Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Two Years Later...

Today marks the 2nd anniversary of Anna's arrival to America. Two years ago today Anna and the children flew from Moscow to Seattle, Washington where I was waiting to take them to their new home.

A lot has happened over the past 2 years and without going into a lot of detail, I will give a brief summary of the most significant highlights over the past 2 years.

Two months after her arrival, we were finally married on September 20th in the courtroom of the honorable Michael Reardon at the Ada County Courthouse. Alan Dein and Laurence Grissel from BBC Radio in London both attended the ceremony and even signed as witnesses to the event.

If you want to read more about the ceremony you can read more details here http://privetanna.blogspot.com/2013/09/a-weekend-to-remember.html.

You can listen to our wedding ceremony as well as hear the rest of our BBC documentary here

In October, 2013 we filed for green cards for her and the children and they were subsequently approved after a brief delay from our favorite organization (USCIS).

You can read more details about that incident which could have sent Anna and the children back to Russia here http://privetanna.blogspot.com/2013/11/request-for-initial-evidence.html.

Fortunately after that minor delay their permanent resident status was approved in March, 2014.

Upon receipt of the green cards, Anna was given the legal right to work and she has since done some part time work but she prefers to stay at home and work on making improvements around the house and working on her garden.

She has also tried to take up some new hobbies. She decided to try her luck reupholstering old furniture and if you ask me she does a darn good job. We also picked her up a nice sewing machine and she has been making her own pillows and curtains to use around the house.

Meanwhile the children have been attending school full time and their teachers have nothing but good things to say about them. They are learning very quickly and soon you won't even be able to tell they weren't born here. Maria begins high school this year and Ivan starts 5th Grade.

About 6 months ago Anna and I found an author that will be able to help us write our book. We are currently working with him and we hope to have a book ready to publish by the end of the year. We are also currently negotiating with a local songwriter that has written a number of hit songs. We are hoping that he will be able to help us write a song based on the 26 page poem I wrote to Anna while she was still in Russia and we hope to have the song recorded with my vocals around the same time our book is ready for publication.

Soon we will need to once again file for new green cards because their green cards will expire in March. This will require about $2500 and another mountain of paperwork to send to the USCIS. Hopefully we won't have as many problems as we had getting their first green cards.

That's about all I can say without boring you to tears. Check back with us within the next few months. Hopefully we can give you an update on the status of the book and song.

Thanks for visiting.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year 2015

I must apologize that it has been such a long time since the last time I published anything on our blog but there really has not been anything significant happen that justified a new blog entry. I am sure our lives have followed a similar pattern over the past year as millions of other married couples with children.

2014 has been a good year for us. This has been the second New Year that Anna and I have been able to celebrate together.

Over the past year Anna and the children have been adjusting well to life in America. The children are back in school and are doing very well according to their teachers. In fact they the teachers say they are doing better than most children who were born here.

Anna has also been making good use of her time. She has found some hobbies to keep herself busy while she works on improving her English skills. She has been trying her hand at reupholstering and restoring old furniture As you can see in the pictures she is doing an amazing job.

She has successfully reupholstered 2 wing-back chairs and an ottoman. She has a number of other projects she is working on now. I will try posting pictures of more of her work as she completes it.

Overall it has been a good year. I can't say it has been easy though. Supporting a family of six on a single income has been difficult. Money has been a little tight as expected but we are making it okay.

Anna is looking forward to a time in the future when she is able to find a full time job and help contribute but we still have much to do before that can happen. She still needs more time to work on improving her English skills in order to make her more desirable to potential employers. I also need to teach her to drive a car so we can get her a driver's license and a car so she has a means of transportation to get back and forth to work. I have given her a couple of driving lessons but we still have a long way to go. Next time I take her on the road for another lesson I will try to make a video of it and upload it because I am sure it will be entertaining.

We are looking forward to the new year and we are hoping to have our book ready for publishing by the end of this year. We are currently seeking someone who can help us write it so if you know of anyone who would be interested in working with us on this project feel free to have them contact us.

That about sums it up. I want to wish everyone a Happy New Year and may 2015 bring to you peace and joy.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The First Year

It is hard to believe that it has been over a year since Anna arrived and began her new life here.

It seems like only yesterday when I drove to Seattle to meet her at the airport and bring her to her new home.

On July 22nd we celebrated Anna's first year in America.

The year passed very quickly and was filled with many new experiences for Anna and the Children.

The children started their second full year of school in America and according to their teachers they are doing exceptionally well.

Anna is still working on developing her English skills. She attended English classes over the last year and she is currently using the Pimsleur Approach to expand her English skills. In fact, we are finding that we rely less and less on Google Translator.

On Sunday Anna and I will celebrate our first Anniversary. It is hard to believe it has been a full year since we exchanged our wedding vows at the courthouse.

