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AOS Timeline and Interview (DIY, F1 visa)

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Yesterday I finally got my green card:) We really appreciate all the help from this forum. It saved us from hiring a lawyer and a lot of time too!

Background: I married to a USC, we both are PhD students, RFE once, approved on spot of interview.

Here I will cover:

1. Lessons learned
2. Interview experience
3. Timeline

#######1.Lessons learned

1.a. When you are preparing documents, sufficient is a must, but clear and simple can also be important. Redundant documents probably won't do you any good.

As we did not want to miss anything, we mailed in too many things. For example, when we filed the I-864, we included the Turbo Tax documents from both my husband and our sponsor, whose documents were 100+ pages per year. Our mail weighed almost 5lb in the end. It did not strike me as an issue, until we received a RFE asking for more information for I-864, although we submitted everything (way too more than everything). Much later when we went for the interview, I saw the officer pull out ALL our submitted files on his desk, I was shocked - it was a feet high - and couldn't stop thinking if I were them, I would probably already fail myself.

So besides providing sufficient information, try also be clear and simple when possible. We could just submit the IRS transcript without Turbo Tax document. Definitely separate different files in different folders, and provide a cover page to list out (in order) what are in the folder. Also, for things like copy of your leasing agreement, you can have it printed two sided, to safe your mailing fee, and to safe your reviewer's mood.

1.b. For people with income non-taxable: include an employment letter.

As mentioned in one of my previous post, my husband is with a full fellowship, which is designed for him to use for living expense, but it does not associate with any W2 or any equivalent form. No W2 meaning even he paid his tax, it will not show on the IRS income AT ALL. So in his petitioner's I-864, you can imagine, the numbers in Part 6-10 and 6-13 do not match. We include our offer letters from school in our first submission, but got the RFE asking for employment letter. We couldn't tell if it's because they really don't buy offer letter (well the letter is pretty long to read...) with serious school title and department chair signature on it, or it's because they couldn't find useful information in our huge document pile, so we ended up asking our department for new letters in response to the RFE, and it thankfully worked.

Note that if you are a full time student with research assistantship, teaching assistantship, fellowship etc, you will NOT get an exact employment letter, because you are not an employee of the school. So in the whatever letter you could let them write up for you, state that it is equivalent to an employment letter. And again, make the letter sufficient, but clear and not too long. Highlight those things USCIS care about if needed. (e.g. our school guarantees to support us for 5 years, which is considered as "future employment" requested in RFE; e.g. my husband annual income of this year is XXXX dollars, which match with the form).

1.c. When you really want to hear something useful from USCIS customer service call, ask for a Tier 2 representative.

It's not hard to get a T2 representative, as long as you state to the T1 person why your problem cannot be solved by him/her. In our case, we called for our RFE, asking what USCIS really wants when all the things they were asking were already submitted. We called three times to speak with Tier 1 representatives and all they could say is do whatever the letter said -- yeah I know that thanks. So the 4th time, I directly asked to speak with a Tier 2 representative, reasoning that I need more information besides "following the letter". I didn't learn much more from Tier 2 representative, except he said sometimes they send RFE just to confirm with previous submission.

1.d. Other small tips.

-The USCIS email & online system may not work sometime, so don't get too stressed out by it. For example, I heard people get txt and email right after they walk outside of the interview office, but it never happened to me. No updates for a week after interview and all of the sudden received I130 and welcome letter in mail, and then online updates.

-7:15am interview appointment is real... that's what we got. The building was not open till 6:50am, and security check took time... I was really worried that we would be late, but our interviewer was even later lol.

-Signature in blue or black ink works. We used both I believe, and neither turned to be an issue.

-Dress up and be professional for the interview. Don't over talk. Make jokes only when you are certain you won't bother the interviewer. (Heard from others, and I believe they are good tips to follow)

-Stamp on passport will not be given, unless you already have a flight ticket booked to show the interviewer. However, if you really need to travel before your card arrives, as long as your green card is approved, bring your approval notice (if there is any), your flight ticket and use the walk in option or infopass, to get a stamp on the passport.

#######2. Interview experience

Our interview was relatively smooth. 7:15am appointment means waking up at 4am (we live a bit far away from the city), but it also means no traffic and easy to park. We managed to line for security check at 6:20am. We didn't not bring our phone with us, because some posts say that would save time in the security check, but I don't think it mattered to us in the end.

The interviewer called my name at 7:25-ish. He was polite and we greeted each other. As we walked towards his office, my husband's shoe got untied (orz...). My husband is very bad at tying anything, so I knew it would take a bit. Thankfully the interviewer saw I was holding the photo album, and asked to see our photo. There I got the chance to explain the special design of our wedding ring, and our engagement party with lab colleagues etc. The interviewer was with a professional light smile on his face - doesn't seem to be very impressed nor annoyed, which made me a bit nervous lol.

As we got into his office, we did the standard oath, followed by showing him my husband's ID, my ID, I-485 yes&no question. The interviewer's voice was a bit low, so I actually asked him to repeat two of the questions to make sure I heard him correctly. I got the impression that he liked me being serious about answering these standard questions.

