One of the most daunting things about applying for a Visa is not really knowing what to expect from the process. I, for one, would have felt a lot more confident if I knew what was going to happen. So in order to help others in the same situation, I´ve decided to make a step by step guide based on our experience.
In this part I´ll write about the documentation I got, what it looked like and how I got it. I´ll also tell you about what worked and what didn´t so hopefully you can learn from my mistakes. The way it´s divided into subcategories was how I organized everything. Some of it worked really well, and some almost caused me to make a huge mistake that would most likely have meant that I wouldn’t have gotten the Visa.
Brace yourself, this is going to be a long one.
My main mentality while getting the documentation was to get everything I could think of. I asked myself “What would be your concerns regarding approving the visa” and I would think of documentation that would make those concerns go away. For Instance, my fiance is a disabled vet currently finishing his degree in GIS, a concern could be: Right now because of VA education benefits he has an income, however there´s a record high unemployment rate in the states at the moment, what if he doesn´t get a job after finishing his degree. How does he intend on supporting the both of you? To counter this concern I had brought a list of currently available entry level jobs in his field. Of course this was completely unnecessary, they never asked for it or even looked at it, but my philosophy is that I´d rather have something and not need it than not have it and have them ask for it. I recommend that you do this as well. Get ANYTHING you can think of that might be even remotely relevant. What you have to remember is that for everything they want that you don´t have, the longer you have to wait to get the visa (and I assume that there´s a greater chance of getting a rejection as well, but that´s just my guessing).
And make sure you have evidence to prove anything, that your words never stand on their own. The thing is that your words don´t count for a lot if they don´t have documentation backing it up. Rather your case should be able to argue itself, without you explaining anything.
Well, now you have a bit of background information to tell you about why I´ve included documentation they didn´t ask for. Now it´s time to get down to the basics of it all. And remember all documents must be in English.
- Statement from bank: You need at statement signed by a senior officer of the bank showing your present balance, date account was opened, the number and amounts of deposits and withdrawals within the last 12 months, and the average balance during the year. Most likely your bank will tell you that they can´t get this information for you. Depending on how your net banking works you should be able to copy paste the movements in your account statement to an excel sheet and get the information yourself, it might take you a couple of hours depending on the number of accounts, but then all you need to do is email it to your bank manager and get him to check it, print it and sign it. If your bank turns out to be as non cooperative as mine, then this procedure will save you a lot of time and grievances. Make sure to point out that you need everything signed and on official company paper, you´d think that this is a given, but apparently it´s not.
- Statement of transfer of funds: Basically I wrote that I intend to keep my current account, set up a new one in the states and use internet banking to transfer funds back and forth. Signed yours truly.
- Statement from pension company: This one is called `Statement from insurance company´, it should show policies held, and present cash surrender value. In my case the closest thing was my pension savings. Here I encountered the same problem as with my bank, so what I did was call them up and told them what I needed, I then suggested that I got the numbers from them, wrote the statement in English, emailed it to them so the only thing they would have to do was check that the information was correct, print it, sign it and mail it to me… Worked like a charm. Turns out that people are very cooperative when you suggest doing their job for them.
- Statement from employer: Or `Proof of income´. Since I have both salary that will be paid after the interview as well as vacation pay for the rest of this year and the next, I got my employer to find out exactly how much I have coming and then I wrote it in a statement and had my boss check it, and sign it.
- Estimated pay-slip: This is the documentation that shows that the numbers that´s on the statement from my employer is correct, it´s in Danish so I needed a written statement in English as well.
- Pay-slip July and august: Proof of my income until I quit my job and move. Just in case
- Calculation of expected savings: I made this in excel. The savings in my statement from the bank is hardly impressive, but since I have a lot of pending income, I decided that this would be the easiest way to visualize what I was expecting (obviously all the numbers are documented in the previously mentioned documentation). This proved to be extremely helpful to since the lady at the interview actually asked me about it. She took a quick look at it and was satisfied. Definitely helped prove my case
- Birth certificate in English: In Denmark you can get it at your local church office, I don´t know how it works in other countries, but it was very easy to find out online. Make sure you bring the original English version, NOT a copy. I made that mistake. I brought a copy and then the original Danish birth certificate just in case they wanted to see it. They needed the original English which I had left at home. I still got the visa, but I had to send the original when I got home.
- Passport: If you get the Visa they will take it and send it to you along with the visa and documentation, if you have to go to a different country for the interview (I had to go to Sweden), remember to bring a copy so you can come back home.
- Police certificate in English: In Denmark you get this at any police station, obviously this has to be the original as well.
- Copy of driver’s-license: I actually don´t think this is necessary at all, but I read a blog about someone getting asked for it, so I thought better play it safe and bring it. And now you´ve read about it here and will probably bring a copy of yours, it´s a never ending spiral.
- Certificates of finished education: You know just in case they asked about how I would find a job or something… ok, I admit it I might be slightly paranoid.
