Ok. So you’ve been successful with the online dating thing and you met the woman (or man) of your dreams. The next step (if you’re brave enough) is marriage, which is undoubtedly an exciting and amazing situation to be in. I remember the feeling when my wife and I decided to get married, and there really isn’t any other feeling like it. We were scared shitless, but also felt like we were on top of the world and that our lives were now “complete”. I met her on JapanCupid by the way – a dating website I’ve already talked a lot about and highly recommend.
So now that you’ve decided to take the plunge and get married, the real challenge begins. Marriage between a citizen of the US and a citizen of another country is a very complicated thing, and I highly suggest you look into the current requirements before proceeding. The act of getting married isn’t any more difficult than it would be if it were two persons of the same nationality, but being able to actually live together is where things get tricky.
Most western men who meet women online in Asia (or anywhere else) start the application for the green card before getting married. This is a long process, often taking years to complete. But you don’t actually have to do it this way. My wife and I decided to get married before we actually had the green card, since she was already in the US on the visa waiver program. We were thrilled to find out that we could do it that way, but it wasn’t the most interesting nugget of info we learned during our application process.
Here are 3 really important things we learned while applying for a green card:
1. You will need an immigration lawyer to guide you through the process.
I’m the kind of guy who likes to do everything himself, and I was determined to do all the research and paperwork for the green card on my own. It didn’t take more than a day to realize that applying for a US green card is a complicated process and any mistakes could delay or even cancel the application. We didn’t want to run the risk of screwing something up, so we hired an immigration lawyer to guide us through the process and do all the paperwork for us. It was money well spent.
2. The amount of paperwork required is frustrating.
All I can say to you is this: be prepared to fill out stacks of paperwork spanning months at a time. Also, this paperwork will require a lot of research and documentation on your part to fill in things like work history, places you’ve lived (with addresses, phone numbers, and references), bank account history, etc. The background checks are thorough – for both the husband and wife.
3. You can screw the application process up really bad and things will still be ok.
We made one huge mistake during our application process that I thought for sure would immediately cancel our application: we MISSED our final in-person interview with the immigration officer. This interview is the last step of the green card application process, requiring you both to meet with an US immigration officer who will review your application and ask a lot of questions. My wife and I accidentally wrote down the wrong date for our appointment, and we missed it completely. We were a no-show, and once I realized what happened I thought for sure we were screwed. Long story short (and a lot of phone calls and apologizing later), we were granted a second interview slot. But they warned us if we missed it again the application would be cancelled.
The process of applying for a US green card was a very tiring and stressful experience (all that paperwork!), but it was completely worth it in the end. Our application took eight months to complete, but that was back in 2009 so I’m not really sure what the timeline is now. But we powered through it, and my Japanese wife is now a certified permanent resident of the US with the green card to prove it.