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
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 (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.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Crossing our fingers and waiting...

It has been almost 2 weeks since Anna had her interview with the USCIS and we were told that we had to come up with additional documentation to prove that Anna had the legal right to take her daughter out of the country.

They gave us 30 days to submit the documentation before they could continue processing her application.
If we don't provide proper evidence within 30 days it will nullify our application and we will need to start the entire  process all over again. That would mean Anna would be required to return to Russia and we would need to file for another visa for her to come back.

Prior to coming here, Anna was unable to locate her ex-husband in order to get his permission to take their daughter out of the country. In fact Anna has not seen nor heard from him since shortly after her daughter was born.

Fortunately Anna has an official court document from Russia that declared her ex-husband was "absent without a trace" after numerous attempts to locate him had failed while trying to collect child support.

Yesterday we were able to get the document translated and we were finally able to get the package in the mail today.

We are keeping our fingers crossed as we hope that they will accept this document as sufficient evidence in this case and subsequently approve our application for the green cards. We don't even want to think about the alternative because trying to locate her ex-husband in the past has proven to be futile and trying to locate him now would be an impossibility. We don't even know if he's dead or if he's alive.

If they reject our application, we will be forced to employ the services of an immigration attorney and to be honest, I don't think we cannot afford that option.

Now all we can do is wait and keep our fingers crossed...

Sunday, February 9, 2014

One final request for evidence...

Anna finally had her interview with immigration on Friday. We were both hoping to finally be able to put this all behind us and get good news that she would finally get her green card. But unfortunately yet again this was not the case.

I was unable to record the interview because the interviewer told me it was strictly prohibited. It made me wonder what they're trying to hide but the interviewer adamantly refused my request to audio record the interview.
I was able to sneak a picture of us all before the interview began though and I think that is also prohibited but what they don't know won't hurt them.

Overall the interview went well. I can't say it was the most comfortable interview. Tensions were rather high throughout the interview process. Anna was very nervous and to be honest the interviewer seemed to be rather rude which only added to Anna's discomfort.

It lasted nearly an hour and they asked Anna and the children many questions. I almost laughed when I heard the interviewer ask Anna if she was a terrorist or if she had ever been engaged in terrorist activities. I wonder if a terrorist would actually answer that question honestly.

Other questions that were asked included if Anna was involved in espionage or if she had ever been involved in the overthrow of a government. Of course Anna was able to answer all the questions honestly with "no". I can assure everyone that Anna is not a terrorist.

Everything seemed to be going fine and we thought the whole interview process was getting ready to come to a close until the interviewer noticed that we were lacking some documentation. We had all the necessary documentation except a document that showed Anna had permission from her ex husband to take her daughter out of Russia and allowing her to live in the United States with Anna.

Anna has documents that allowed her to take Maria out of the country but it isn't necessarily permission from her ex-husband. She had to get a court order allowing her to take Maria out of the country because she had not seen or heard from her ex-husband since Maria was born. 

In fact Anna has good reason to believe that he may even be dead although she didn't have any evidence to prove it.

Unfortunately Anna had left that document at home because she didn't know she would be required to show it at the interview. She was not required to show it at the interview at the U.S. Embassy in Russia so she assumed she didn't need it for this interview.

In hindsight we both realize that we should have brought that document with us to the interview.
But fortunately we have the document. Now all we need to do is get it translated and mail a copy of the document along with its translation to the USCIS and we should be able to finally get her green card. We are hoping to get it sent in this week.

Even with this minor delay we are both feeling very relieved and it feels like a huge weight has been lifted from our shoulders. But we will feel much better when we finally have the green card in hand.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Tomorrow is the big day

Anna and I have been very busy the past few weeks preparing for her interview with the USCIS on Friday.
We have gathered all the necessary documents and we are hopeful that everything will go well but we are both a little nervous and Anna is very worried that she may not do well in the interview and that they will reject our application for the green card. 
I am fairly confident that everything will go well during the interview. Fortunately our friend Katya has volunteered to be our interpreter for the interviews so I think we have all the bases covered. 
Anna is a little concerned that she won't be able to remember birthdays and other things that they may ask her in order for her to prove to them that we are still married and we have on ongoing relationship. 
But we are both looking forward to this final step to be complete so she can finally get her green card. To say Anna is a bit stir crazy staying at home all day while I work would an understatement. She is eager to get her green card so she can start to look for work. she can't wait to be able to finally get out of the house and help contribute to our household. 
Tomorrow will be the moment of truth and both Anna and I are on edge in anticipation of the outcome.
It will be an early morning for us and we will need to be at the local immigration office by 8:00 for the first interview. 
There will actually be 3 interviews. Maria will have her interview at 8:00, followed by Ivan's interview and finally Anna's interview at 9:00.
I will request permission to record the audio of the interview to share on the blog afterward but I am not sure if they will let me do it.
Needless to say we are both rather anxious about tomorrows so tonight we decided to get out of the house for a while and relax to a hot cup of coffee in the coffee shop for a while. It was kind of nice to go out on a date for a while. It is not very often Anna and I can go out alone given the constant demands of the children. We hoped that will calm our nerves while we anticipate our big day tomorrow. We are hoping for good news. We are definitely looking forward to putting this all behind us so we can go on with our lives.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Preparing for the interview

