Friday, November 27, 2009

Immigrant Visa: DCF from Chile

Or how to get a green card for your Chilean spouse, through the U.S. Embassy in Chile.

Caveat Lector: these are some pointers on how to go about the visa process. What worked for me or someone else may or may not work for you. The information I provide can change and its best to be in contact with the embassy if you are thinking of doing DCF to make sure the rules haven't changed. Getting my spouse's visa was a little like playing "Calvinball", from Calvin & Hobbes. Or like being the protagonist of Dr. Seuss's "Oh! The Places You'll Go!", complete with a total downer. But as Dr. Seuss says, success is 98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.

First off, "DCF" or "Direct Consular Filing" is slang, and not used by the embassy or immigration. It means to file your petition directly to the U.S. embassy in the country you are living rather than going through USCIS. I believe they call it an "immigrant visa petition". DCF is used on the visa forums however, so its a good term to know.

The visa I petitioned for for my husband was CR1, which is a 10 year residency visa with a condition that must be taken off two years after entering the States. The condition is for people who get permanent residency before they've been married for 2 years. (in the case of DCF, they'll be entering the country on a CR1 visa). Read more here.

That said. First you must qualify to apply. At the embassy, V was told that to qualify for direct consular filing in Chile, I (the U.S. Citizen) had to have any (chilean) visa that's not a tourist visa and have lived in Chile for six months with said visa. I wonder if you can have a student visa, though?)

If you are doing DCF from Chile, for a spouse start here.
You go to the embassy with the listed documents filled out and you turn in the petition for your foreign spouse.

If they accept your petition, they'll give you some forms, like for example:
  • forms for your spouse's medical examination
  • the DS-230 (more biographical information, the applicant (the foreign spouse) must fill this out)
  • I-864
  • perhaps something else that I've since forgotten?
Then we got a letter in the mail saying that our visa interview was in a month or so. My husband went to the doctor a couple weeks before the interview. The morning before the interview in the embassy, he had to stop by the doctor's office and pick up the results of his tests to bring with him to the embassy.

His visa was approved.

I turned in the I-130 on September 9th, and soon after (2-4 weeks?) I received a letter in the mail with the date for the final interview, which was November 4th. I accompanied V to the interview, but that wasn't necessary. At the interview, we were told the visa was approved, and V's passport arrived the following week. So, once my petition was accepted, it was a fast process.

Also, V has six months to enter the U.S. on his CR1 visa from the date of approval, which means, you should bear in mind when you want to arrive in the States before petitioning the visa.

Helpful resources:
U.S. Embassy Chile: Immigration Visas
British Expats: USA: Marriage-Based Visas
Visa Journey : wikis are good, term definitions as well, there's tons of information on visa journey. I registered and tried to post a couple times and it never worked. So I posted on britishexpats and got answers to my questions there. They answered quickly and were super helpful.

A couple useful glossaries:
Here's a glossary of Immigration Terms and Abbreviations.
Here's a second Immigration Glossary.

Forms you may need:
Check USCIS website for most updated version.

Forms for the petition:

For the final interview
I-864A (for household members of your "domicile")
Medical forms filled out by doctor

FAQs - I'll do a future post that will answer the following questions:
What is domicile and how do I show that the USA is my country of domicile?
How do I sponsor my spouse? (using the I-864)

On the British Expat forums one man compares going through the visa process to planning a wedding, because your whole future depends on the outcome of ONE event. He calls these people working on immigrant visa paperwork "immigrant zombies" and compares them to bridezillas. hahhahaha. Touché. I definitely had my "immigrant zombie" moments!

Hope this is useful for some of you out there. I'm not an expert. If you want expert advice hire an immigration lawyer. They run $3000-$5000 per case, at least that is what I was quoted. I didn't end up hiring one; our case was too simple to pay $3000.

You can check out visa journey and britexpats for free. That's what I did.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

"A falta de pan, buenas son las tortas,"

Elvis told me.

On Saturday, V and I went to La Boca in Con-Con to surf for a few hours. We got there earlier than usual (like 10:30am) because V'd been told the surf shop would start opening earlier as summer approaches. It was still closed upon our arrival and after a few unanswered phone calls to the employees, we decided to walk down the beach and check out our rental options. We stopped by the next surf shop and they wanted to charge 7.000 pesos for each board. We had about 12.000 pesos between the two of us, so that didn't fly. (The other surf shop charges us 5.000 for each board.)