We have certainly come a long way since the first "Privet Anna!" 3 years ago from September 15th. That is a date we will never forget. It was a day our lives changed forever.

As they say, Time flies when you're having fun. To say it has been fun would be an understatement. It has truly been the best year of my life.

It has been a wonderful year for us and we look forward to the many more to come.

Happy Anniversary Anna!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A new chapter begins...

After what seemed to be an eternity,  we finally received the green cards for Anna and the children. All three of them arrived at the same time. Each one was attached to a Form I-797D  from the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
The Letter read as follows:
Your Application Has Been Approved.  Here is your new card. The expiration date is shown on the front.
Please Check Your Card To Verify That the Information Is Correct. If you find an error on it, please call us at the telephone number provided below.
Please Protect Your Card. Please Read This Notice.
It has important information. We also recommend that you keep this notice for your records.
If you ever have questions about immigration benefits and procedures, or wish to have an application mailed to you, please call our USCIS National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283, or Check our website at http://www.uscis.gov.
And it went on to say:
Additional Information About Your Card
USCIS issues several kinds of cards for different purposes. Please read how to use your card. Always carry your card in the United States and show it when you re-enter the United States. Please keep this information for your future reference.
Permanent Resident Card
Your card has an expiration date.
If you are a conditional resident, you should apply to remove the conditions 90 days before your card expires.
If you are a permanent resident, the expiration date does not affect your status, but you should use form 1-90 to apply for a new card 90 days before this card expires.
As a resident you should be aware of other immigration services:
If your card is lost, stolen, or becomes damaged, or your name or other information shown on your card changes, use Form 1-90 to apply for a new card.
If you are going to travel and believe you may be gone a year or more, you should apply for a reentry permit before you leave - see Form 1-131 for information.
You can sponsor the immigration of certain relatives - see Form 1-130 for information.
Permanent residents can become American citizens. Usually, you have to be a permanent resident for 5 years, but in some circumstances you can apply earlier - see Form N-400 for information.
Employment Authorization Card and Advance Parole Card
You are authorized to work consistent with any conditions shown on the card until it expires.
If you apply for a job, you may show your card to the employer to show you are authorized to work while the card is valid.
If you are already employed and this card extends your employment authorization, you may show this new card to your employer to show that your work authorization has been extended.
Your EAD card is also evidence of your status. Please see the enclosed important advisory.
Replacement Citizen Card
Use your card as evidence of your U.S. Citizenship.
(This replacement card is only issued to certain American Indians and persons from the Northern Mariana Islands who were previously issued this kind of card.) You do not need to carry your card while in the United States.
Student/Exchange Visitor Card
Use your card to show that you are a valid F, J, or M non immigrant student, exchange visitor, or dependent. This card does not grant employment authorization. To apply for employment authorization, use Form 1-765.
Upon receiving the green cards we immediately filed for Social Security cards for all of them and they arrived in the mail just this weekend.

We are both very happy to have this chapter of our lives come to a close. It was a long, complicated process but we finally made it through. Now a new chapter begins for us. Anna can start looking for work like she wants to and no longer needs to worry about returning to Russia. Anna and the children are now Proud Permanent Residents of the United States of America and our life together can officially begin.

Privet Anna! Welcome to America!!!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The official Notice of Action

We finally received our I-797, Notice of action dated March 3, 2014 for the I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.
It is the official Welcome Notice.
It read as follows:
 This is to notify you that your application for permanent residence has been approved. It is with great pleasure that we welcome you to permanent resident status in the United States.
At the top of this notice you will see a very important number. It is your USCIS A# (A-number). This is your permanent resident account and file number. This permanent account number is very important to you. You will need it whenever you contact us.
We will soon mail you a new Permanent Resident Card. You should receive it within the next 3 weeks. You can use it to show your new status. When you receive your card you must carry it with you at all times if you are 18 or older. It is the law.
Please call us at  (800)375-5283 if any of the information about you shown above is incorrect, if you move before you receive your card, or if you don't receive your card within the next 3 weeks. If you call us, please have your A# and also the receipt number shown above available. The receipt number is a tracking number for your application.
Please read the notice that comes with your card. It will have important information about your card, about your status and responsibilities, and about permanent resident services available to you.
Your new card will expire two years from when you became a permanent resident. By law your resident status is conditional, and you must apply to remove those conditions before your card expires. We recommend you apply several months before your card expires. When the time comes and you need filing information, or an application, or if you ever have other questions about permanent resident services available to you, just call our National Customer Service Center at 1(800)375--5283 or visit the USCIS website at www.uscis.gov. (If you are hearing impaired, the NCSC's TDD number is 1-800-767-1833.) The best days to call the NCSC are Tuesday through Friday.
Once again, welcome to the United States and congratulations on your permanent resident status. 
NOTICE: Although this application/petition has been approved, USCIS and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security reserve the right to verify the information submitted in this application, petition and/or supporting documentation to ensure conformity with applicable laws, rules, regulations, and other authorities. Methods used for verifying information may include, but are not limited to, the review of public information and records, contact by correspondence, the internet, or telephone, and site inspections of businesses and residences. Information obtained during the course of verification will be used to determine whether revocation, rescission, and/or removal proceedings are appropriate. Applicants, petitioners, and representatives of record will be provided an opportunity to address derogatory information before any formal proceeding is initiated.
 It looks like we will be getting the Green cards soon. Finally...