- Proof of residency: I don´t know if this one is required or not. It said in the appointment letter to bring your Swedish ID (Personbevis) to prove civil status and residence in Sweden. Well I´m not Swedish and doesn´t live in Sweden, but I figured that the same applied to Denmark. So I applied my basic philosophy and brought it.
- Birth certificate
- Copy of passport
- Affidavit of support
- Statement from bank
- Proof of income
- Statement regarding tax free income: You need to submit a notarized income tax-return, but since VA benefits are tax free, Mike wrote a statement including documentation as to why he hadn´t included the tax-return.
- Change of address: Mike moved to a bigger and better apartment that´s big enough to comfortably fit the both of us, obviously there needed to be documentation of the change of address. If I had written the new address on the forms as my future address and every form that he has previously submitted has the old address, they would probably have found that highly suspect.
- Degree Progress: To prove how far along in his studies he is.
- GIS job listings: Just my general paranoia, I should probably mention that Mike really went above and beyond in order to get me any far out thing that I thought could maybe be thought to be slightly helpful, maybe in a worst case scenario kind of way.
Future in-laws: I think all of this is pretty straight forward.
- Affidavit of support
- Statement from bank
- Statement from employer
- Notarized income tax return
Medical: This is sent to them automatically, and they never asked about it at all. But by now you should know my philosophy on the matter: Bring it just in case. Remember that the envelope containing the CD with the x-rays must remain sealed.
- CD with x-rays, do not open!!!
- Vaccination documentation worksheet
- Receipt medical examination
- Receipt X-rays
Appointment letter, forms ect.:
- Appointment letter: This has to be easy accessible as you most likely have to show it the security checkpoint at the embassy.
- Receipt of Visa application fee payment: I wasn´t asked to show it before I handed in the documentation, but they recommend that you keep it easy accessible.
- Checklist: Copy of the one you sent to get the appointment, of course they won´t ask for it but if they do, you want to have it. Same goes for no. 4, 5 and 6.
- DS-230 part 1
The original K1 application: This they didn´t ask for but, surprise surprise, I found that it´s a good idea to bring everything regarding the case (And I actually think they recommend it, so not just my paranoia this time).
- I-129F, Petition for alien fiancé(e)
- G-325A, Biographic information
- Declarations of intent
- Letter of petition approval
- I-797, Notice of action
Evidence of relationship:
This part along with the financial documentation is the most important. However they only looked at the photos and boarding passes, but I made sure to mention that I had the other things as well. One thing I intended to do, but didn´t get around to was to write a short capitation on each photo, explaining the situation, especially if only one of you is on the photo (Mike with my niece, mike with my friends, Mike at the Lego store, Mike eating stegt flaesk med persillesovs).
This turned out to be really important since I got asked twice if I had any kids referring to the photos of him and my niece, and the screenshot from a Skype chat with him, my mom, my niece and me, that I included to prove that he had met my family. Better not to have any misunderstandings like that.
- Skype log: The original copy-paste was 300 pages, I cut it down to 18.
- Facebook conversation log: Just like the Skype log I edited it down to about 20 pages. They don´t need to see everything, they just need to make sure you´re not a mail-order bride (or groom).
- Facebook screen dumps
- Boarding passes and tickets
Additional documents: I brought additional documentation in Danish to back up the financial statements, just in case they would question their accuracy.
Copies: I brought copies of most of the documents, absolutely no need to do this. If you feel a need to have copies of important documents that you might need in the future (you´ll need to apply for permanent residency once you´re married) just leave them at home. And I´m pretty sure that they will send any documents they keep to you along with your visa and passport, at least that´s what the lady told me.
You also need to bring stamps so they can send the Visa to you. You most likely will NOT be able to buy them at the embassy. The amount differs from country to country, I had to bring 350 swedish kroners worth, that´s roughly 60$ (if you live in Sweden then you only needed 150 kr´s worth).
So what worked and what didn´t?
Somewhere along the line I made the decision to make a list of what I needed, to get it out of my head. That decision was probably the best I´ve made in the entire process. It was able to remove a lot of the stress that comes with trying to remember everything and being really scared that you won´t. And there´s the added benefit of showing your progress in a very easily understandable way. A definite must.
The order of the documents worked really well when it came to staying in control while getting all the documents, however it did work poorly at the interview. What you want there is to put all the financial stuff in one pile. As you can see I had 3 different piles; One with my financial info, one with everything regarding Mike, and one with my in-laws info. This meant that I almost forgot to hand in the affidavits of support.
This is how I would do it now:
Pile 1: Appointment letter and payment receipt.
Pile 2: Documentation about me.
Pile 3: All the required financial documents
Pile 4: All evidence of relationship.
Pile 5 to ?: Everything else.
I used sub-divided each pile into smaller piles using paper clips and used the post-it thingies you can put in books ect. to mark what was in each file, that made everything a lot easier to find.
Well I think that was just about it.
In part three I´ll go through the Interview process. I´ll tell you about what to expect when you arrive at the embassy and the order of business once you´re inside, what did they ask and what were their concerns. I´ll also let you in on my experience waiting along with all the other hopeful applicants.
As always, if you have any questions, comments or experiences that you´d like to share, feel free to comment.