Getting a U.S. Spousal Visa—Or How the Immigration Process Nearly Killed Me

You’re going to want some snacks, because I have no choice but to make this post about eleventy billion words long. Maybe I’ll even break it up into parts … Yes, yes, it will make me seem more important and generate me $0.05 more in ad revenue. (I’m rolling in the dough with all my ~~sponsored posts~~.)

Sometime around Christmas 2013/January 2014, I started to gather up a mountain of documents for the first step in getting Mario a green card. Oh, to be so young and naïve and full of foolhardy hopes and dreams. If only I knew. If only I knew, I would have started before I even met Mario! (Wait. Is that even possible?) I began to mention to Mario that we should probably send our paperwork in soon, that I was reading rumors online about how the process was taking up to nine months. He was less sure, but eventually he acquiesced, and we sent in our packet full of everything we’ve ever done with our lives. I walked twenty minutes to our nearest post office (Madrid, did I tell you I don’t miss not having a car?), I paid the few euros extra to have the mail certified, and I crossed my fingers. Literally.

That’s the story behind the first step. But what about the nitty gritty details? What do you need to do to get your IR-1 Visa?

First of all, you need to be married.

The State Department would like very much to clarify what marriage is. They clearly have not watched The Princess Bride or this would be clearer. Remember: If you’re living it up, Big Love style, only the first spouse qualifies for immigration. Important.

You must fill out Form I-130.

In this form, you are establishing your relationship to “certain alien relatives” that you wish to schlep to the U.S. (but not in your suitcase). Instructions for the form can be found here.

You can also fill out Form G-1145, if you live in the 21st century and would like to be notified electronically (i.e., email) when USCIS accepts your application. Acceptance is not approval!

What does Form I-130 entail?

Short answer: A whole lot of stuff.

Long answer: Ooooh, boy, here we go.

First off, the filing fee for this baby is $420. Get used to it; the payments will start piling up! You pay by check or money order. This may be a bit of an issue if you’re living outside of the U.S. I got the money order before I left after Christmas break.

In addition to filling out the form, which isn’t actually very long, you need to establish that you are, indeed, a United States citizen. You do that by sending them a copy of your birth certificate issued by a civil registrar, vital statistics office, or other civil authority. This may cost money. You also need a copy of your passport.

Next, you need to prove you are related to your spouse (or other relative, but in my case, a spouse). I had to submit the following documentation:

  • A copy of our marriage certificate
  • A passport-style photo of myself and of my spouse taken within 30 days of the petition (so no old photos!). There are actually very specific requirements, which you can check out on this PDF.
  • Completed and signed Form G-325A for both of us, which was “biographic information.”

In addition to those requirements, I was told I “should” submit one or more of the following to help them see our marriage as bona fide:

  • Document showing joint ownership or property (e.g., if we had owned a house)
  • A lease showing that we were renting together
  • Documentation showing that we had shared financial resources (e.g., a bank statement)
  • Birth certificate of children born to us (not our case, again)
  • Affidavits sworn to by third parties with knowledge of our relationship. We had my mom write one and sign it.
  • Any other relevant documentation.

Of course, many of these documents had to be translated, as they were in Spanish, like our marriage certificate. It’s not a problem, though. The U.S. only requires that you include a full English translation that the translator herself has certified as complete and correct. So I did my own translation!

Where do I file?

It depends on where your domicile is. You have to have established that you still are residing in the U.S. Since my parents live in Indiana, I was still receiving credit card statements and bank letters there. That was my “domicile.” So I filed with the Chicago Lockbox. However, you should see if you belong to the Phoenix Lockbox.

Helpful Links

I scoured the Internet for a long time before filing, trying to make sure I had done everything perfectly. The last thing I wanted was to wait five months only to be disappointed! Here are some links I found helpful during the process:


You will learn a lot of new fun terms! It’s just like elementary school, except sadder and more frustrating.

  • USCISUnited States Citizenship and Immigration Services. It is a part of the United States Department of Homeland Security. One of its purported goals is to “eliminate immigration case backlogs,” which makes me chuckle. Ironically.
  • IR1/CR1 Visa—”IR” stands for Immediate Relative and entitles the holder to 10 years of permanent residency in the U.S., which may later be renewed. CR1 stands for Conditional Residency and the holder is entitled to conditional permanent residency for two years.
  • Petitioner—The U.S. citizen spouse is the petitioner.
  • Beneficiary—The spouse in the foreign country.

It was a lot of work, but I felt a sense of satisfaction when I sent out the packet. I could not have anticipated how long the next steps would take!

To Be Continued …

Spanish Old Wives’ Tales (And Their Veracity)

I’m on a bit of a blogging break, ever since my laptop decided to go belly up on me without any prior warning. The audacity of it all! Really, we shared so much: that time when I vacuumed a key up and had to search desperately in the bag for the L, when I thought it would explode from overwork and lack of proper heating (silly me, I take the term “laptop” quite seriously), and endless amounts of blog writing, commenting, and recipe searching. RIP, dearest one.