So we continued walking down the beach, towards what looked like it could be an open-air rental shop, set up between two SUVs. As we approach, we don't see any boards or wetsuits, and are about to change direction when a guy sitting on one of the SUVs starts waving at us. I ask V who it is and he hasn't a clue. Walking towards the guy, V gets a better look at his jeep and recognizing the vehicle, says, "It's Elvis." "No way!!" We only know one Elvis in Chile and he's from Pichilemu, our first surf instructor. We chat with Elvis a little. He was there with several Pichilemu students participating in a surf competition. He asked if we came to surf, and we replied that we had, but that the surf shop hadn't opened yet, so we were chilling meanwhile. "My biggest board is a 6'9 he tells me, do you want to borrow it?" To which I replied, bueno!

The board was featherlight, absolutely gorgeous, perfectly waxed, sleak, and didn't have one nick. I put my wetsuit on and grabbed the board. Wading into the ocean I remembered the last time I rented a board from Elvis in Pichilemu, when I came out of the water, there was a huge gouge in it, that I couldn't remember causing. And that board was a bit of a beater, this one was a freaking Mercedes of surfboards. I pushed that thought aside and studied the waves to figure out which one to surf. They were freaking huge, so I decided to mostly surf the espuma (foam?). (This is what is created when the waves break.) The first three times I try to catch the espuma, I crash as I'm still getting used to the shorter, narrower board, a far cry from the tanks I am used to surfing on. Finally, I get used to the board and absolutely fall in love with it. I was even able to surf a few medium-sized waves (rather than just espuma). The board was so easy to maneuver and responded really well to my movements. My thoughts changed from "I hope I don't gouge the board" to "Estos culiados me van a tener que sacar del mar, porque me enamoré y no salgo más." And then I went to ride a bigger wave and don't stand up quick enough or something. I feel myself losing control. The next thing I know I've nose-dived the board into the ocean bottom and the ocean is spinning me around like a piece of clothing in a washing machine. When I surface, I grab the really expensive board that was lent to me, to look it over for gouges. I didn't find any, thank god, and duly returned the board with a smile a mile long, after surfing one last wave. V and I then talked of going to Pichilemu this summer, and said goodbye to Elvis and crew.

The rental shop was open for business and we rented a couple of tanks to surf on and enjoyed ourselves all the same.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Afinando el español

To find the perfect definition/translation English-Spanish/Spanish-English:

1) I look it up in wordreference, and see if there are any discussions about it, i.e. "cream of tartar", or squirrel/chipmunk (ardilla listada). And at this link, borgonyon explains "Estoy de acuerdo con fenix, se le puede llamar "ardillita" en el mismo sentido que llamamos "chinos" a todos los asiáticos, más como un nombre genérico." Beautiful! ;)

2) If I want to know whether the word is Chilean or not (I've lost all perspective), I look in up in the DRAE.

3) If it's a new word or something I don't understand well, often I'll look it up in the drae, or click on the "Spanish definition" in word reference. Often, a word that is more commonly used in Spanish will have a crappy English translation, or it will have one translation when there are really like 5. This is where it's good to read the definition in Spanish.

4) Also, if there are different translations for the same word like "rebuscado" can be translated as "far-fetched", "round-about", "overcomplicated", etc., obviously it's good to understand the different meanings related to different contexts, especially when the different words are in the non-native language. Again, I'll often look up the Spanish definition of each of these words.

5) If it's a complicated thing, a concept, a medical condition, or something that might benefit from a look at wikipedia, I go there next. For instance to have another look at the squirrel/chipmunk difference, here are some links to wikipedia (this was actually more complicated than I'd imagined because there are a ton of different squirrel articles in wikipedia.):

Tree squirrel - this is the squirrel I see in Minnesota. Once I look it up in English, I then click on "Español" to see what the wikipedistas have decided is the translation. Interestingly, there is no link to Español for this one.

Squirrel (in general) - This one doesn't have the Español link either, but it does have one in Esperanto and another in Gallego.

Eastern Gray Squirrel - I believe this one inhabits Minnesota as well. Finally, I find an article with a link to the Spanish article on the sciurus carolinesis (ardilla).

Then, the moment of truth as I look up chipmunk in wikipedia. I click on the Spanish link and find tamias minimus, also called the "ardilla rayada".

So Lydia wasn't far off explaining this difference to her students, at least in relation to wikipedia. ;)

Edited Dec. 4
Ah and 6) Often I'll google expressions in both Spanish and English. Especially for my chilensis blog because sometimes the words aren't super common and appear in neither dictionaries nor wikipedia.

This is my translation method, that mostly works, except when there is no translation, like for the word "vogueing" for example. But then, at least we know there is no translation.