This was the final step in Menchu’s petition to remove the conditions on her immigration status. In short, it’s the last stop before a 10-year permanent resident “green card”.
After sailing through the fiancé visa application process and marrying, we hit a bit of a bump with this part of the visa journey. Because Menchu doesn’t have an independent source of income, we never had a joint checking account, credit account or ever listed her on any of our monthly bills. Essentially, I provide for Menchu, pay all of the bills from the accounts that I had before we married and etc. We were thinking that, since you learn in the visa process that the sponsor (in this case, me) is financially responsible for the fiancé, there was no need to make joint accounts and such. We were sure that we would zip through this part of the process just as we had the other parts, with just a couple of affidavits from friends saying that they knew we were married, lived together and had a legitimate marriage. After all, to a couple who hold hands everywhere they go, it seemed absurd to us to think that anyone could doubt our love or the legitimacy of our marriage.
We were very surprised when the USCIS sent us a letter asking for more evidence of our “good faith” marriage.
I have to confess to, if not dropping the ball, forgetting that I was carrying the ball. Things took our attentions away from the gathering of evidence for the USCIS. We had a trip to the Philippines, my friend got sick and passed away and, acting as an executor, I had several months of legal work that distracted me.
But we gathered some more evidence and got the packet back to the USCIS just under the wire.
Then came the dreaded letter informing us that we apparently failed to convince the authorities and would have to sit for an interview with a DHS agent after all.
We doubled our efforts, changed more accounts, added Menchu to a deed and made photocopies of all sorts of things. As the interview day drew nearer, we started acting on tips from friends and from the Internet about what would be asked of us at the interview and began schooling each other on family histories. It was harder for me. I have a small family but Menchu’s family is much larger and, as most of you know who have Filipino loved ones, they adore giving nicknames to their family members. In Menchu’s family there is Bing-Bing, Babe, Cookie, Pamboy and so on. A plus for me was that I had met many of her family members during our last trip to Davao and General Santos City.
As we sat down for the interview with a surprisingly pleasant DHS agent, I felt that we had a firm grasp of our families’ and that we were ready for any oddball question that might come to try and trip us up.
Only, that question never came. In fact, the agent didn’t grill us on any of the things we were so afraid we’d forget. We were interviewed together, not separately as we had been told. The officer spoke mostly to Menchu and we fed our file the extra documentation we had brought. Thirty minutes later, after what wound up to be a very nice chat with a very nice man, he said that he would forward the file to the USCIS and they would make a final determination but that, to him, it looked good for Menchu.
A very happy couple walked out of the local DHS office that morning and it was us.