It takes time and even more time
In February 2015, Grace and I decided to relocate from Zurich to Los Angeles. When you consider moving to another country you should investigate your visa opportunities early on. My wife is a U.S. citizen, thus, I am eligible to apply for a Green Card. There might be other visas for which I could apply, but we decided to go for the Green Card because it is the easiest and fastest way for me to get permanent residency and a work permit for the U.S.
In fact, we had two options. Either to organize everything ourselves or to hire a lawyer who would help us with the process, which could shorten the timeframe. The first option is obviously cheaper but is more time-consuming and can take 12+ months. Therefore, we decided to hire a lawyer to assist us with the immigration process. This could cut down the timeframe by six – nine months.
So what makes it so time-consuming and complicated? I am no immigration expert, but as a Swiss citizen married to a U.S spouse there are standard forms that must be filled out in addition to information and certificates that must be provided.
Certificates/Information (all documents must be in English):
- Original marriage and divorce certificates
- 10 identical color photos (passport style)
- Work contract from current employer including salary
- Copies of last three years’ tax forms
- Medical exam
- Vaccination card
- Birth certificate
- Police clearance report from all countries in which I have lived
- Court/prison records
- Military certificate that proves my service
- Copy of documents of prior visa status e.g. ESTA
After we started the visa process, we expected to finish in 6 months. However, our experience shows that there are a lot of dependent factors, and there is a correlation between the law agency fee and their connections that accelerate the process. In my case, it is taking slightly more time than we expected, somewhere between seven – eight months until my interview at the U.S. embassy in Bern.
Finally, if you consider using a relocation company to ship your goods to the U.S, as we did, please make sure to keep all your original documents because you need them for your final interview at the embassy. Unfortunately, I already shipped all my documents and I had to request them again which not only delayed the process but also created unnecessary expenses I easily could have avoided.
- https://www.acro.police.uk (Police report for UK, Australia, and New Zealand)
- http://www.strafregister.admin.ch (Swiss Police report)
- http://www.vtg.admin.ch (Request Swiss military proof)
- https://ceac.state.gov/ceac/ (US Consular Electronic Application Center)
- http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/immigrate/nvc.html (US National Visa Center)
- http://www.immihelp.com (Online resource platform regarding U.S legal immigration)