Then he asked for evidence of we living together and to prove it's a real marriage. I gave him our joined bank statement, leasing agreement, credit card, phone bills, car, insurance, etc. I used to think I brought too many, but the interviewer actually browsed through them ALL. He even made marks on the documents to show our names are together.

As he was looking at the files, he asked me the following questions:

a. how many kids do you have?

b. do you live together? where?

c. when's your husband's birthday?

d. Was your date started in this city?

e. What's your SSN?

Again I couldn't hear him clearly, and answered the question b wrong. My husband corrected me, and I realized I misunderstood him, and corrected myself quickly. The interviewer didn't seem to be bothered by us having a conflict right there, and I guess it was important to explain if you did misunderstand him.

Then he was very interested in our phone bills and credit card statement. He chatted a bit with us about how frequently we call/text each other (not much, because we are in front of computer all the time, and we use email and gchat way more often), and about our credit card usage (90% in school cafe of course, super boring life).

He turned to my husband, asking him the following:

1. when's your wife's birthday?

2. when did you get married?

By that time, I still couldn't tell if he is convinced or not, because his facial expression never changed from the light smile. He piled up the copied evidences and put them in a big envelop, and started to look at our photo again. He didn't ask us to explain the photo, but he asked us to tell him how our relationship started.

I did most of the talking (although people say the petitioner should talk more). I told him about our first date, seeing families, travelling together, going to a same PhD program. We only have 60 photos and he pointed at some photos to ask us who were in the photo. He also asked how long it has been since we started dating.

Then he returned the original documents to me and ask us to pick some photos for his record. He congratulated me right there and started to type in the computer, and ask me to confirm my personal information. At last, he printed out an approval notice where it explains what to do to remove the conditional thing 2 years later. I asked if he could stamp my passport, and he said only if I have flight ticket ready. I then told him I never got my AP, and he said it's no longer valid anyway, as he approved my application.

Whole thing took about 20min.

#######3. Timeline (4.5 months)

2/6 USCIS received delivery

2/12 Cases open

2/13 Checks redeemed by USCIS

2/19 Received receipts for all cases and biometrics notice

3/3 Biometrics & RFE online notice :clock:

3/9 RFE letter received

4/2 RFE material mailed out (it took us pretty long to make sure everything is right - you should try to submit asap though)

4/8 Case re-open

4/27 AP approval notice email (I never got my AP though)

5/11 Interview notice email and mail :)

6/9 Interview: approved on spot :) (no update online or email though)

6/15 I130 and welcome letter in mail :) , online update: card production with USPS tracking number :)

6/16 Greencard in mail ! (email showed two-day mailing, but it was a one day delivery! (F) )

Thanks again for everyone's help. I hope you all get green card quick and easy:) I'm happy to answer any question you have with our experience, especially for the student income related part. Just leave me a message:)

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Would be great if you could complete the timeline in your profile to help others going through the same process.


Removal of Conditions Journey

3/3/2009 - Removal of conditions - sent off packet to CSC

3/5/2009 - I-751 received in CSC

3/9/2009 - Check cashed

3/20/2009 - Biometrics notice received (no NOA1)

4/2/2009 - Biometrics

4/9/2009 - NOA1 date (first undelivered one is 3/5)

4/3/2009 - Touch?

5/6/2009 - ROC Approval - 65 days

6/22/2009 - CRIS Card production ordered email

7/7/2009 - GC arrived!

Naturalization Journey

3/03/2010 N400 sent to Arizona Lockbox

3/15/2010 Check cashed

3/17/2010 NOA1

3/18/2010 - Biometrics notice sent

3/26/2010 Early biometrics done at an ASC different from the one assigned to (Original BIO date was 4/15)

4/30/2010 Yellow letter received and info from USCIS mil line they are working on my interview letter (6/17 appt)

5/1/2010 Text and email interview letter sen

5/6/2010 Interview letter received - scheduled for 6/17/2010 at 10:05am

6/17/2010 Interview appointment - PASSED

6/29/2010 US Citizen

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Lucy, thanks a lot for the write-up.

It is appreciated that you took the time to do this, even as you could just simply celebrate and fade away from those of us still waiting.


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Time Line - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

10 Year Green Card Process

July 22, 2017  ROC packet sent to Vermont.

July 24, 2017  ROC packet signed for in Vermont.

August 8, 2017  NOA received at house.  15 days since ROC signed for in VT.

August 12, 2017 ASC appointment received. 19 days since ROC in VT.

August 25, 2017 BIO completed. 32 days since ROC received in VT.

August 11, 2018  18 month 'Courtesy Copy' extension letter received.  Critical number  297

October 20, 2018 18 month 'Official' extension letter received.  Critical number 297

September - October 2018  10 year card expected ????

- - - - - - - -

Service Center: VSC
First 5 Digits EAC 17297
NOA1 Date: July 24, 2017
Filed N-400: Not yet

Case Transferred: Not yet

Approved?: Not yet

     If yes, did you have a RFE? Not yet.  On what date?:

     If yes, did you have an interview? On what date?:

Received 18 month extension letter on August 11, 2018

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