Visa Woes—Part 3

When we last left off my tale of our struggle to get Mario a green card, we had sent in all our documents to the NVC (National Visa Center), and we were waiting. Again. The NVC tells you that you will have to wait at least 60 days. If there is any error in the mountains of paperwork, you will have to fix them, and wait for another 60 days. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.

I decided to call the NVC on December 13, after about 90 days, to get an update on Mario’s status. I was dreading the phone call, in a way, because I knew there was a chance they would tell me I had committed some mistake, and there would be another 60-day waiting period. So it was with a bit of trepidation that I punched in the number and put the phone to my ear. I had a chance to calm myself, though, due to the 40-minute wait I went through! Is there anything worse than the music when you’re waiting to speak to someone at a call center? I wish there would just be … well, anything besides what they normally put out! The worst are the repeated messages that your call is important to them, blah, blah, blah. I get it!

Finally, though, a nice lady picked up the phone. I gave her our Case Number, and she informed that it was, and I quote, “Done.” Done? What did that mean, done? Complete? Everything’s okay? I think my rapid-fire style of questioning made her laugh, because she told me that, yes, we were approved.

We did it!

I asked her about the next step, the interview with a consular officer at the embassy. She told me that Mario would be scheduled for his interview in January, meaning the interview would be in February.

The Medical Exam

Before you do the interview, you have to schedule an appointment to have a medical exam. At this exam, they test you for syphilis (errr) and do a chest X-ray to make sure you do not have tuberculosis. You have to prove you have been inoculated against certain diseases, including measles, mumps, rubella, etc. This also varies depending on your age.

You need to bring:

  • Your immunization records. Mario went to his doctor to get these, and he also had a blood test done to show he had the antibodies against the chicken pox virus, because he never got the vaccination. You know, the 80s.
  • Any prior chest X-rays
  • Copies of your medical history records
  • Your passport
  • 215 euros (in Madrid)

Does this all seem ridiculous and excessive? Good, then, it’s not just us.

The Interview

I had been told that the interview would be very short. Two minutes. Two minutes? How could they do any sort of interview in two minutes? I was also told to bring pictures of the wedding. We knew someone whose husband forgot to bring pictures, was told to return with them, and they barely got his visa before their flight left! Yikes. So we brought a lot of pictures, but only of the wedding.

We showed up that day, a Thursday. I felt giddy as I handed over my phone and purse to have it scanned. We sat down in the waiting room, where they play a video explaining America to people. It really is quite hilarious to watch that video and ponder what people think as they watch it. Featured are national parks, bald eagles and other fauna, New York City, baseball, and other (stereo)typical American things. We watched that video on repeat as we waited our turn.

There was a short briefing with a Spanish officer and then it was time for the actual interview. Mario was prepared to speak in English (of course!), but the American officer spoken to him in heavily-accented Spanish. Whatever floats their boat, I guess. The man who was interviewed before us had spoke at length of trips with his partner, shown multiple photos, and just basically told their whole story. We were a bit nervous, as we had only brought photos of the wedding and not of other occasions. Did we not bring enough?!

No worries! There were literally only two questions: Where are you from? Where did you meet? That’s it! The man did not ask to see any pictures. It seemed like a done deal. He told us that we would be receiving the visa (which would be stamped inside Mario’s passport) within the next week via a private carrier.

Next Monday morning there was a knock on our door at 8:30 a.m. (Okay, not a knock, a buzz!) Yes, it was the letter-carrier service, informing us we had a package from the U.S. Embassy! This was it! The visa! What a relief it was to see it, evidence and proof of all our hard work and struggles over the past year. Finally, we had a visa.

We bought our plane tickets for March 10, 2015. It was time to go!

Next step? Mario struggles to establish himself in the U.S. You are nothing without a social security number! More on that next time.

Someone asked on my last post why I called Mario an “immigrant” while I referred to myself as an “expat.” A valid question, and there are some reasons. First of all, we got Mario an “immigrant visa,” whereas I never had that. It was just convenient to refer to him that way. Secondly, Mario himself told me that he would call himself an immigrant, because we mean to remain in the U.S. permanently, while we always saw living in Spain (and especially Madrid!) as temporary. We hope to make this country our home and our future children’s home. That is why.

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10 thoughts on “Visa Woes—Part 3

  1. Your explanation of expat v. immigrant is really interesting! I guess in that case Jon would be the expat and I’ll eventually be the immigant. SO glad he’s here now and you guys can talk about this process! It must have been so hard to keep it all in.

  2. A chest X-ray?! Goodness, they ask for documents that I wouldn’t have even thought of. Glad you guys made it through the process!

  3. That medical exam sounds like the kind of stuff that Spain actually wanted when we had to do our student visas but never required anything very comprehensive; for one of my visas (I got 3), I literally just went to the doctor and he was like “you look healthy” and signed off on the letter O_o

    And I like that you defined expat vs. immigrant in terms of temporary vs. permanent—that’s how I see it, too, despite some PC folk insisting it’s a western vs. non-western distinction.

  4. Thanks for writing these posts on US immigration – might be going through the same thing in the next year or two! Also, love that “chicken pox antibodies proof” is on the list.

  5. Hi Kaley, I have been following for several years although I hardly ever write a comment. This whole process seems an odyssey. Could you compare it with the process you had to undergo when you married Mario and got the Spanish visa? I think it would be interesting to see the differences and similarities.
    Regards.
    Ps. I hope I have not made any mistakes.

  6. Omgggg I’m rereading your visa posts since I’m about to launch into this for 2016, and it just makes me want to cry and stay in France. I’m pretty sure that his papers won’t come through by the time I have to leave so we’ll be separated, unless he comes over on a fiancé visa (we’re not married yet) which will put him out of work for several months… gah! Thanks for sharing resources for this process :-)

  7. Kaley, this is so useful! My husband and I just completed the expensive, exhausting, and time-consuming paperwork for us to both be here legally in Spain (neither of us is Spanish or EU citizens in our case), so we plan on being in Spain for at least awhile. But down the line, the plan is to go to the U.S. If I understand it correctly, you had been married for more than 2 years, which is why it was an IR-1 visa and not a CR-1 visa, right? It’s good to know that this can be done while living abroad, as long as I maintain a domicile at my parents’ house. For what seems to take at least a year, that would be hard if I had to be in the U.S. to do it while he was waiting in Spain!

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