Many military members think that marrying someone while you are stationed in South Korea, Turkey, or even Germany, among other many countries, is nothing more than rainbows and sunshine. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, while we all serve and think that Uncle Sam is going to have our backs because we are out in the world for him, Uncle Sam has bigger things in mind…your money, time, and patience. Not to mention, marrying a foreigner is not part of the package deal when you sign the line. In other words, you aren’t going to get a single helping hand when it comes to immigrating your spouse to the U.S., but you will get hassles and large fees for processing the documents.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not the least upset that I have to go through the same process that the civilians have to, but I would appreciate some kind of benefit for serving in remote and hardship locations. In the end I got the same thing any other Joe or Jill would have gotten and I want to tell you what to expect if you are going down the same path.
When I first started considering the path of making the USCIS a very large part of my life and income, I was stationed at Osan AB, South Korea with my lovely bride to be and a little doppelganger in the oven. We both departed and I went to GA and she went home to the Philippines. I had to decide to either commit to a K-1 or K-3 visa. The K-1 is a fiancée visa while the K-3 is for a couple that is married already. It was a very hard choice since the K-3 is a bit longer process but you speed up the eventual process because you are already married entering the United States.
I opted for the K-1 to speed up the upfront process and unite my family as quick as possible. The entire K-1 to entry in the United States was 10 months. Once she arrived here, we married and I submitted the Adjustment of Status to get the initial green card and start the 2-year probationary period before permanent status is granted. Here is my timeline for those interested:
May 2005 – K-1 Filing ($1,500+, I hired a lawyer to straighten paperwork ($600))
Feb 2006 – Entry in the US for Wife and Son (Plane tickets for 2)
July 2006 – AOS finished, Green Card Issued (I forget the amount but minimum of $300)
April 2008 – Filed for Permenent Residency ($500 or so)
July 2009 – Permanent Green Card Issued (No cost on receiving it)
July 2011 – Citizenship Request Filed ($680)
September 2011 – Oath Taken (Included in Request, but Priceless)
As you can see, we went through the USCIS process for almost 6 and a half years. That’s a long time to be tied to a government agency, however, we have friends that haven’t even had the good fortune of being as fast as we have. Usually, financial reasons slow the process down and that’s not a fun time for any family that is trying to get to the end.
This isn’t about teaching you how to fill out the forms or advice on how you should get through the journey. This is about sharing something a bit personal and letting you get a glimpse into the harsh reality or time, separation, and the patience you will have to endure. There is a lot I left out of that timeline as well such as monthly support, additional trips to see your loving other, and other costs that might arise.
My simple advice? Do your homework, talk to people, join forums, and don’t sleep until you have your answers. Each step in the process is different for each person. You would rather be overinformed than under any day of the week. For those that are wondering if I have a chip on my shoulder, the answer is not really. I wouldn’t mind getting a little more help along the way but no matter the case I got through it on my own and so can anyone else. I wanted to give a quick glimpse of what to expect before you go down the path that I have chosen.