Since the day Fabio and I finally decided to go ahead and start the paperwork for his green card (we’d be tossing the idea around lightly since early 2012), life has been pretty damn stressful and emotional. Actually, it kind of feels like the last 3 years have more or less been like this, when I think about it…but that’s another post.
Even though the whole green card process is stressful, I am thankful that, if I do everything Immigration Services tells me to, I know things will work out. It’s a strange, almost surreal experience after dealing with what the Italian system puts you through. I’m so used to being 100% prepared but 100% uncertain as to whether I’ll be successful in getting what I need. There is limited/incomplete information about what to do, or you get completely different information out of two colleagues who work in the same office. Mind, I’m not trying to hate on Italy. Ask anyone from here and they’ll agree…I’ve never met anyone, in my roughly 6 years living here, that is satisfied with the bureaucratic system. There are a few bright spots, however, and I’m always happy to point them out! For example, our comune (pronounced: com un eh-kind of like something between a county and a city district) offers all anagraphic data i.e. birth and marriage certificates online. They are 100% official, verified by a bar code which acts as an ‘e-signature’ and the best part is you can print them straight from your home computer! If only everything could be this easy! Unfortunately, after applying for a marriage license (which took over a month and at one point I actually broke down and cried in front of a public official) and two visa applications/renewals with countless visits to the Questura (where all immigrant-stuff happens) I’ve been left traumatized. Just the thought of doing another lengthy procedure makes me want to jump in the Arno!
We are lucky in the fact that I was able to file my petition (the I-130), for my alien spouse (yep, I definitely think we should change that wording, ahem) through the USCIS office located in Rome. This is only because I am a permanent resident in Italy. If I weren’t, I’d have to file, like everyone eles, at a lockbox (I think for most of the west it’s in Chicago) and wait much longer. It took me about a month to assemble all the necessary documents. I took my time because, after doing a lot of online research, I saw that it was very time consuming to fix any errors if you filed incorrectly, and while I could’ve probably gotten most of it done in a week, I knew I only wanted to do this once, per bene (well), also, it’s a pricey application fee (over 300 bucks) so we didn’t want to risk throwing that down the drain as well!
I think this whole experience has opened up a whole OCD part of my brain I didn’t know was there. I had no idea I could be so organized, thorough and, well, obsessive (just ask my poor friends and family, I’ve been kinda consumed). When assembling my packet, I wanted whoever opened it to cry because they were so relieved it was so nicely put together. I went on every website and read every official recommendation on how to send in the over 20 pages of documents. I even special-ordered these clips from a friend of mine who sells office supplies since they stated they were the preferred way to assemble all of the papers. I labeled every document at the bottom, from left to right, and put the check right smak dab in the front, so that was the first thing they’d see (because who are we kidding, that’s the most important thing, right?)!
So we sent that bad boy down to Rome on June 15th. I received an email from the USCIS on the 18th saying they had received the packet and that it would take them about 30-60 days to evaluate it, and that they’d notify me by mail once it had been reviewed. Exactly 32 days later I got an email saying that the packet had been approved! Our case was now going to be passed on to Naples, where they’d conduct the interview and we’d submit our petition for a visa (Rome is just to get in the door, basically). Progress!!
Another difference for filing in Italy is that you get to skip a step. Normally, you have to send all of the documents needed for the second step before they schedule your interview because, if you’re missing something, they won’t proceed until they get it. On the one hand, it makes the process for us go a bit faster, on the other, you run the risk of traveling all the way to Naples (we’re going to have to spend 350 euro on just train tickets and a hotel for two nights) just to get denied because of one, lousy paper (for example). It’s not like you won’t get the visa, it’s just that they cannot give it to you unless they have everything. This is what has been nagging at me and causing me to loose sleep.
Thankfully, I’ve had wonderful help from the IV Unit (that’s the office that handles these kinds of things). They’ve always responded to every neurotic question, no matter how obscure. It has been so wonderful to actually be able to communicate with people who actually work there and know all the procedures! I’ve also had some great help from my friend’s dad, who I’ve unfortunately never met in person, but was incredibly generous and kind, calming all my crazy, obsessive worries. Thanks Mr. Jupe!! I owe you one!
The crucial element in this whole process is your the financial sponsor in the US. Of course. Money again, but I get it. I had to do the same thing when getting my visa to live in Italy. They just want to make sure this new addition to the country won’t become a ward of the state, and I have no qualms with that. I am also very lucky, because my parents adore Fabio, like, I kind of think they might like him more than me! So asking them to fill out 8 pages of forms and send a ton of their tax info over here wasn’t a huge burden for them (they know what we’ve through the past few years and, of course, are over the moon about the idea of having us on that side of the world).
So the last several weeks have seen another wave of anal-retentive/obsessive-compulsive organizing/researching/stressing to make sure I have everything perfect for our interview. Once I was ready, I faxed a form called the DS230 down to Naples with a signed statement declaring that I had all necessary documents in my possession that were needed for the interview. The next business day, I had an email waiting for me…our interview had been scheduled for the first week in October! When I saw it…Che emozione! (in Italian this usually means how exciting, but I think I’ll take the literal translation of ‘oh what emotions’ for this one). The gauntlet of emotions…the happy/sad, excited/scared , the worry… but thankfully, deep down under all the crazy is a steady, sure feeling. I know that no matter all the emotions or what other people think of our decision…I am sure we’re doing the right thing for our family. It’s kind of like there’s an island of sanity surrounded by a sea of crazy. It’s this gut instinct that both Fabio and I have, and it’s keeping us strong, resistant and determined.