will be applying for permanent resident status. This means, once granted (pretty please, universe), he will be able to live and work in the U.S. long-term. His entitlement to be a permanent resident is based on his relationship to me, because we are married. (Having children is great, but citizen children cannot apply for their parents until the child is 21 years old.)

There are three major forms for us to file and get approval on, and each of the three come with plenty of other steps and documents.

The first form is called the I-130, and its purpose is to prove our relationship, to show that Conan is eligible to apply for permanent residency. This is the simplest part. It’s a fairly straightforward form and the main supporting documents are proof of both of our identities, proof of our relationship (our marriage certificate), and some additional biographic information about both of us, which is provided in a separate document that must be included with the I-130.

Here are the 7 pages of instructions, if you’re really, really bored or excessively curious. The filing fee is $420 for this form. Typical rates for lawyers to file this for you are about $700-900. (Again, don’t be fooled by the seeming simplicity; you need a lawyer.) From what I can see online, it looks like it currently takes an average of 5 months for the I-130 to be processed. Of course, that means it could take longer, or not as long. (Longer is probably a safer bet.) We’ll see.

While we’re waiting for the I-130 to be processed, we will probably be preparing the supporting documents for parts 2 and 3, which will be done together. This is where my understanding starts to get murky, especially the more time I waste surfing the Department of State website about it. Once we’re actually paying our lawyer, I’m sure that my knowledge about this part with improve exponentially.

What I do know is that basically, Conan will apply for an Immigrant Visa. His documents will be sent to the National Visa Center and then, according to the website, they will bill us the application fees, receive the paperwork and supporting documents, and “hold your visa petition until an interview can be scheduled with a consular officer at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.”

We will submit the form DS-260- the immigrant visa application, which costs $445, plus the relevant lawyer fees, which are over $2000. You’ll see why- the killer on this one is all the supporting documentation. They need tons of financial documents from yours truly, wherein I promise that my husband will not receive public benefits because I will have enough to support him. Then I have to prove it with bank statements, tax forms, etc. etc. If I don’t make enough above (or even at) the poverty line (which I don’t), then I need a co-sponsor, and they need a million supporting documents.

That’s only half of it. For part 2, they also need police certificates showing a lack of criminal record, a renewed passport (another trip to Oaxaca City and more fees), formal translation of all of our documents that are in Spanish- such as our marriage certificate, his birth certificate, etc. Here is a list of documents required to accompany this form, which we also show later, once he has an interview (I’m getting there, hang on if you’re not too bored or confused yet).

Anyway, we submit copies of all this and then they go over it all while we wait. This could be several weeks to perhaps several months, I think.

From there, if our file looks complete, they will schedule an interview for Conan at the Embassy in Ciudad Juarez. The website says, “Most appointments are set within 60 days of NVC receipt of all requested documentation. However, we cannot predict when an interview appointment will be available.” It says it may be several months. Once they have an interview date for him, though, we’ll know about it approximately a month before the scheduled date.

Then he will also have to schedule a special medical exam, that can only happen at certain places in Ciudad Juarez and that costs $190 USD. It’s not clear to me how many days in advance his medical exam has to be, so we don’t know how long he’ll need to stay in the (scary) border town of Ciudad Juarez.

Conan’s case is even more complicated than this because at the same time that we are preparing all this Immigrant Visa business, we will also be preparing what’s called a Hardship Waiver. See, when he goes to the interview they will look over his paperwork, all these hours and days and weeks worth of acquired documents, and automatically deny him.

They will deny him because they know he entered the US without documentation originally, and therefore he is banned from reentry for 10 years. (Remember that part at the beginning? About it being nearly impossible to be Mexican and enter with the legal documents? So Conan came in anyway, and I know plenty of people who are pleased that he did, besides, obviously, your humble narrator.) I know, right- you’re asking, “What’s the point of all this if you know they’re going to say no?”

There’s a way to get beyond their no, but first we have to accept the denial. (Sounds like a hardcore band, right? Or a twelve step group? Accept the Denial!) So I believe this is when we file our Hardship Waiver, which costs $585 plus more than $1000 in lawyer fees. This part is going to be a whole ‘nuther stressful series of documents and supporting documents in which I show whatever immigration official who’ll be reading our file that I, as a US citizen, and my children, by extension, are suffering EXTREME hardship due to Conan not living in the US.

That’s right- it has to be extreme. Normal hardship- economic problems, emotional problems- are not sufficient. Luckily (luckily? or something) I’m pretty sure we have enough hard aspects going on to qualify our case as extreme. Now, even if the official agrees that this is extreme hardship, they still have to decide that Conan is of good character in all other respects and therefore deserves to have the 10-year bar lifted. I’m not sure how exactly they decide that, nor how long it takes them to decide once we’ve filed all this, but I will keep you updated as we get closer, and I’ll remind Conan to brush his teeth and comb his hair before the interview, just in case that helps them decide.

If all this goes well, if all 3 major parts are approved, Conan will get some more forms and be able to buy a ticket back to the US! Granted, they let you know on the website that an immigration official could still turn you away at the border (no idea why, at that point), but we’re not even going to think about that tragic possibility. We’re going to assume that then he gets to come on in.

Once in the US, then Conan will get his green card. (Of course that includes another fee of $165, but if we make it to that point, who cares about money!? Our sheer elation will pay for it from there. Well, that and the fact that he’ll be able to work in the US!)… Then we can live and work all together happily-ever-after in the US…. Okay, maybe that’s too simplified an ending. Then we can live long-term in the US and eventually Conan can apply for his citizenship and more exciting things can happen. But sheesh it feels like a long, hard way off.

You can see why this has seemed impossible. Not only do we not have the money for it, but the process itself is extremely daunting. We haven’t even retained our lawyer yet and I’m already breaking out in hives just writing about this intimidating and overwhelming process. So cross your fingers for us. Send us a couple bucks if you’ve got em via our fundraising efforts ; )  Share your words of wisdom, sympathy, and more. Hugs and solidarity to everyone else trying to go through this, and to all who are tragically separated by the border.





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