To be clear, I have fairly intimate relationship with USCIS as my wife is a Mexican national, and I made the mistake of calling Immigration and asking them the proper and legal steps to take to marry her and move her to the USA.
They gave us clear and concise instructions that are laid out in writing on their website, along with the dozens of forms you must fill out, notarize, and pay separate fees to file each one. Thousands of dollars out of pocket.
I made 2 trips to Mexico to go to the Embassy with her, which necessitated airfare, hotels, food, for two for several days, over $2,600.
Then we got married in the USA by a Preist. She then went back to Mexico for 3+ months to do the tasks (listed below) so she could actually move here AFTER we were legally married here.
After she moved to the U.S. came the interviews, three separate ones over 2 years. We knew they wanted proof of a pre-existing relationship, and we had photos, airline ticket receipts, hotel receipts, emails, letters, the whole nine yards. Each interview was different people and it seemed as if there was a different agenda at play at each.
She was also allowed to apply for and receive a Social Security number and a Work Permit.
Then came biometrics again, another blood test for AIDS, Malaria, Ebola, Tuberculosis, etc., and then a final interview, this one a mere formality to welcome my wife to America. A 100% authentic, bonafide, certified, and paid for Green Card was then granted.
Six weeks later, it came in the mail.
Then came the application for citizenship a couple of years later. Approved. A year later she was sworn in. That was another $725.
We went through all of that, not realizing that all she really had to do was to walk across the border illegally, request asylum, and she’d get thousands of dollars in benefits from the U.S. government instead of us PAYING the U.S. Government thousands of dollars.
They would have flown or bussed her to my hometown, put her up in a hotel, paid for new clothing, food, medical care, schooling (she’s a college grad already), plus give her a monthly subsistence check.
Of course, we couldn’t have gotten married, or we’d lose out on the tens of thousand of dollars she could have been given for being an illegal alien.
Besides the $2,600+ in filing fees it cost for me to get her here legally, the $400 for filing fees for miscellaneous things, and the $725 for the citizenship ceremony, there were other expenses and numerous legal obligations (that each cost money) she incurred in Mexico. Again, thousands of dollars worth.
She had to provide records/documents to the USCIS attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City (she lived 475 miles away and had to travel there four separate times).
Each page of each document had to be “legally translated/transcribed” to English and then Notarized at an exorbitant cost of approx. $14 USD per page, and only one place (the Mexican National University) was authorized to do it, and there were dozens and dozens of pages she was required to have translated and notarized.
This is what my wife had to do in Mexico AFTER we were legally married in the U.S., pursuant to U.S. Government Rules and Regulations. This all took her over 3 months, and cost thousands of dollars in airfare, gasoline, exorbitant fees in Mexico for any paperwork, transcription fees, filing fees, copy fees, taxi fees, hotels, restaurants, etc.
Mexico isn’t really computerized yet. They do have rudimentary systems, but nothing like in the U.S. They still rely upon paper records, file folders and filing cabinets for almost every essential record. It’s slow and frustrating, as an appointment is not necessarily an appointment if they cannot locate the required file, and that happens far too often.
Note: She lived in a State Capital about 475 miles from Mexico City the country’s capital, where the only U.S. Embassy is located in Mexico. It took her four trips to Mexico City (and me 2) to get all the paperwork filed and approved, and her stays in the city lasted from 2 days to 10 days each time to get all the appointments completed.
- She had to provide her personal income tax records, including complete salary history and copies of her tax returns and payment stubs for personal income taxes owed for the past 20 years.
- She had to provide her personal property holdings and related tax records with history of each year’s tax property tax payment.
- She had to convince the Immigration attaché that the marriage we requested was for love, not profit. They insisted on seeing extremely personal letters and emails to verify an ongoing relationship. It was rude and dehumanizing.
- She had to have an active visa issued by the United States for 2 years prior to applying to move to USA.
- She had to provide proof of “solvency” beyond having a job and property, i.e., savings/investments.
- She had to provide a background check via the Mexican government proving she had no criminal history and had not been arrested and/or charged with a crime.
- She had to provide proof of all financial holdings, i.e., bank accounts, property, bonds, stock, and cash on hand.
- As she was divorced, she had to provide her complete marriage history, all one of them, marriage application & certificate, AND had to provide copies of the divorce agreement.
- She had to provide 6 passport photos.
- She had to fill out Form I-485 for Adjustment of Status.
- She had to fill out Form I-864 Support Form.
- She had to fill out Form I-765 Work Permit Application (3-4 month process to receive interview appointment which necessitated another trip to Mexico City)
- She had to fill out Form I 13 for Advance Parole/Permission to Travel Outside of US.
- She had to provide a complete medical workup/physical, including blood, urine, X-rays, clearing her of all communicable diseases and healthy.
- She had to provide fingerprints, retina scan, facial photographs, and a hand geometry scan which was something I hadn’t seen before.
- All this took her four separate trips to Mexico City along with the related airfare, taxi fare, food, and hotels with a total of 18 nights spent in Mexico City.
- Now a USCIS agent will determine is we are actually getting married for love or if it is a ‘marriage of convenience’.
- I had to provide proof of an having an income enough to support both she and I going back 5 years, i.e. IRS tax forms.
- I had to pay for an FBI background check.
- I had to fly to Mexico City twice to give declarations and provide proof of income and our relationship.
- I had to provide proof of all financial holdings, i.e., bank accounts, property, bonds, stock, automobiles, and cash on hand.
- I had to provide copies of medical insurance for the both of us in the U.S.
- I had to provide insurance policies for both of us which names the other an the beneficiary, i.e. life insurance.
- They had us bring wedding photos and photos of us alone and with friends and family members. They then took us to separate rooms and placed several photographs, each on a sheet of blank paper and had us write down the names of the people in the photographs and when and where they were taken, to see if we really knew who they were.
- We had to provide bills in her name after she moved here, so we put several utility bills, etc. in her name.
I’ve described above how when she moved here we spent about $3,000 in fees to get her green card. This was without a lawyer.
A lawyer only files the exact same paperwork you can fill out. Then then files then and charges you a fee which does include the USCIS fees. It absolutely is NOT worth it to pay a lawyer to fill out a form with your personal information that you GAVE him, and then he charges you $250-400 per form to file it?
I know of people that paid from over $5K to over $10K in fees for just the ‘immigration lawyer’. DO IT YOURSELF and spend $2,500.