Anna and I finally received the official Notice of Action (Form I-797C) from the USCIS. It was a 'Request for Applicant to Appear for Initial Interview' dated January 3, 2014.
Here is the complete notice we received from them.
January 03, 2014
You are hereby notified to appear for the interview appointment, as scheduled below, for the
completion of your Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status (Form 1-485) and any supporting applications or petitions. Failure to appear for this interview and/or failure to bring the below listed items will result in the denial of your application. (8 CFR 103.2(b)(13))
Who should come with you?
  • If your eligibility is based on your marriage, your husband or wife must come with you to the interview.
  • If you do not speak English fluently, you should bring an interpreter.
  • Your attorney or authorized representative may come with you to the interview.
  • If your eligibility is based on a parent/child relationship and the child is a minor, the petitioning parent and the child must appear for the interview.
*NOTE: Every adult (over 18 years of age) who comes to the interview must bring Government-issued photo identification, such as a driver's license or ID card, in order to enter the building and to verify his/her identity at the time of the interview. You do not need to bring your children unless otherwise instructed. Please be on time, but do not arrive more than 30 minutes early. We may record or videotape your interview.
YOU MUST BRING THE FOLLOWING ITEMS WITH YOU: (Please use as a checklist to prepare for your interview)
  • This Interview Notice and your Government issued photo identification.
  • A completed medical examination (Form 1-693) and vaccination supplement in a sealed envelope (unless already submitted).
  • A completed Affidavit(s) of Support (Form 1-864) with all required evidence, Including the following, for each of your sponsors (unless already submitted):
    • Federal Income Tax returns and W-2's, or certified IRS printouts, for the most recent tax year
    • Letters from each current employer, verifying current rate of pay and average weekly hours, and pay stubs for the past 2 months;
    • Evidence of your sponsors and/or co-sponsor's United States Citizenship or Lawful Permanent Resident status.
  • All documentation establishing your eligibility for Lawful Permanent Resident status.
  • Any immigration-related documentation ever issued to you, including any Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and any Authorization for Advance Parole (Form 1-512).
  • All travel documents used to enter the United States, including Passports, Advance Parole documents (1-512) and I-94s (Arrival/Departure Document).
  • Your Birth Certificate.
  • Your petitioner's Birth Certificate and your petitioner's evidence of United States Citizenship or Lawful Permanent Resident Status.
  • If you have children, bring a Birth Certificate for each of your children.
  • If your eligibility is based on your marriage, in addition to your spouse coming to the interview with you, bring:
    • A certified copy of your Marriage Document issued by the appropriate civil authority.
    • Your spouse's Birth Certificate and your spouse's evidence of United States Citizenship or Lawful Permanent Resident status;
    • If either you or your spouse were ever married before, all divorce decrees/death certificates for each prior marriage/former spouse;
    • Birth Certificates for all children of this marriage, and custody papers for your children and for your spouse's children not living with you;
  • Supporting evidence of your relationship, such as copies of any documentation regarding joint assets or liabilities you and your spouse may have together. This may include: tax returns, bank statements, insurance documents (car, life, health), property documents (car, house, etc.), rental agreements, utility bills, credit cards, contracts, leases, photos, correspondence and/or any other documents you feel may substantiate your relationship.
  • Original and copy of each supporting document that you submitted with your application. Otherwise, we may keep your originals for our records.
  • If you have ever been arrested, bring the related Police Report and the original or certified Final Court Disposition for each arrest, even if the charges have been dismissed or expunged. If no court record is available, bring a letter from the court with jurisdiction indicating this.
  • A certified English translation for each foreign language document. The translator must certify that s/he is fluent in both languages, and that the translation in its entirety is complete and accurate.
YOU MUST APPEAR FOR THIS INTERVIEW- If an emergency, such as your own illness or a close relative's hospitalization, prevents you from appearing, call the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283 as soon as possible. Please be advised that rescheduling will delay processing of application/petition, and may require some steps to be repeated. It may also affect your eligibility for other immigration benefits while this application is pending.
If you have questions; please call the USCIS National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283 (hearing impaired TDD service is 1-800-767-1833).
It is definitely asking for a lot but most of the documents we have already sent them. In fact I think we have already sent them everything listed above twice. I don't know why they require us to show them the documents again but we still have copies so it should be easy for us to collect them for the interview.

Unfortunately one of the items they are requiring from us is going to be impossible for us to produce. We don't have a "Government-issued photo identification" for her. That is the whole purpose in applying for the Green Card. The green card will be her "Government-issued photo identification". And I can guarantee, I cannot get her a drivers license without a green card. This Government organization never ceases to amaze me. They may as well be saying "Please bring your green card to your interview for your green card application". I certainly hope this is not a deal breaker. It would definitely be disappointing to find out she can't get a green card because she doesn't already have one.

Needless to say the next few weeks will be very busy for us as we try to gather all the required documents in preparation for the interview. We hope everything goes well during the interview because both Anna and I are ready for this process to be over. I can't say it will be completely over after she gets her green card, but at least it will buy us 2 years before we need to go through this entire process again.

I still think it would have been easier and cheaper for Anna to have met me in Mexico and we could have crossed the border illegally and lived happily ever after. Who knows, she may have already been on welfare by now if we had not followed the rules. ;)