My SSN Application Experience - Dade City, FL

Friday, February 24, 2017

Why do I need to get a Social Security Number? 
As per Social Security Administration page, this nine-digit number will serve as your first and continuous link with Social Security. This will help the SSA to accurately record your covered wages or self-employment earnings, as well as to monitor your benefits records. In short, you need a Social Security number to get a job, collect Social Security benefits and get some other government services.

What do I need to bring at the office to apply for SSN?
As a Non-citizen, I have to bring a document that proves I have a valid immigration status and that I am authorized to work in the US. Together with my unexpired passport, I brought my Employment Authorization Document (EAD). For detailed requirements, check here. I also saved myself sometime because I already have a filled-up Application Form. Check here for the most updated SS application form.

So, how did I get mine?
Right after I received my EAD card, I planned to apply for the Social Security Number (SSN). And since I can't wait for my husband to have an off from work, I decided to go to SSN office on my own. I don't know how to drive yet so I have to walk from our house to the office. Good thing is that, it's not that far away, only a 35 minutes walk - just like my morning exercise routine.

Using my phone's GPS, I walked to my destination talking my time - one step at a time. I went out early and I arrived at the SSN office at almost 9 am. At that hour, the office was already jam-packed without any seat to take. So, you better plan to go early in the office. But before I go ahead to find a spot to stay, I have to use the kiosk first to get my ticket number. After getting my ticket, I waited for almost half an hour before my number got called. The lady just asked for my documents and application form then started typing in her computer. She asked me basic questions from time to time confirming all my information. Afterwards, she gave me a paper as a proof that I applied for SSN and told me to wait for the card in the mail. It arrived after 6 days. :)

Getting SSN is FREE. You don't have to pay for anything. :)
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My AOS Journey to Forever (Yes! The Immigration Process feels like FOREVER!)

Thursday, February 16, 2017

This is quite a process, so I will try to tell this story as far as I can remember right from the very beginning.

My Background Story (Boy Meets Girl and the rest is History!)

It was May 30, 2011 when I received a friend request in Facebook from a stranger. Having a friend in common, I accepted the friend request and never did I imagine that day to be the start of my happily ever after. :)

We started as good friends to close friends to best friends. Back then I don't really feel something romantic between us because we both have our eyes set to someone else. Years gone by but we remained best friends and the bond of friendship just got stronger.

It is just late 2013 when we started dating and became an official couple on February 24, 2014. We met personally for the first time on May 16 of that same year and spent 3 days together in San Francisco, California (I usually go to California for work related purposes). That was one of the most memorable 3 days of my life -- having it spent with my special someone and my first (and last) boyfriend.

The bond we have just got even stronger during that 3 days we spent together. The short lived bonding made us realized that we were really bound to be together soon. So when the time comes that we need to part ways, it was so difficult. Long distance relationships are not the best kind of relationship you could ever have. Since we could not take the LDR any longer, he decided to visit me in the Philippines on November, 6 months after our first personal date. Then on November 25, he finally asked my hand in marriage. Since he spent a great deal of time with my parents, they we're able to get to know him more and was easy for them to accept their future son-in-law. The wedding planning was an enjoyable but exhausting time for us. It was a short 2 months of preparation but it was indeed a memorable time for both of us as a couple.

March 16, 2015  when we finally exchanged our vows and officially become husband and wife. But those sweet moments as husband and wife didn't last long since he have to go back in the US by April. We were then back to LDR and it was indeed much harder this time.

Finally, I decided to resign from my job and planned my visit in the US. Since I already have a B1/B2 visa (visitor's visa), all I have to prepare was proof that I don't have immigration intent. It was nerve wracking when I was already in the US airport, the fear of being denied in my entry was unbearable for a moment. However, I was able to surpass the interrogation and finally welcomed myself to the US.

Our situation changes and the plan of just visiting the US turned to be a plan of just staying. Then, here's how we ended up filing for Adjustment of Status.

Why Do I have to file for Adjustment of Status (AOS)?

Basically, I only have a non-immigrant visa which allows me to stay for a short period of time (which is 6 months in my case). If I wanted to stay longer or stay legally as a resident of the United States, I have to file an Adjustment of Status concurrent with the Petition for Alien Relative.

What are the Steps I have to do for AOS filing?

You can only file for Adjustment of Status if you are physically present in the US and if you qualify to file for it according to USCIS basis to Immigrate. In my case, I fall into the Family Based Immigrant category. My husband and I did the Concurrent Filing of Form I-485 where we filed the immigrant petition (Form I-130) and the adjustment application (Form I-485) at the same time and mailed it together with all the required filing fees and supporting documentation to the same filing location. Visit USCIS official page for more information about Concurrent Filing.

