My AOS Interview Experience - Tampa, FL

Monday, March 13, 2017

So, this was it! The final step for me to be able get a green card!

Date of Appointment:  March 2, 2017
Time of Appointment: 10:45 AM
Where:                          APPLICATION SUPPORT CENTER
                                      USCIS TAMPA
  Lobby B
                                      5629 Hoover Blvd
                                      Tampa FL, 33634

The beginning of a new day.
My husband and I woke up early to prepare for the interview. The night before, he was anxious and a little worried but on the other hand, I was excited. We were already on the road around 8:15 am. It was an hour drive and since we did not eat anything for breakfast, we got hungry along the way so we ordered at a Burger King drive thru, few minutes away to our destination.

The fun of waiting.
We arrived at the ASC at 9:15 am and passed the security. At security, we have to put our belongings in a container, my husband removed his shoes (I didn't because I am wearing sandals), and his belt as well and all the things he has in his pocket (wallet, keys, coins, etc.). Upon entering, we headed towards the registration desk. There was only one waiting in line and there were two officers serving at the registration so we were called next. The officer asked for the appointment letter which I handed him. He carefully looked at my appointment and noticed that my schedule was still at 10:45. He commended us for being early (which he said is always a good thing), however, they can only accept to register an appointment as early as 30 minutes before the schedule. He told us to come back at 10:15 and that we can go outside for a while or wait in the waiting room as long as we come back at the said time. We chose to just wait in the waiting area where few people are sitting. Some are being called to the windows located inside. Although I tried to figure out what was those windows are for, I wasn't able to determine but I know for sure it was not for our interview. We noticed some couples sitting at the end of the waiting room and not long we figured out that the door at the end of the room was where the immigration interviews were taking place. We saw immigration officers coming out of that door and calling out numbers, then couples, families or individuals coming in. We saw different types of officers coming out and we can’t help but to judge them based on how they look (which are commonly serious). Honestly, there were only few officers who looked nice. :) My husband and I ended up waiting for officers come out the door with the persons with them and judge what the outcome of the interview based on their facial expressions. There were quite some who looked disappointed when they got out of the interview room and there were those who looked really happy with all smiles in their faces. I noticed that many of the people who were there for their immigration interview have their lawyers with them and some have interpreters. When we got tired looking at the door and waiting for people to come in and out, my husband decided to look at our huge photo album that I brought. We then reminisce our times in the Philippines and how we ended up being there. Fast forward to 10:15. After an hour of waiting, we went ahead to the registration desk and this time there were more people coming in and a few lined up. At the registration, I handed back our appointment letter again and the officer checked and scanned the appointment and gave us a queue number - K-40.

The waiting continues.
We came back to the waiting area, and this time we sat closer to where we can clearly see the door to the interview office. This time, I was already anxious and nervous. Whenever the door opens, my heart skips a bit. Then my husband and I went back to checking in the immigration officers appearing at the door and most of the time we would say to each other “I hope we don’t get that officer. He looks mean/intimidating/rude/scary.” Some couples were interviewed separately, letting the wife go first and leaving the husband outside. That felt a lot scarier for me.

