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Which visa did you apply for and why?
I applied for an IR1 visa, which is an immediate relative visa, as I am married to a US citizen. It all started with the I-130 Petition for Alien Relative via the USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services). Once approved by them, we were passed on to the NVC (National Visa Center).
How long did the visa process take for you?
We started the process, with the USCIS when we submitted the I-130 Petition for Alien Relative in September 2011, and received notification of approval to move to the next stage (the NVC) in April 2012. We filed out the forms and sent the fees, but encountered some delays so did not receive the appointment for the medical/embassy interview until July 2013. During the interview, there were yet more delays, and I did not get my visa until August 2013 - a little under 2 years. My husband and I had been apart for 4 years at this point, so when it finally arrived, it was the best day of my life.
What difficulties did you encounter?
We encountered many delays as we had sometimes not sent the right evidence in the correct format, or our fees were lost and we had to save to pay them again. We also encountered some confused communication, as sometimes we did not hear if there was a problem, so we assumed everything was fine when in fact something needed to be corrected. All of this delayed our process and caused much stress when trying to deal with it.
Was there any financial expenditure with the visa you chose?
Yes, with every form we submitted, there was some kind of fee, plus the cost of the medical examination and the stays in London (twice) to attend the medical and then the embassy interview. Our first form (the I-130) cost $420, plus about $100+ to collect the various evidence needed. The forms for the NVC (DS-230 Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration and the Affidavit of Support) plus the evidence that was sent with those forms had a total cost of approximately $440. Once it got to the medical/embassy interview stage, the actual medical examination cost £277, or $435, not to mention the stay in London overnight and the train tickets. Once I got to my visa interview, there was a further fee of £165, or $259. In total, the whole experience (not including the stays in London, train tickets, and other costs for collecting evidence) cost just over $1660.
Did you have any outside help completing the visa process and if so, what did you find most helpful?
We did not get any outside help, as this would have been an extra cost, but I think if I was to do the process over again, I would get help as I think it would have reduced the repeated delays.
What advice would you give other potential expats who are about to go through this process?
I would strongly advise to do your research, and find out exactly what is involved, and the fees needed to complete it. Save as much money as you can, and if affordable, get professional help as this will minimise delays and misunderstandings.
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