Fadi and I were married on January 22, 2010 at our town hall. We had a small and intimate celebration and were genuinely excited about starting a new life together.
Several weeks after our wedding, Fadi received his temporary green card. We understood that this was just the start of a long process, although we didn’t yet understand how long it would be. Our situation seemed to be finally improving: With the temporary green card, Fadi was allowed to return to France and see the friends and relatives he hadn’t seen in over a year.
Our first step was to hire an immigration lawyer, which cost us nearly a thousand dollars. Our lawyer told us that we would need to start compiling hundreds of pages of proof of our relationship over the past three years. This wasn’t a problem: Over the past years we had amassed what seemed like thousands of photos, bills, and other “evidence.” But I don’t know how we would have done it without our lawyer’s guidance. The combination of incomprehensible legalese and a detailed morass of instructions meant that we could barely understand the steps we needed to take. We spent weeks compiling multiple affidavits, letters from family and friends, work authorization forms, and the results from Fadi’s medical examination.
Finally, we approached the date of our interview. After hearing horror stories, I was scared about forgetting the color of our shower curtains or what side of the bed Fadi slept on. But our interview went much smoother than I would have thought. Our interviewer asked about our family, about the timeline of our relationship, and about our wedding, all questions that were easy for us to answer. Yet I resented having to prove a true and loving relationship that had been challenged by the emotional and financial stress of the immigration process. After the successful interview, we told ourselves that if we could get through the multi-year, multi-step immigration process and stay married, we could get through anything.
Fadi received his permanent green card several months after our interview. Our application cost approximately $1200, plus an additional $1000 for the lawyer, and several hundred in additional expenses. On top of the application costs for Fadi’s green card, we suffered a much larger financial cost during the six months that he was not allowed to work. All together, the amount of money we lost during this time could have been a nice down payment on our first house, totaling around $15,000 or more. Of course, we couldn’t put a price on the emotional toll of the process.
Two years after our hasty wedding, Fadi applied for permanent resident status and resubmitted an application. At the time, I was pregnant with our first child. We received a phone call from a caseworker stating that we did not have enough proof to move his case forward. Angry and emotional, I sent USCIS my most recent sonogram and wrote a letter attesting that Fadi was the father of my unborn child. It was utterly humiliating to have to write this letter, but it worked. Fadi received permanent resident status soon after.
Fadi, Elizabeth and little Theo, a happy family after all.
Our long journey through immigration has not yet come to an end. Although he could apply, Fadi has not submitted his application to become an American citizen because we can’t afford the fee right now. This much is evident to us: the American immigration system supports the rich and is closed to those who cannot afford it. But we are lucky. Because I am an American citizen, we could go through this process. So many others are not so fortunate. What if we hadn’t had the money to spend? What if we hadn’t been able to send UCIS a sonogram as additional “proof”? These questions point to the many different life circumstances the American immigration system cho…