The most awaited time - Part 1: The Story of the Beginning.
I was silently praying while waiting and just wanted for the day to end and get over this nerve-wracking process. At last, around 10:45 am which was our original schedule, a small, nice looking guy opened the door and called our number. Gladly, he did not separate us, but escorted us both to his room. My husband says he was a Puerto Rican. He introduces himself as Officer Lopez (Emilio Lopez). He has sworn us in before letting us take a seat. Then he asked us for our ID’s and I provided him with my old and new passport plus my EAD and State ID then my husband’s passport and his driver’s license. He returned my EAD and checked all other ID’s while checking his file (the pile of papers we sent to USCIS). He then returned all the ID’s and turned to my husband with his first question: When and where did you met? My husband told him that in 2011 we met on Facebook via a common friend. Still asking my husband: So, who add who? My husband responded that it was him who added me. But back then it was plain friendship and not a romantic relationship. Then a followup question by the officer: When did it start to become a romantic relationship? I was just listening while my husband was telling the officer that it was only late 2013 when we started dating and early 2014 when we became an official couple. How did your romance progress? We started talking on the phone more and we met personally for the first time on May 2014 in California. Then the officer finally turned to me asking: What are you doing in California? I told him that I was on a business trip. My company held a Legal Summit every year and invited us and then I requested a 3 day extension to my vacation so I can spend time with him. Then he asked: How many times have you been in the US before getting in a relationship with your husband? I told him I already went February of 2014 before we were even couples. Then May 2014 was the 2nd time in the US and I also mentioned I went back September 2015 when we already married. He then checks his computer, go over the copy of my passport and visa in file and checked all the stamps I have in there. Then he proceeded by asking: Do you have any additional supporting documents that you would like to present to me before going further with the interview? I pulled out the large folder we brought and put the papers in front of him. Then he asked: So what do we have here? I told him, first we have my husband’s 2 months recent pay stubs, letter from his employer and 2016 Tax refund and W2’s. He checked the paper then asked my husband: What do you do Sir? My husband simply said that he is a Lawn Care Specialist. He then asked me: Are you working too? I said yes, I am a part time freelancer working from home doing administrative jobs. A follow-up question was asked: What administrative jobs do you do? I told him it’s different with every client. I have 4 clients right now. One of them asked me to upload their products in Shopify, I was helping the other client in updating documents, in the other I was an email support and a hiring manager. Then he put the pay stubs, letter and tax documents aside and asked again: What else do we have here? Next on my list was the original money orders that we have since 2014 - 2016. The officer asked: What are these money orders for? My husband answer that he supported me when I was in the Philippines and then he will send money to me for the payment of the house we bought in the Philippines. Then the officer asked: So you have a property in the Philippines? I told him that we used to have it, but in the middle of the process, we lost it. Then he further asked: What happened to it? I explained that it was a miscommunication with the vendor since they failed to tell me before leaving for vacation in the US that I will lose my housing loan because I am not working anymore. The officer seems to understand and did not question any further about it. But the officer said that since he already have copies of those, he won’t need it anymore. What else? I then presented our bank statements. He was unfamiliar with Money Network, which is our card company and was the name printed on the bank statements. My husband told him the Money Network was just the card provider and the name of the bank was MetaBank. He further explains that before, his card was only a payroll card, but when he got a new job, he upgraded it to a checking account. The officer asked to confirm: So whose account is this? My husband said that it is his account and he added me as a secondary card holder so we both use the account. The officer then started reviewing the bank statements and all the transactions that we had. I highlighted the entries that says “Secondary Card Transfer to Marionette Solorio” in his bank statements and the “Secondary Card Transfer from Rafael Solorio” in mine so the officer can easily see that we share that same account. After that, he asked again: What else? I then showed him our signed Advance Health Directive where we are the Health Care Surrogate of each other. Anything else?, he further asked. I handed him the car insurance. He asked my husband what kind of car do we drive. My husband says Chrysler Sebring Convertible. Then he asked me if I drive. I said not yet, but planning to drive in the future. He went over to see the next documents we have which are the bills. I told him that we divided the bills so I pay the internet bill and my husband pays everything else (water bill, phone bill and car insurance). He then asked if we rent. My husband said no because we were living in a house where we served as caretakers. So you are living for free?, he asked and my husband said yes. He then asked for the name of the owner of the house and wrote it down in a sticky note. He also asked if there is someone else who is living with us. We said no. The officer remembers that my husband listed his mom as a dependent on his 2015 Federal Tax Return. My husband told the officer that his mom was living with him before, but is now residing in Georgia. He further asked my husband where he lived before. My husband said that he used to live in Lakeland for about 6 months since he was working in a hotel, but came back to our present address for good. Then the officer went through our next documents and asked: What’s this? I told him it was our Disney Tickets and Hotel reservations for our upcoming 2nd wedding anniversary celebration. Then he quickly checked it and went over to the next documents which he did not bother to check anymore since it was just all the original copies of all the supporting documents we sent with our AOS papers (Flight tickets, original receipts and payment stubs from the wedding preparation, letters, cards and cinema tickets). He didn’t even asked to see any of our photos. So as a summary, the officer gets the copy of our bank statements, advance health directives, car insurance, Disney tickets and hotel reservations and bills except for the water.