The other day I read an article about Spanish mother sayings and the truth behind them. I was gleefully happy to read that some of my most-hated sayings have no basis in reality. I do hate being told that walking around barefoot will suddenly cause the air around me to create a virus and shove it into my nasal cavities, but I realize and will happily admit that it’s not you, it’s me. Nonetheless, I have adopted the timeworn Spanish custom of wearing slippers absolutely everywhere. Nowadays you couldn’t pry mine off my callused, blistered runner’s feet. Here are some of my favorite tidbits from the article.

Dry your hair well before going to bed or you’ll get a cold.

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The Curious Case of Francisco Nicolás

Imagine a twenty year-old kid, a kid from some small town in the Midwest, say. Say that he’s studying at Georgetown University Imagine this kid has grandiose visions of himself. And so he finds a way to pretend he’s a VIP—a CIA agent, the godson of Nancy Pelosi or former President Clinton. Maybe he even tries to scam some people out of a considerable amount of money.

Well, something like this did happen in Spain. Recently, it came to light that a young man now referred to as Pequeño Nicolás (Little Nicholas) has forged official documents, pretended to know and advise senior Spanish officials, and told people he was an agent of Spain’s version of the CIA, the CNI.

Of course, Spaniards have had a field day with this. The memes are rather hilarious, especially if you understand a bit about Spanish culture.

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Five Years in Spain—My Favorite Posts

Guys, five years ago today I stepped off the plane in Madrid. Five years! Five years I’ve been eating here, drinking here, living here. I can hardly believe it. If you had told me then that I’d still be here, I wouldn’t have believed you. I planned on doing my one-year internship, “perfecting” my Spanish, and heading home in 2010. Little did I know …

Long story short: I met Mario, fell in luuuuurve, and stayed. Things that have changed since then:

  • I no longer live in Salamanca. This fact still upsets me sometimes. Take me back!
  • I’m married. I wear my ring on my right finger, like Spaniards, while Mario wears his on his left, like Americans. Weirdo.
  • We have a decent apartment. (That one in Salamanca was, as my mother-in-law described it, a “porquería.”)
  • I know a lot more Spanish, and a whole lot more about Spain.

To celebrate my five year Spainiversary, I thought I’d clue you in on some of my favorite posts from the past years:

About Study Abroad

College Study Abroad: If I Could Do It All Over Again

About Study Abroad

About Learning Spanish

Advanced Spanish … Where Do I Go from Here?


But I’m a Girl! … and Other Spanish Language Mishaps

Rookie Mistakes: Reflexive Spanish Verbs and Me

The Language We Speak “So, do you guys talk in English or Spanish?” Oh, what a complicated question.

Bilingual Inside Jokes About having a bilingual relationship

About Mario and Me

Madrid Bound The one where I announced we were moving to Madrid

So Here’s the Deal About moving for love

Two Years Ago Anniversary post


About Weddings In Spain

Boda a la Española: La Prueba Menu Testing

How to Plan a Wedding in Spain … or Not Planning a wedding in another country can be hard!

Sí, Quiero—The Spanish Version of “I Do” Our wedding day (includes a video)

Spanish Weddings vs. American Weddings How the ceremonies differ

Spanish Weddings vs. American Weddings—The Reception How the receptions differ

About Food In Spain

Foods Spain Taught Me to Love Believe me, there are a ton of these!

De Tapas Por Zamora—Where to Eat in Zamora, Spain

Surprise: Spain’s Most Popular Food Isn’t Paella Or why you’ll totally look like a guiri if you order paella off one of those menus with all the pictures

My Favorite Spanish Foods

No, Gracias—Spanish Foods I Dislike Surprisingly, there are some!

Teaching In Spain

Teaching English in Spain’s Bilingual Schools

10 Differences Between Spanish and American High Schools

Teaching in an Instituto (High School) vs. A Colegio (Elementary School)

About Spain In General

Your Spain Experience—Interview With Sarah

Your Spain Experience—Interview With Erin

Watch out for the controversy on these two posts (you may want to skip the comments), but I found Erin’s and Sarah’s experiences to very interesting and indicative of how race is viewed in Spain.

My Most-Viewed Posts

Have you ever wondered what my most-viewed posts are? Wonder no longer.

How to Dress Like a Spaniard To be honest, this kind of irks me, because I wrote this way tongue-in-cheek, and now people get offended. Oops!

Whatsapp—Why Spain’s Over the SMS

How to Improve Your (Already Pretty Good) Spanish

My Top 10 Myths About Spain See how those lists get you a lot of views?!


What kinds of posts would you most like to see in the future?