Getting US Immigration Help Online for Chinese Loved Ones

15 Responses

  1. globalgal
    globalgal March 19, 2010 at 12:18 pm | | Reply

    What an amazing resource! I remember back in 2001, recently married in Spain and struggling with the immigration paperwork… I asked a question on a random Internet forum and was lambasted… I admit I was pretty ignorant and naive. Anyway, the whole process ended badly and my husband was denied entry for a 10 year period. Best thing to ever happen to us in the long run, but not ideal. If I’d had access to something like Candle for Love (the Spanish version!) things might have turned out differently, or not, but at least I would have been better informed.

  2. Shannon
    Shannon March 20, 2010 at 12:17 am | | Reply

    Hey Jocelyn,

    First of all, I just have to say that your blog has opened up so many doors for my blog! Thanks for including mine in your list of other Western women/Chinese men blogs!! 🙂 I’ve gotten a lot of responses from people, via you. Thanks!
    I found this entry to be really interesting and I looked at Candle for Love but couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for so I thought I’d ask you… My fiance and I are planning to return to the states in July, he will be on a student visa. We will already be legally married in China, but not the states. I’m constantly wondering if the student visa is the right way to go for us or if we’ll run into complications down the road. Do you have any advice about this? To go on a student visa or a spouse visa??

  3. globalgal
    globalgal March 20, 2010 at 1:22 am | | Reply

    Jocelyn – yes, that was me! My husband always tells me I tell my story too much… haha but if anyone hears it and avoids the same mistake we made, it’s all worth it. I remember that group. It was exciting to read stories of other intercultural marriages, with a Chinese slant, since that was where I was headed next.

    Shannon – I thought I’d jump in with what I know about this. If you’re married in China then you’re married in the US, too, as far as I know. Is it different for Chinese? I was married in Spain, never in the US, and my marriage is recognized. Be very careful – if you are not legally married and you have the intention of entering the US to get married, your fiance MUST enter on a fiance visa, otherwise they can accuse you of entering on a visa under false pretenses. If your husband/fiance is going with the main intention to study, a student visa would likely be a quicker/cheaper process, but I do not know the specifics of China. My husband was recently denied a student visa to the US at the Beijing embassy, (and I’m a US citizen) because he couldn’t prove he had no intention of staying beyond the study period (30 days) and settling down in the US. Perhaps you know more Jocelyn?

  4. Jessica
    Jessica March 20, 2010 at 6:57 am | | Reply

    Globalgal is right, if you’re legally married in China you’re also legally married in the States. You don’t need to do anything for the US to recognize your union, your Chinese marriage certificate makes you legally married in almost any country in the world.

    If your husband already has his student visa and you’re already married, I don’t think the student visa will be a problem. When his visa expires and if you still want to live in America then you can file for an adjustment of status (I believe it is called) and apply for a greencard. By that point you’ll have been married for over 2 years so you should be eligible for an automatic 10 year greencard. If your husband doesn’t have his student visa yet it could get tricky because you could run into the situation that globalgal did, because there might be the assumption that he intends to immigrate and is using the student visa as a shortcut to getting to America.

    One advantage of NOT going on a student visa, that you may or may not have thought of, is that if he is on a student visa he’ll be paying international student tuition, which is rather more expensive than normal tuition, and will most likely not be eligible to recieve student loans and federal funding, whereas if he’s on a greencard as your legal spouse, then he would be able to enjoy the same privileges when it comes to attending school — in country/state tuition and federal financial aid — that any other citizen or legal resident in America would.

  5. Shannon
    Shannon March 20, 2010 at 11:45 pm | | Reply

    Wow, thanks so much for the advice, you both gave me a lot to think about! As of now, we have neither visa…we are getting married in June, although we will probably have our Chinese certificate as soon as next month, if need be. If we apply for the green card (or spousal visa) how long does that generally take? I was concerned that it may take much longer to be approved than a student visa. If he is able to go as a legal spouse, do the tuition adjustments happen immediately? How do we go about discussing that with the schools? Your help is so valuable to me…I think I’ve been quite naive about this whole process!

  6. Jessica
    Jessica March 21, 2010 at 12:20 am | | Reply

    In order to receive federal financial aid and non-international/resident student tuition rates he’ll need to actually have his green-card, which means you’ll have to have been married for 2 years. The people who have been through it might have a better answer about how long it takes to get the visa to enter the States (which you would change to a greencard in America once you’ve been married for 2 years), but it seems to take around a year at the quickest for most people.

    The resident tuition can make a huge difference. I graduated from UT Austin and, for example, my tuition was something like $5000 a year (UT is so cheap!) whereas the international students were paying more than double that.