After determining my eligibility, we then need to prepare all the forms and documents needed for the application. The AOS package that we sent to USCIS includes completely filled-up forms and supporting evidences as follows:

Note: Please carefully read all instructions and make sure to submit all the required documents stated in each forms. Failing to do so may result in rejection of your filing.

Below are the specific documents we submitted with our application. Petitioner refers to my husband (who is the US citizen) and the Beneficiary refers to me, the one adjusting the status.

Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative
  • Form G-1145 (E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance)
  • Money Order in the amount of  $420 (As of December 23,2016, the filing fee has been increased to $535)
  • Completely filled-up Form I-130
  • Copy of Petitioner's Birth Certificate
  • Copy of Petitioner's Passport (all pages)
  • Copy of Petitioner's Social Security and Driver's license
  • Copy of Beneficiary's Passport (ID page, entry stamp, B1/B2 visa, I-194)
  • Copy of Marriage Certificate
  • G-325A, Biographic Information signed by Petitioner
  • Passport photo of the Petitioner (inside a plastic bag and attached to G-325A form)
  • G-325A, Biographic Information signed by Beneficiary
  • Passport photo of the Beneficiary (inside a plastic bag and attached to G-325A form)
  • Evidence of Bonafide Marriage as follows:
    • Certified Copy of Marriage Certificate
    • Copy of Contract-to-Sell Deed of a parcel of land and residential unit bought in the Philippines with Transfer Certificate of Title and receipts of payments.
    • Copy of Alien Resident Spouse's Health Insurance with the Petitioner as the dependent
    • Copy of receipts of Money Orders between Petitioner and Beneficiary
    • Miscellaneous photos and trip tickets
    • Wedding receipts and payment stubs
    • Marriage Ceremony Photos
Form I-485,  Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status
  • Money Orders in the amount of US $1,070.00 for form I-485 & Biometric Fee (As of  December 23,2016, the filing fee has been increased to $1,225)
  •   Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status)
  •  Copy of Beneficiary’s Birth Certificate
  •  Copy of Beneficiary’s passport (ID page, entry stamp, B-1/B-2 Visa, I-194)
  •  2 Passport Photos of Beneficiary (Inside a plastic bag and attached to form I-485)
  •  Form I-693 Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record (Completed by a Civil Surgeon sealed in an envelope)
  • G-325A, Biographic Information signed by Beneficiary
  • Form I-864 Affidavit of Support signed by Petitioner
    • Petitioner’s passport (biographical page)
    • Copy of Petitioner’s individual income tax return, including W-2s for the most recent tax year; 
    • Letter of Explanation for not filing Tax return for year 2014
    • Copy of Petitioner’s pay stubs for the recent 6 months
  • Form I-864 affidavit of Support signed by the Joint Sponsor
    • Joint Sponsor’s Passport (biographical page)
    • Copy of Joint Sponsor’s individual income tax return, including W-2s for the 3 most recent tax year; 
    • Copy of Joint Sponsor’s Pay stubs for the most recent 6 months
Note: We used a co-sponsor because my husband doesn't meet the minimum income requirement. Please check USCIS website here to determine the current minimum income requirement needed for filing the Affidavit of Support. 

Form  I-765, Application for Employment Authorization and supporting documents

  • G-1145, E-notification of Application/Petition acceptance
  • Form I-765 Application For Employment Authorization
  • Copy of Beneficiary’s passport (ID page, entry stamp, B-1/B-2 Visa, I-194)
  • 2 Passport Photos of Beneficiary (Inside a plastic bag and attached to form I-765)

Note: We did not file the Form I-131, Application for Travel Document because we don't have any plans on traveling outside the country but you have the option to file so you can travel  outside the US freely and it's free when you file it together with Form I-864. Please check here the instructions and requirements needed to file this document.

After gathering all the needed documents, I personally arranged the documents in 3 folders accordingly. I used sticky notes as tab labels to easily locate the items listed as attachments and placed it on the bottom. Please check the General Tips on Assembling Applications for Mailing page in the USCIS website for detailed information.

Individually labelled Folders for I-130, I-864 & I-765
For sample Cover letter and Table of Contents for each folders, please click below.

Cover Letter

Table of Contents for Folder I-130

Table of Contents for Folder I-485

Table of Contents for Folder I-765

We then sent our AOS papers to the USCIS Chicago Lockbox. Check here for Direct Filing Addresses for Form I-485.

So have a glimpse of our AOS timeline below:

March 1, 2016 - Arrived in the United States

August 4, 2016 - submitted our AOS package (I-130, I-485, I-765) (USPS Priority Mail)

August 8, 2016 -  Package arrived at USCIS Chicago Lockbox

August 19. 2016 - at 12:26 am I received email notifications that our application has been accepted and routed to the USCIS National Benefits Center for processing.

