Our AOS Experience

My wife and I went for our I-130/I-485 Adjustment of Status (AOS) Interview in Omaha, Nebraska this morning. Our appointment was at 8:30, so we booked a room at the Country Inn a quarter mile away. The Department of Homeland Security Citizenship & Immigration Services (DHS CIS) office did not open until 8:00, so we arrived a few minues after that.

No cameras or cell phones are allowed inside the building, so we left those outside. We brought in a suitcase we had packed full of evidence. It included photo albums, our lease, tax information, and all the rest. The suitcase also included an accordion, or expanding, notebook that contained the most vital information, such as our passports, birth certificates, and marriage certificate. We also brought copies of everything. Everything was arranged in large vanilla envlopes I had puchased in a hundred-pack from Staples.

The DHS CIS security staff are the best in th world. They were patience with us while we brought in the suitcase, and even joked around about the guard having it put it in the metal detector (“You are making an old man break his back!”). The last time we were in the DHS CIS office, for the Biometrics interview, we were ushered to the left. This time we went to the right. We were direccted to place our offical interview date letter in a small black envelope box, and we had a seat.

Most of the people waiting for interviews were Mexicans. THey were dressed casually, though the gap between those who were raied outside the counttry and those raised in was noticable. (Those raised outside dressed and looked better). There was a European couple that both wore suits… and another American/Chinese pair. (Like us, the other Chinese/American couple was dressed in nice daily clothes.)

They came over to us. We had a lot in common. The American husband, the Chinese wife, and myself attended the same college at UNL — the husband just graduated, and the wife and I have offices on the same floor! They had driven from Lincoln this morning and were stressed from the driving. It was 90 minutes through rushhour and snow. I felt glad about booking a hotel room, and having a lazy breakfast and a swim instead! We found we were all schedule for 8:30 interviews. The wife was Shanghaiese, but had gone to Beijing for college at Peking University. We were having a wonderful time chatting when our name was called.

The Officer (who I’ll call “He” or “him”) brought us back to his office, and invited us to have a seat. He was very friendly, and said he would have to see our identification, passports, brith certificates, marriage certifiates, and any documents showing a bona fide relationship. I said “That’s most of the suitcase!” and he said “I thought that’s what it was!” We began taking things out of the suitcase as he listed specific things we needed to bring. It went very well. He asked for a joint bank account or anything showing comingling of assetts. I brought out copies of our Wells Fargo account, and said “there’s not too much there — I’m only a graduate student!” He said that it was fine, and asked if he could keep the copies (I said yes).

The Office appeared to go through a checklist, such as asking if we were married to anyone else, did we have kids, etc., and then said he would approve my I-130 Petition for Alien Relative. He then asked our co-sponsor (my mother), and I produced her tax form. He asked some simple questions, and then said he would approve my co-sponsor too.

Then to the I-485, “Application to Register Periamanent Residence or Adjust Status.” This was Fei’s application. I had been approved to bring her over, and my mom had been approved to co-sponsor us (essentially, guarantee we won’t go on welfare). Now for Fei being allowed to become a resident alien.

“Part 3. Processing information. (continued)” of I-485 asks a long list of evils. For instance, question 5b:

Do you intented to engage in the United States in: any activity a purpose of wich is opposition to, or the control or overthrow of, the government of the United States, by force, violence, or other unlawful means.?

Questiton 7:

Did you, during the period from March 23, 1933 to May 8, 1945, in association with either the Nazi Government of Germany or any organization or government associated or allied with the Nazi Government of Germany, ever order, incite, assist or otherwise participate in the persecution of any person because of race, religion, national origin or political opinion?

And everyone’s favorite, Question 4:

Have you ever engaged in, conspired to engage in, or do you intend to engage in, or have you ever solicited membership or funds for, or have you through any means ever assisted or provided any type of material support to any person or organization that has ever engaged or conspired to engage in sabotage, kidnapping, political assassination, hijacking or any
other form of terrorist activity??

Fortunately, Fei’s not a coup-plotter or a terrorist, and I’m pretty sure any of her Nazi activities either post-dated May 8, 1945, or pre-dated March 23, 1933. Unfortunately, Question 6 wasn’t such a laugh:

“Have you ever been a member of, or in any way affiliated with, the Communist Party or any other totalitarian party?”

Fei, who was in the Young Pioneer Leage in elementary school, the Communist Youth League starting in middle school, and the Communist Party in college, answered “yes.”

We gave the officer two affidavits, one from last summer renouncing the Communist Party, and another from earlier this winter re-affirming the renunciation. We had been assured us this wouldn’t be a problem. The Officer assumed it was.