    For a student visa he’ll need to already have admission to an American school. Once he has admission he needs to be able to prove that he still intends to return to China after his studies. I deal with this a lot working at an international school where the majority of my Chinese students will be going to college in America. They rarely get turned down because they’re teenagers with wealthy families in China and no real reason to just give that up and immigrate, but with an American spouse that would be a big red flag to the visa officer that you’re using the student visa as a shortcut to immigration. If you do actually intend to settle and live in the United States it might be hard to prove the opposite. He’ll have to prove binding ties to China, usually property or money or a job that will be waiting for him when he gets back, or strong family ties.

    Depending on whether he has admission to a school or not, it might be worth it to actually put off getting your marriage certificate until he has the student visa, if the student visa is still the route you want to go. I think though, in your shoes, I’d maybe re-think things and apply for an immigration visa which would eventually lead to a greencard. If you’re planning to settle in the States that’s by far your most straightforward option and the sooner you apply the sooner he’ll be able to enjoy the study-related. benefits of his greencard.

    Just my 2cp anyhow! Good luck!

  7. Jessica
    Jessica March 21, 2010 at 12:32 am | | Reply

    Not to hog all the comments but I found this from the UC Riverside site about the citizenship requirements for financial aid

    So your spouse CAN apply for financial aid with a conditional green card. I am not sure quite how long it takes to get that, but it is worth looking into I think.

    Oh I also forgot to mention, there will be different requirements for international students regarding language too. A international student is going to need a certain score on the IELTS or the TOEFL exam for admission to an American school, whereas a greencard holder might not necessarily need to take those exams.

  8. globalgal
    globalgal March 21, 2010 at 12:42 am | | Reply

    The immigration visa process in China takes a long time, unfortunately. I have a visa application on file in Guangzhou but we’ve had it on hold for the last 3 years since we don’t actually want to immigrate at this time. To get to the point of being ready for the visa interview – the last step before receiving the visa – the process took about 10 months, maybe more. First you have to submit a petition application, get accepted, submit the visa application, wait for interview… in Spain the first time it took me only a few weeks, but China is huge in comparison, so it takes a really, really long time. Anticipate a full year before you will be able to move to the US.

    Based on my experience, I think it could be very difficult to convince the consular officials that your husband/fiance intends to leave the US at the completion of his studies, which is a requirement for getting the student visa. The burden of proof is entirely on you/the visa applicant and they want to see compelling evidence. Work contracts, housing contracts, letters from family, bank account statements, etc. As a Chinese citizen, it will be easier for your husband/fiance to produce those kinds of documents, but it is not easy when you have a US citizen spouse. (In my situation we were in a Catch-22. My husband needed a work contract for the embassy but the Chinese company couldn’t give him the working contract without completing the 30 day course he needed to do in the US.)

    You are in Tianjin, right? The visa unit at the embassy offers a visa hour where US citizens can come in and ask questions. From the consulate’s website: “In order to afford American citizens an opportunity to speak directly with a consular official, the Visa Unit is open Tuesday and Thursday afternoons from 4:00PM to 5:00PM. Inquiries will be entertained on a first-come, first-served basis. All American citizens present by 4:00PM will have an opportunity to speak to a consular official that day. Inquiries from anyone arriving after 4:00PM will be entertained only if time permits. No one will be admitted after 4:30PM. Only American citizens are allowed to use this service. Citizens of other countries, including legal permanent residents of the United States, will not be allowed into the Visa Unit.”

    You might consider stopping by to ask some questions there. Of course, they CANNOT tell you yes or no, or what to do, but they might be able to give you some helpful general information.

  9. Shannon
    Shannon March 21, 2010 at 6:32 am | | Reply

    Again, thank you! I hope we can find some proof for the embassy that he plans to come back to China…I know that his job will continue his employment/hold his position and also I think that I can get a letter from my current job saying that I will return. Hopefully that, plus some financial records, is enough! Unfortunately, our timing is very limited…he has already applied to schools and been accepted into one, we’re waiting on the others. We would like to go back in the Fall so it seems that the green card option is not the most suitable for us… 🙁 I looked at the websites that both of you sent…it’s really helpful to know that these options are out there! Really, thank you so much!

  10. Jessica
    Jessica March 21, 2010 at 11:24 am | | Reply

    Good luck Shannon! All you can do is try, and if the student visa doesn’t work out, take it from there. Be sure to let us know how it works out. We’re going to be applying for a tourist visa for my husband soon which is sort of similar to a student visa in that they don’t like to give them to people who have the ability to apply for immigrant visas and thus have a good reason not to return to China. We’re still going to try though because moving to the States isn’t in the cards for the immediate future. Hopefully it will turn out better than expected for us!

  11. Shannon
    Shannon March 21, 2010 at 11:04 pm | | Reply

    My fiance has actually already taken TOEFL and GMAT and we’ve gone through the whole school application process so that part is behind us… We’ve been asking for advice from lots of others, as well, and it sounds like maybe a fiance visa is the way to go but I’m still not totally sure. We’ll keep researching! I’ll keep you all posted! 🙂

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