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Finally some good news!!

We finally received some good news(at least I hope) regarding our case with immigration services.

According to the USCIS website the status changed from "Request For Evidence" to "Card/Document Production".

The website stated: 
On March 3, 2014, we ordered production of your new card. Please allow 30 days for your card to be mailed to you. If we need something from you we will contact you. If you move before you receive the card, call customer service at 1-800-375-5283. This step applies to applications that result in an applicant receiving a card (such as a "green card") or other document (such as a naturalization certificate, employment authorization document, travel document, or advance parole). Applications will be in this step from the time the order to produce the card/document is given until the card/document is produced and mailed to the applicant. You can expect to receive your card/document within 30 days of the approval of your application. If you do not receive your document, please contact our National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283.
It continued to say:
On March 7, 2014, we mailed you a notice that we had registered this customer's new permanent resident status. Please follow any instructions on the notice. Your new permanent resident card should be mailed within 60 days following this registration or after you complete any ADIT processing referred to in the welcome notice, whichever is later. If you move before receiving your card, please call our customer service center at 1-800-375-5283. During this step the formal decision (approved/denied) is written and the decision notice is mailed and/or emailed to the applicant/petitioner. You can use our current processing time to gauge when you can expect to receive a final decision. 

This is excellent news. Now Anna and I can finally get on with our lives and start planning for the future without the fear of Anna being required to return to Russia. Now once we get the green card, Anna will be free and clear until she needs to renew the green card in two years, but that should be a much simpler process. 

When she gets her green card, she will be able to find a job if she wants, get a driver's license  and be able to live like the average US Citizen. Unfortunately though, she will not be a US Citizen until after she applies for US Citizenship and she needs to wait a minimum of 3 years after she gets her green card before she can even think of applying. I am sure that will be a story of its own.

Needless to say we are definitely looking forward to the green card arriving soon. Finally, a light at the end of the tunnel. We only hope is not a freight train coming at us.

Friday, February 28, 2014

And The waiting continues...

Today, I checked the status of our application with the USCIS and once again I was disappointed with the "Request For Evidence" status that was indicated.

According to the United States Postal Service, the USCIS(aka. Department of Homeland Security) was delivered almost a week ago but unfortunately the USCIS website still indicates the "Request for Evidence" status.

This is what it reads:
On February 7, 2014, we mailed a notice requesting initial evidence in this case. Please follow the instructions on the notice to submit the evidence requested. Meanwhile, processing of this case is on hold until we either receive the evidence or the opportunity to submit it expires. Once you submit the evidence requested and a decision is made, you will be notified by mail. If you move while this case is pending, please use our Change of Address online tool to update your case with your new address or call our customer service center at 1-800-375-5283.

A request for evidence is made when an application/petition is lacking required documentation/evidence (initial evidence) or the officer needs more documentation/evidence (additional evidence) to determine an applicant's eligibility for the benefit sought. We may send you a request for evidence at any stage of our review. The request will indicate what evidence or information is needed for us to fully evaluate your application or petition. The notice will explain where to send the evidence and will give the deadline for your response. Your application or petition will be held in suspense during that time. If you receive a request for evidence and have questions about what you need to submit, you may call our National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283.
I have to admit it is frustrating to say the least. It has been nearly 4 months since they received our application along with the $2340.00 fee they charged us for this "service". I don't know why it needs to take so much time. Perhaps the person who is supposed to be reviewing the document is on vacation or maybe they need to seek the advice of a supervisor to proceed. Either our documents are not sufficient and they need more information or they are just sitting on the documents waiting for their next paycheck. I have no idea. All I know is that our documents have been received and someone should be reviewing them now.

Needless to say our lives continue to be on hold until these government bureaucrats decide to approve/disapprove our application. In the mean time, I am working on teaching Anna how to drive a car and Anna is continuing to take English classes with the hopes that soon she will get her green card. Then finally she can get a drivers license and find a job. I can't even begin to say how frustrated she is staying inside the house all day while I go to work and the children go to school.

Now the weekend has arrived and we need to wait two more days for anything to happen. Hopefully we get good news next week but I won't hold my breath because it seems to me that the USCIS employs turtles and snails to move our papers from one desk to another.