This is where it gets complicated. The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA § 31) states that:

(a) Notwithstanding the provisions of section 405(b) , no person shall hereafter be naturalized as a citizen of the United States-

(1) who advocates or teaches, or who is a member of or affiliated with any organization that advocates or teaches, opposition to all organized government; or

(c) The provisions of this section shall be applicable to any applicant for naturalization who at any time within a period of ten years immediately preceding the filing of the application for naturalization or after such filing and before taking the final oath of citizenship is, or has been found to be within any of the classes enumerated within this section, notwithstanding that at the time the application is filed he may not be included within such classes.

But this was an AOS for non-immigration to immigrant status, not a naturalization. So actually I think we were running up against 8 USC § 1182:

(a) Classes of aliens ineligible for visas or admission
Except as otherwise provided in this chapter, aliens who are inadmissible under the following paragraphs are ineligible to receive visas and ineligible to be admitted to the United States:
(3) Security and related grounds
(D) Immigrant membership in totalitarian party
(i) In general
Any immigrant who is or has been a member of or affiliated with the Communist or any other totalitarian party (or subdivision or affiliate thereof), domestic or foreign, is inadmissible.

Ah, 8 USC § 1182(a)(3)(D)(i), which no one had mentioned to us, or even known about.

“I won’t be able to stamp your passport today” the Officer said. “But I will speak with our lawer later today, and let you know how it goes.”

“Can we come back at 5 o’clock?” I asked “or sometime else at the end of the day?”

The Officer explained that he had a meeting for another office later in the day, and so wouldn’t be able to meet later on. “Hold on, I will see if he’s available.”

The Officer let us alone as he left to find the lawyer. “I really didn’t think this would be a big deal” Fei said. Unfortunately, it was. The Cold War is over everywhere but Cuba, North Korea, and US immigration law.

The seven minutes or from when the Officer began asking about the communist party to the resolution were very long. Definitely some of the longest in our lives.

8 USC § 1182(a)(3)(D)(i) contains a number of exceptions. As the Code reads in 8 USC § 1182(a)(3)(D)(ii):

(ii) Exception for involuntary membership Clause (i) shall not apply to an alien because of membership or affiliation if the alien establishes to the satisfaction of the consular officer when applying for a visa (or to the satisfaction of the Attorney General when applying for admission) that the membership or affiliation is or was involuntary, or is or was solely when under 16 years of age, by operation of law, or for purposes of obtaining employment, food rations, or other essentials of living and whether necessary for such purposes.

The Officer determined that the selection process for Chinese Communsit Party membership at Xi’an Technological University qualified as involuntary. So Fei’s former Partisanship was decided to be both a cause and consequence of academic success.

“I will stamp your passport with a temporary green card” the officer said. Success!

Then final business. We need to apply for a 10-year green card in 21 months. The green card itself will come in the mail in a few days. But the stamp is as good as the card for up to one year, and was all we hoped for.

Baby, we did it.

26 thoughts on “Our AOS Experience”

  1. Congratulations! The whole process can be such a pain but I’m happy that you’ve had such a great experience with it so far. I dont know how they expect you to have much money left after paying all their fees, btw. I recently filed an I-130 for my wife so hopefully we’ll a similarly easy time. Luckily, she was never a member of any communist party.

  2. Congratulations. Amazing the hoops you two had to hop through. An interesting thought: What if the situation was vice versa and Dan was seeking similar status after marriage in China? Is the process as arduous?

  3. Hey ho! Romanette ii … Got. Her. Through!

    (With any code: read it, read on, read to the end. You never what might be in there. A lists of enumerated exceptions can be your best friend.)

  4. Your story sounds reminded me of how it was when my wife and I went through that process several years ago to get her green card.
    However, LA, does so many Mainland Chinese that that the school communist question was not even a blip on their radar.

  5. Makes me nervous as hell for the upcoming resolution (one way or another) of my fiance visa situation… I’m so happy for both of you that you can now essentially rest easy a bit knowing the immigration business is moving along steadily.

  6. Floored that they balked when she disclosed that she was a Pioneer Girl! That’s like the Chinese version of the Girl Scouts of the USA, eh? I’ve met Pioneer Girls before and their eyes always light up when I ask them to elaborate. There is no way that a “true believer” organization would touch the hearts of young women like that. ;-\ Maybe we could get a Pioneer story from Fei out of this?

  7. Congrats too you both in hopping over a Cold War legacy and moving Fei down the road to permanent residency/citizenship !

    “Are you now or have you ever been a member of…..”

  8. zenpundit,

    Yeah… I’ve read 8 USC § 1424(a-d) [1] several times now, and it appears that Fei’s “membership or affiliation… was for purposes of obtaining employment.” Otherwise there’s a ten-year delay before she can apply for naturalization. For now this isn’t a big deal (a Chinese passport with a US green card allows freer travel in the PRC and USA than a US passport would), but it’s something we’ll keep an eye on.

