Min Gi's interview for a CR-1 at the U.S. embassy in Seoul was on Thursday, May 27 at 8 a.m. I posted about our first round of filing (the I-130 form) a couple months ago. Since then, we've been gathering documents like some long drawn-out scavenger hunt. When I had the final packet assembled and ready to go before our trip up to Seoul, I felt like I did when I'd completed my final paper for grad school last year. It was almost as much work!
To sum up: Interview: Pass; Documents: One Fail. We were blue-paper-ed. I'll explain it all below. Generally, it's a good outcome, but we have to re-file the erroneous document, which means one more trip to Seoul for Min Gi.
What happened: We arrived at about 7:40 and sat on the chairs outside the embassy. However, at about 8:10 we realized they were for non-immigrant visa applicants, so we went into the building.
They did a document intake and told us to wait (the document intake lady was not so nice, but the interviewer was very nice). We were called up again, they took Min Gi's fingerprints (no ink!). They sent us to the cashier to pay ($400-- or 480,000 won that day, you do need exact change if using won). We waited for the interviewer to call us up. We got to watch other couples/families interview at the glass window.
Although the consular interview is designed to be done by just the applying immigrant spouse (because the U.S. citizen or permanent resident already lives in the U.S.), you can do it together if you plan to travel at a later date, you just need to prove future domicile instead of current, which is a bit tricky. Our interview itself was three questions long and the interviewer cut Min Gi off in the middle of answering the question about what he would do in the U.S. saying she wasn't "going to pry any further into our personal lives." We were out of the building by 10:15 a.m.
We followed the checklist provided by the embassy, which included the following documents (with copies of everything because otherwise they might keep the originals):
--Min Gi's passport (valid for at least 8 months)
--two recent passport-style photos
--a receipt for delivery of the visa and passport (you pay cash on delivery; the forms are available at the embassy)
--another set of identification papers (Certificate of Kinship, Certificate of Marriage, and Certificate of Personal Records and photocopies and translations) for Min Gi
--A medical test (this test is very specific and only 4-5 hospitals in Korea are able to perform it; however, the instructions are pretty clear--don't forget your passport and passport photos and $150, though or you'll have to make more trips than you want to; oh yeah, and this is the exception to the copies--DO NOT OPEN THIS ENVELOPE!!!)
--A Criminal History Record for Min Gi from Korea (if you've lived in other countries, you need those records, too) and a translation with a signed statement from the translator
--An Affidavit of Support (Form I-864) filled out by me along with IRS transcripts of my income taxes for the last 3 years and proof of my citizenship (passport and birth certificate), hopefully proving I can support Min Gi financially in the U.S. However, the U.S. gov't does not count my foreign income. This is nice for saving money on taxes, but it means I have essentially earned $0 since August 2007. The gov't does not cotton to poor folk joining them (the Statue of Liberty--she's a-lying). Therefore my dad agreed to help me out--this is where we made a mistake!!!
--Proof of Domicile in the U.S. To prove I was moving to the U.S., I included my contract showing the end date in August, a document I signed for work announcing my intention not to renew, my one-way plane ticket, some e-mail receipts for counties where I've submitted job apps as well as correspondence with another job opportunity I'm pursuing, a letter from my mom saying that we will live with them until we can move into our own place and that my belongings in the U.S. are currently stored there, my Maryland state driver's license showing my parents' address, and highlighting the IRS transcripts had been received at that same address. The interviewer complimented me on this stuff, so I think it would be a good model to follow.
--Because I need a joint sponsor (my dad), I had to write a letter explaining why (in case my $0 income was not obvious evidence enough)
--Joint Sponsor's Affidavit of Support. Here is where we made the mistake. I assumed that since I'd had to go through all of those hoops above to PROVE that I'd be living with my parents that dad should fill out the form I-864 A for an adult member of my household. However, they wanted him to fill out form I-864 (as if he were an Independent Joint Sponsor). We also submitted proof of his citizen status (a copy of his passport) and the last three years' IRS transcripts. We have to submit the correct form in order for the visa process to finish. We were given a blue paper listing the document to submit and told that we can show up any Wednesday 8:30-10, sans appointment.
I also had a stack of proofs that we're a real couple prepared. The interviewer didn't even glance at them. There was a lot of wasted energy! (I do recommend you do this as if they are suspicious of your relationship, they could ask you for documentation. We didn't see it happen to anyone, though.)
--Have anyone helping you out fill out both possible forms in case you assume the wrong one--GRR!
--Over-prepare, but don't stress. If you're missing something it's not that hard to fix (being blue-paper-ed is not the end of the world). You don't have to interview again or anything, just visit the embassy on a Wednesday morning.
--VERY IMPORTANT: You must enter the U.S. within six months of the MEDICAL TEST. I thought (because it says so on the embassy site) that you have six months from the visa approval date. As a result Min Gi has to travel before September 11 and will miss Chuseok this year. This is very annoying. However, we now have bought his plane ticket (September 9) which is a load off my mind.
P.S. Thanks Dad for running around and re-doing your part. You've been awesome!
P.P.S. Thanks Kristin who put us up in Seoul the night before. I hope this helps you not get blue-paper-ed.