August 21, 2016 - all cases receipts are working online. I registered for email and text alerts here.

August 22, 2016 - got hard copies of Notice of Actions (NOA) in the mail. Notice date is August 17, 2016.

October 21, 2016 - received biometrics letter in the mail (Finally! Almost 2 months from NOA 1 date).

November 4, 2016 - I-765, Employment Authorization Document (EAD) updated online to 'Case was Approved' on October 31.

November 7, 2016 - received EAD approval notice in the mail.

November 14, 2016 - Biometrics appointment in Tampa (in and out within 35 mins). Check my post about my experience here.

November 15, 2016 - I-765, (EAD) updated online to 'New Card Is Being Produced'.

November 18, 2016 - I-765, (EAD) updated online to 'Card Mailed to Me'.

November 22, 2016 - I-765, (EAD) updated online to 'Card Was Delivered To Me By The Post Office' and found it in the mailbox!

November 28, 2016 - Applied for Social Security Number (SSN). Check my post about my experience here.

December 3, 2016 - SS card received in the mailbox.

January 27, 2017 - Received a text message from USCIS that there is a change in my case. I now have a schedule for interview and it's on March 2!

January 30, 2017 - Received the Interview Appointment letter in the Mail.

Yes. It was indeed a lengthy process and I am just about almost at the end of it. I found it useful reading some forums and resource websites on the internet when doing the AOS. I was active in Visa Journey in my entire AOS process and I learned a lot from there. Unlike other couples who paid an attorney to do all the paper works, my husband and mostly I did ours (it will cost us almost $4,000 if we did get a lawyer). So to save you from bucks, do your research and process all the documents on your own (unless you have a 'special case'). Trust me, if your case is just a regular case, it can be done without a lawyer. You just have to be very careful of course in filling up all the documents and it's also a matter of following instructions.

 It took us 5 months to have an interview date from the date we submitted our papers. I actually still feel bad that the interview was scheduled earlier than our 2nd year wedding anniversary because that means I will only be getting the 2-year green card instead of the 10. Oh well, on the brighter side, at least I can see the end of the tunnel, for now. Check back for my next post about my Interview experience!


DISCLAIMER: I am not an authority on the Adjustment of Status Application Process. Information on this website comes from my own personal experience. In this journey, everyone have different experiences. Please visit USCIS link here if you want precise and detailed information about the general AOS process. You can also use USCIS Online Tools section for help.

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My Biometrics Experience - Tampa, FL

Photo worth it OOTD :)

After almost two months, we finally received my Biometrics appointment letter in the mailbox!

Date of Appointment:  November 14, 2016
Time of Appointment: 03:00 PM
Where:                          APPLICATION SUPPORT CENTER
                                       USCIS TAMPA
                                       5629 Hoover Blvd
                                       Tampa FL, 33634

Why do I need to attend this Biometrics Appointment?  Intending immigrants with a pending visa application need to provide their fingerprints, photographs and/or signatures. For so doing, USCIS can confirm your identity and run required background and security check.

What you need to bring on your appointment? Your appointment letter will clearly states:

1. The Appointment Notice and
2. Photo Identification (such as your passport or driver’s license)

Please refrain from bringing the following inside the building:

1. Cellphones
2. Cameras
3. Other recording devices

They will allow you to bring your phone but put it on silent and don't use it. When I was there, people had been using their phones and it kept on ringing so one officer (I guess the one who monitors security cameras) showed up and started shouting "Please do not use your phones". Twice he went out his room just for that!

My father-in-law accompanied me in the ASC since my husband was at work. It was an hour drive from where I live and we arrived 2 hours before my appointment. At first, I thought they will not allow me to go inside because it's way too early, but they did. I showed my appointment notice and no questions asked, they let me in. I am guessing maybe because there were few people that day. According to some experiences, some ASC allows the applicants to enter only on their scheduled appointment. After passing the security scanner, a guard pointed me to where I needed to go.

Upon entering, I look around first to see where to go. Then I saw a short queue where I lined up and where I waited to be served. The lady asked for my appointment letter and photo identification. She checked those out and handed them back together with a form. She instructed me to return it after I have it filled out.

Information you need to provide in the Application Information Worksheet:
  • Married Name (Last, First, Middle)
  • Date of Birth
  • Phone number
  • Country of Birth
  • Gender
  • Country of Citizenship
  • Race
  • Height & Weight
  • Application Number(s)
  • Any other names you have used (including Maiden name, previous married name, AKA, etc.)
After completing the form, I handed it back to the lady and she gave me a queue number in return. I waited only for a short while, it was just about 6 people before me. It took them around 10 minutes to get my fingerprints, photo and signature. That's it!  I am in and out of the building in just 35 minutes.

Note: For detailed general information about Preparing for your Biometric Services Appointment, visit USCIS page here.

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