    Michael, Stephen, Deichmans,

    Thanks so much!

    Moon,

    Our officer first asked us if her Party membership was something that all people were part of, which would have covered the pioneer activities… So they caught the cold war relic (CCP membership) that they should have by law, at least.

    Eddie,

    How’s the paperwork on the visa going?

    historyguy,

    I’ve heard many stories about the different USCIS offices. Perhaps they weren’t as used to Chinese as others, but at least the staff was friendly and efficient! 🙂

    Lexington,

    Good advice!

    Chirol,

    Are you on trackitt [2] yet?

    [1] http://law.onecle.com/uscode/8/1424.html
    [2] http://www.trackitt.com/usa-immigration-trackers/i130-i485-tracker/

  9. Sending out proof of financial support forms this week as well as updated photos of myself and copies of all of our initial paperwork we forwarded to ICE for her consulate interview which hopefully will be in late April/early May.

  10. I wish you and your fiancee the best of luck. I assume this is for a K visa?

    The feeling after the stamp is strange — similar to finishing up my computer science degree, actually. “Wow. That was a lot of work… Now what?”

  11. Eddie,

    Your process is longer than ours, but at least you and your fiancee will be united soon. You’re going to have to file the I-130/I-485, which we did back in July. I also suggested filing for an Employment Authorization Document (so that she can work) and Advanced Parole (so that she can travel home and back).

    USCIS has a so-so egov page, which includes both Soft LUDs (when your case status update date is moved up, with no change of text) and Hard LUDs (when your case status text changes). It’s a form of necromancy to figure out what all that means.

    Will you be flying to Hong Kong to be with her for the interview?

  12. Yea! What relief this must be to you all

    Years ago (in the McCarthy era) when Canadians also needed a visa one of the questions was “Do you intend to subvert the constitution of the United States?” Tim, a cheeky teenager replied “Sole intent of visit” No one could see the humor and he was banned for a number of years

    Thinking of you
    Rob

  13. Rob, lol!

    The closest I came to cheekiness was answering “Not that I’m aware of” to the (ludicrous) question of whether Fei was a Nazi between the years of 1933 and 1945, and interjecting “I want to hear this!” when the officer asked her if she was previously married. 🙂

  14. How did you and your wife meet? I’m thinking it must have been in college? If its not to personal, do you mind telling us how and where you two met? You can leave out all the mushy stuff = )

  15. I met Fei on my first day in Nebraska, really my first minutes. I arrived at one in the afternoon, because my new Dell laptop would be delivered no earlier than 1:00. After the person who let me in, and the R.A., Fei was the third person I met. I was filling out paperwork near my laptop (which had come earlier), when this absolutely gorgeous student came down, and asked if anyone knew how to connect her laptop to the internet.

    “I have a Master’s degree in Computer Science,” I responded.

    And the rest was history!

  16. I won’t be flying to HK for the interview. (sure wish I could though).

    Thank you for the heads up on the employment authorization and advanced parole. Once I get this batch of documents sent to her this weekend I’ll get to working on those.

    I’m sure this will all get very interesting when I want to go to grad school in Victoria, Canada in 3 years….

  17. Incidentally, Fei is still waiting for her laptop to work, as Dan has a master’s degree in Computer Science, which provides no actual practical ability 🙂

    ( Myself coming up on five years as a professional programmer/system administrator and still no degree )

  18. Aaron,

    Fei’s laptop been operational from early on, after I removed most of Dell’s junkware. Vista’s graphics become “fuzzy” if the shell is closed before selecting hibernate, but I”m pretty sure that’s a bug of Vista on the hardware.

    Mother of tdaxp’s laptop was much easier to work with, has far less junkware, and doesn’t have the annoying graphics bug. Hers is a Compaq from Best Buy [1], instead of a “direct fro Dell”

    Eddie,

    What program are you thinking of in Victoria?

    [1] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2008/01/25/laptop-shopping-time.html

  19. Congratulations Dan!

    Sometimes I wonder who in our government sits there and decides to make the citizen’s interaction with the gov’t so difficult…or ludicrous, lol.

  20. ATB,

    Many thanks!

    Everyone we managed to personally meet in Homeland Security — from the security guards to the case officer — was kind, courtesy, and went out of our way to help us.

    Back-office processing sucks, and that may be a function of the government not understanding quality control as a scientific, industrial process. It’s a hard thing to understand, and being a good and helpful person is not enough to do that job.

    Our lawyer caused us more problems than anything. At best, he was a very expensive Microsoft Word template, that helped us organize information we already had into the form that Homeland Security accepts.

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