I came here on a student visa, met my husband, after 4 years together got married and a few months later decided to apply for a green card. I’m not done yet, but I’m close (only thing left is the interview). My lawyer told me that lately USCIS has been really fast and average processing time for people applying in the US this past year has been about 4 months. She expects me to have a green card 4-6 months from when I applied.
Here are the things I didn’t know:
1. It’s not cheap. This isn’t an issue in and of itself, but if you get the paperwork wrong at all then you start from SCRATCH and have to pay the $1.5k again.
2. There is way more paperwork than USCIS lets you know. On their website it looks like 2 documents. I filled them out and booked an hour consult with a local immigration lawyer to make sure I did them right (see #1). She was like “um, yeah these are fine but what about the other 8 documents?”
She was really nice and agreed to list them off to me and even gave me pen and paper.. She told me that if I hadn’t sent it in they would NOT have thrown my application out, but they would have sent me a notice for the next one, then a notice for the next one, etc.. which would drag out the application process. In the end I ended up hiring her to prepare everything for us and have been very happy with the decision to do so. She cost another $2k but she saved me so much headache I think. She’ll also be there with us at the interview and will prep us for it before we go in.
3. If you can afford it, hire someone to help you. They’ll do all the paperwork better than you, they know all the annoying USCIS details, etc..
This is all for a marriage green card, btw.. my lawyer told me it’s much more difficult for pretty much any other type of green card, so I’d doubly suggest a lawyer if that’s the route you’re gonna go (just skimming other responses to this post).
Umm other random things: they want to see photos of your relationship (again, assuming marriage green card route), in particular ones that show you’ve been together for a long time (i.e. ones from a while back) and ones that show you were introduced to his family and vice versa (so that it proves it’s a real marriage). Most people know this, but good to know so you can start gathering those.
After that, a few months after you apply they summon you to get your fingerprints done (“biometrics” but the ONLY biometric is your fingerprint lol). They give you a time and date (e.g. for me it was 1pm on a Monday) and if you don’t appear they consider your application abandoned and you have to start from scratch. You can change the appointment date but they give you only 1 week notice of the appointment in the first place so OPEN YOUR USCIS MAIL.