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 …

Back to the Start

Hey guys … Remember me? I’ve not been posting much lately, have I? Well, there’s a reason for that. A big one.

Mario and I have moved to the U.S.!

As you can imagine, we’re both really excited to see what this new stage in our life together has in store for us. The past year has been filled with bureaucracy. You thought Spanish bureaucracy was bad? I got news for you: you have no idea.

I’ll have more details soon, including our spousal visa timeline, but I would just like to thank all of you for reading. I kept the news on the down low for work reasons, although many people figured it out. And I promise, this blog isn’t ending! Just changing a bit. Mario might have some funny observations for you in the future.

St Patricks Day Spain USA

Celebrating his first St. Patrick’s Day in the U.S. by wearing a goofy beaded green tie.

Shout out to Betsy Transatlantically and C’est Moi, Sara Louise for their blog entries about visas and all the frustrations that go along with them—you really helped me out!

Ribadesella, A Gem on the Asturian Coast

Recently, while going through my Instagram, Mario commented sardonically, “You didn’t like Asturias much, did you?” True enough, there are six consecutive photos of Asturian scenery, along with one delicious tomato and sardine salad we enjoyed during our two-day stay there. I couldn’t help it! Asturias was everything I adore: beaches inspiring awestruck silence and wonder, mist-covered mountain ranges, the sounds of bleating sheep and barking hunting dogs, dangerously tortuous mountain roads, and the ringing of autochthonous cows’ bells while they munched happily on the local vegetation. So sue me—I loved Asturias!

Ribadesella (Asturian: Ribeseya) was one of our first stops after our brief pause in Burgos.

Asturias Ribadesella

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A Family Tradition—Making Chorizos

I cannot remember when I first tried Mario’s parents’ homemade embutidos (the Spanish word for all types of sausages and salt-cured meats). I do remember, though, the times I’ve eaten chorizo  or salchichón in a bar, though. These version are too salty or too chewy, too tough or too lean. I suppose, in a way, I’m a total chorizo snob. (Funny when you consider that chorizo is also a slang word for thief.)

A few autumns ago, I accompanied Mario and his parents to their friends’ finca, or estate/property. Really it’s just a  house with a large backyard and a pool. Oh, and now there are a few chickens running around, laying farm-fresh eggs with thick yellow yolks—best consumed fried in olive oil with chichas (known in other parts as picadillo or zorza).

Finca Zamora Spain

Mario and his godmother/cousin enjoying the finca

My in-laws are zamoranos, Zamorans. They are both from small villages in the Zamora province, located in the northwestern part of Spain, in the autonomous community of Castilla y León. As such, they are accustomed to eating good food. When they were children, their mothers cooked what was local, what was in season, and what tasted good. My father-in-law, Jesús, recalls not being able to afford olive oil, an expensive treat. So they cooked with lard. And you know what? My mother-in-law, Pepita, makes some tasty desserts with lard. Pig products were (and still are) king, and thus cured meats are king: jamón, lomo, fuet, chorizo, and salchichón.

When I got to the house, my in-laws and their friends had already put their manos a la obra!

Chorizo making ZamoraChorizo making Zamora

They don’t actually do their own matanza, though I do know a few families that used to (and some that still do!). They do buy only the best meat, though carne ibérica 100%.

The ingredients for a good chorizo are:

  • Pork. 100% Iberian meat. Do not skimp on quality; you will notice later.
  • Paprika.
  • Coarse salt.
  • Garlic.
  • Oregano (optional, but it gives the young chorizo and chichas a great flavor).

Chorizo making Zamora
Look at how pumped I am!


  1. Wash the guts. Yes, I said wash the guts … If you can’t take the heat, stay out of the kitchen (or the finca). You may need to remove some fat.
  2. Chop the meat into elongated pieces, but not too thick. This helps when you’re trying to put the meat through the machine (as seen above).
  3. Knead the meat. Once the meat is chopped and the condiments prepared, they are mixed together, until the paprika and salt are well distributed. It should look red.Chorizo meat
  4. Let stand for several hours or overnight.
  5. One person should fill the machine and turn the crank while the other stuffs the sausage.Chorizo making Zamora
  6. Once the sausage is finished, it’s time to tie the free ends.Fresh chorizo salchichón
  7. You take the uncured chorizo and salchichón to a cool, dry place to cure. Mario’s parents use an old village house and hang them from the rafters. (Really!) The ideal temperature is cold, but not much lower than 0C/32F.Chorizo salchichón curando curingChorizo salchichón curando curingChorizo salchichón curando curingChorizo salchichón curando curing
  8. Don’t forget to enjoy some chichas with red wine, the perfect way to coger fuerzas on a cold autumnal day!

Chichas picadilloCooking chichas cocinando chichasEating chichas Comiendo chichasEating chichas Comiendo chichas

You may not believe it, but after this mid-morning “snack,” we ate arroz a la zamorana for lunch. This rice dish is full of, again, all the pig parts: ear, hoof, ham, sometimes even snout. You know, a light lunch.

Arroz a la zamoranaArroz a la zamorana

What’s your favorite: chorizo, salchichón, or some other embutido?