One thing Tommy525 and I have in common is going through this whole gruelling process of applying for resident visa (so-called greencard) for foreign spouse. For my case, the process took about 11 months from start (sending off initial forms) to finish (landing in the U.S. with the official resident visa) for my Taiwanese wife.
We were married much longer than you and have kids who are also American. The process does NOT take any of this into consideration. You do not get to “skip ahead in line” based on length of marriage, how many times previously went to U.S., # of American kids in family. It sucks, but that’s the way it is. No use arguing about the reality of this here in this thread. It is what it is.
Here are my thoughts:
do NOT ask AIT anything. I tried that. AIT will only answer (by email) by sending links to USCIS websites. Why? Because AIT is part of State Department and only is a “part” of this gruelling process AFTER you get approved by USCIS for the FIRST part of the visa application process (there are 2 parts to the whole process: USCIS and then National Visa Center). AIT only gets involved AFTER the NVC approves (following USCIS approval) your case and then sends documents to AIT for final step in the process. I even was inside AIT to get my son’s US passport updated, went to a window to ask questions about my wife’s visa application process, and the lady would only hand me a photocopy sheet of websites, etc. So, AIT will NOT help. It only will be a part of the final process when wife is ‘interviewed’. That process was the easiest part of all!!
Yes, there are lots of websites out there (2 below to start off):
As you have questions during the process, you can google for specific answers. I did. Most answers are clear and concise on what to do.
Yes, she can visit/go with you to the U.S. on VWP (visa waiver program), but once she is there, she cannot apply FROM the U.S. to get resident visa. There are multiple gov’t websites stating a person cannot come in on one type of visa (say, non-resident or travel visa or VWP) and apply INSIDE the U.S. to change to another visa type (resident). Huge no-no, at least from U.S. government website content.
The VWP has the holder basically sign an online document “waiving his/her rights” upon arrival in the U.S. to complain IF the border agent denies entry. That’s a big point people forget. The girl/guy at that table taking your wife’s fingerprints and webcam shot has SOLE discretion to let her in or not. If he/she decides something is fishy, there is no way she can call an “immigrant” lawyer right then and there and plead her case at the airport. Moreover, later on in the process, if your wife visits the U.S. again under VWP, that border agent at the airport may have info on his computer showing that the wife is applying for a resident visa, in which case, the discussion may (or may not) turn into whether she will be leaving after 90 days, where is the proof of that, etc.
Like Tommy says, you do not want to mess around with this. You only get 1 shot.
Some more things to think about:
- Your company did this abrupt job location on you. You should mention the stress it will put on you and your wife. Perhaps ask company to pay for tickets when wife has to leave. Personally, they should take on a lot of responsibility in this process once you state what will happen to your wife due to company decision.
- Yes, in the internet, there are many examples of spouses on VWP who have started the process of resident visa application and who have come to the U.S. on VWP and then left the U.S. and then come back. It seems from my reading, that eventually after a few times of doing so, the border agent may get a lot more inquisitive on what is going on. Or he/she may not. This is a roll of the dice here.
- If your wife stays for 183+ days in the U.S. (let’s say, by using VWP, while still waiting for processing of resident visa), then the IRS gets involved and she will have to declare assets back home in Taiwan and/or either file income tax report individually or be put on your income tax report. Since your case may take 11 months or more (like mine), you may cover 2 calendar years and think this might night not impact you. Well the IRS takes the number of days in the most recent calendar year + 1/3 the number of days in the previous year + 1/6 the number of days in the previous year before that. If that summation is over 183+, then you have to file taxes or report assets just like above.
What’s my opinion:
Just like Tommy and others. Start this process from Taiwan. Get the interview from AIT (eventually). (Think about it. If you get interviewed in the U.S. and all your marriage documents and your wife’s birth certificates are in Chinese, then the U.S. side will force you to get them translated in the U.S. and then have them certified in the U.S. All a bit costly and time-consuming. That’s a whole other mess. At least AIT can accept translations FROM Taiwan and accept Chinese birth certificates. etc.). Yes, she can probably visit you in the U.S. on VWP, but at that point in the game, you will have to know the risk you are going up against, when she may or may not be questioned by the border agent.
You may PM and I can help with specific questions.
I did the whole process myself. You do NOT need an immigration lawyer to do this process CORRECTLY from the start.
Like Tommy said, though, you MAY need the immigration lawyer (VERY VERY costly) if you take any short-cut and come upon a problem in the future that puts at risk any chance of living in the U.S. under a resident card (greencard).
Good luck. And tell your wife about the situation and what it will entail. Do NOT keep it from her. There’ll be so many documents that you’ll have to chase down… But that’s in the future.
Thankfully, my wife just traveled in Asia a few times with her female friends and hung out with college friends whom she hadn’t spent a lot of time with in the last few years.