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Marrying USC abroad then immediately coming back to the US on student visa then AOS?

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Filed: AOS (pnd) Country: Taiwan
Timeline

We got married abroad and I entered the day after our wedding on a F-1 visa (for our honeymoon in Hawaii!!). Since F-1 is a non-immigrant visa, I was worried that they would outright reject our adjustment of status (AOS) petition and tell us to file for a CR-1 (visa for spouse). I googled and searched this forum to see if anybody had a similar experience but found that most people got married in the US. So, now that we're at the end of my AOS journey, I want to leave this post so that people who are in the same situation (or considering going abroad to get married and coming back on a student visa) will have some reassurance.

We decided to marry in Taiwan because both our families live there. We didn't want to go to the courthouse in the US before or after our ceremony because we wanted our families to be there. We also wanted the date of our marriage certificate to reflect the actual day of our union. We consulted our school's international adviser and she said that I shouldn't have any problem re-entering since I don't even need to apply for AOS if I don't want to. I will still be a student.

I had been a F-1 student visa holder for 4 years during college. I used up my OPT then switched to H-1B for about 1 year. Then I went back to school and thus back on F-1 student visa. My current visa does not expire until 2 years from now (valid for 5 years, I've been on it for 3 years). I have been on B-1 tourist visas before college but I have never overstayed in the US or entered illegally.

From initial application to approval, it took about 3 months for us. We did not receive a request for evidence (RFE) though it took a while for our biometrics appointment letter to arrive (also did not attempt a walk-in). Never once was the fact that I entered on a student visa after our marriage brought up by anybody.

I wrote this in the local USCIS review section but maybe it'll be helpful (at least calm some nerves) for those with interviews coming up!

We had our GC (AOS from F-1) interview at the Irving, TX USCIS office. Our appointment was for 11:30am and we got there around 11:15am but we didn't get called until 12:15pm. The interview lasted about 40 minutes. Note that it says at the front door that they only allow people whose appointment is within 30 minutes to go in due to limited seating. After showing the security of appointment notice, our belongings had to go through a airport-style security scanner but we were allowed to bring our cell phones in. The building is quite new (and environmentally friendly) and was a very comfortable space. The interviews take place on the 2nd floor.

The waiting area was crowded when we arrived and the lady at the front desk mentioned a 1.5 hour delay. Upon checking in with the lady, she gave us a restaurant-style coaster buzzer. When it buzzed about 1 hour after we got there (45 min post appointment time), we went up to the desk and our officer, a middle-age pleasant-looking lady, greeted us there and led us through a door into a long hallway with individual offices.

Our officer swore us in before we sat down. First, she asked for both our IDs (passports, driver's licenses). I had placed all supporting documents in sheet protectors organized by category (finance, lease, birth certificates, etc.) in a 3-ring binder. This turned out to be very useful since when she asked for something, I can find them easily (I think an accordion type folder will work well too). Then to my surprise, she asked for my social security card which I actually didn't even think of bringing (since it's not on the required document list). When I said I didn't bring it, she just asked me what name is on it because she was confused by all the different names I have used. My passport, US visas, and TX driver's license were in my legal (translated) name, while on my social security card, previous EAD, I-20, etc. have my "as known as name" that is also on my passport/birth certificate. All my financial documents are in my "aka name" as well, and I had applied for the green card in my aka first name plus my husband's last name. She was satisfied to see my aka name on most other documents except for the few mentioned above. She mentioned that since my new EAD card was issued in my aka first name plus my husband's last name, she will just go with that.

Then she verified all the info on form I-485 with me, and form I-130 with my hubby (US citizen). We both had to initial at several places to verify our answers (Terrorist? No. Communist? No.) and signature. She asked to see our original marriage certificate, original birth certificates, and latest bank statements. She also asked if we have our 2009 tax return with us, which we didn't (we filed separately). She asked if we brought other things to add to the file, so we gave her our new lease, car insurance, and cell phone/home internet bill. She also took a look at our joint credit card statement and returned it to us.

While she was looking at these things, she asked:

1) How did we meet? (My husband answered.)

2) Who has which account? When were these accounts opened? When did we add each other? (We each had an account since college and just added each other after we got married.)

3) Who lived in the current apartment first? When did we start living together? (I did, and we didn't live together until we got married, but we had put my husband's name on last year's lease so that he could get a gate clicker.)

4) What was our wedding like? (She was curious since we got married abroad so that our families could be there. We pulled out our wedding album to show her while we explain. She flipped through it and asked us who some people are. She noted that A LOT of people were there... which was true. We had over 250 guests!)

5) Are we still in school? How many years do we have left?

I had also printed out more than 100 photos (from when we met 3 years ago to last month) arranged in chronological order with captions. I made it with powerpoint's photo album function and just printed them out on plain paper. She flipped through it and was happy to hear that she could keep it. She was very pleasant throughout and told us that she'll approve us as soon as she fix my name today or at the latest tomorrow.

Finally, she turned the computer screen around to show us the letter she would've just given me if not for the name issue and went through a list of things that I need to keep in mind (I should have the GC with me at all times, removal of condition, cannot vote yet, etc.). She took my I-94 while explaining to me that I won't need it anymore (yay! I don't miss it) and that they'll make notes on the back and file it away. She gave me back my latest EAD card (took the two older ones from my OPT days). However, she said that I should return my EAD card to the office when I receive my green card. She also mentioned that if I need to travel before I get the green card, I can make an infopass appointment and get my passport stamped.

Overall, it was a very pleasant experience at the Dallas/Irving USCIS office.


I'm keeping a blog detailing this journey!

AOS PROGRESS

3/10/2010: AOS (I-485/I-130/I-765/I-131) sent

3/12/2010: AOS received at Chicago lockbox

3/19/2010: Checks cashed!

3/22/2010: NOA of all four forms received (sent 3/19/2010)

4/14/2010: Biometrics appointment letter received (sent 4/9/2010 for 4/29/2010 appointment)

4/29/2010: Biometrics taken as scheduled

5/12/2010: Interview notice received (sent 5/7/2010)

5/28/2010: AP received!

6/04/2010: EAD received!

6/14/2010: Interview... approved!

6/18/2010: Card production ordered for GC (1st e-mail)

6/23/2010: Welcome to USA letter received / card production e-mail (2nd e-mail)

7/01/2010: Approval notice sent (3rd e-mail)

7/03/2010: Green card received!

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