The most awaited time - Part 2: The Fun Part.
The the officer told us to keep all other papers and clean the table. He said that we will be going old school and this will let him know how much we know each other. He both gave us a piece of paper and ball pens. He explained that he will be asking questions that we should write the answer in our papers and that we should not in any way  look at each other or make a noise like “ahmm..uhmmm” when we don’t know the answer. He instructed us to just write “I don’t know” or “I don’t remember”. He numbered the papers 1 - 5 with a, b, c in number 1.

The first question was all about the proposal. A. Where was the proposal? B. When was the proposal? (He said we can give an estimate of around what date if we can’t remember the exact date) C. Were there other gifts involved? If yes, what are those gifts?
The second question was: Who took a shower first this morning? The third question was: How much does the husband earn weekly? (Even estimates are acceptable). Fourth: How much does the wife earn weekly? Fifth question: What is my husband’s favorite food?
Of course, we answered all the questions correctly! The officer then asked my husband: How do you talk to your wife when you’re at work? My husband said he uses text messaging. Then as a follow up question, the officer asked: What else do you use to contact your wife beside regular text messaging? My husband told him that he sometimes used Facebook messenger, but most of the time it was thru regular text messaging. Afterwards, to our surprise, he asked both of us to show him our phones. He told us he wanted to see our text messaging conversation and he swears that everything that he will see is strictly confidential so we don’t have to worry. Good thing we have a decent last conversation discussing some prospect houses we are looking at. But mind you, the officer did scroll up and down to read recent and previous conversations. Then the officer asked me if I have a Facebook account in which I said yes. Then he asked me to open up my Facebook account for him. He then went into my timeline and just check the “About” portion of it. He then seems to be happy and satisfied seeing that my profile shows that I am married with the name of my husband and the date of our wedding. Then the officer told us to keep our phone back to ourselves. He then began asking me the “Yes” and “No” questions from the I-485 Form (AOS).  The officer was serious while asking, but in one point made a joke that made me and my husband laugh. The question was “Have you ever been a member of , assisted in, or participated in any group, unit, or organization of any kind in which you or other persons used any type of weapon against any person or threatened to do so?” Of course my answer was no but the officer has a follow up question: Are you sure? Even using a kitchen knife as a weapon against your husband if he misbehaved? We all chuckled.

The conclusion: The end is not the end.
The officer  began opening and browsing the pile of papers he have and removing some excess copies of some documents. He was constantly checking some information from our papers and jotting down some notes from the beginning of the interview. He then asked me for my date of birth and confirmed my full name. He went to check my birth certificate on file and noticed that I have a different name in my birth certificate. Honestly, at first glance, I do have a confusing birth certificate. I have Marion Del Rosario as my name and everything else was wrong as well. So I have to point out the annotation for all the changes made in my birth certificate written on the side. He carefully looked at it and read everything. He then asked me where Marionette came from. I simply told him that it was really the name given to me by my parents at birth, however the local Municipal office in our town messed up somewhere during my name’s registration. He asked why did we wait so long to fix it. I explained that we do not know that it was wrong not until my graduation from high school. Since one of the requirements was an authenticated birth certificate from the National Statistic Office, we requested it and just found out that it was wrong all along and our local Municipal office was releasing a copy of my birth certificate with the correct name given by my parents but it was not the name registered in NSO. He paused and seems that he was thinking deeply. He asked me if I have documents supporting the changes with me, but I told him that unfortunately it was all in the Philippines but I have the original copy of my birth certificate. He requested to see it and then made a copy for himself (I guess because the one in his file was a little cut off, not showing the signatures from the office). He included the copy to his file and then closed his folder. He then told us that everything was good except for my birth certificate. He added that it would be easier if the only thing that was changed was my name but we changed almost everything including my mom and dad’s name and their date of marriage. So he told us he would need more time to review and check on his systems. Afterwards, he handed us a paper that says “Notice of Interview Results”  and the first box was checked for the “Reason For Continuance” which states “Your Case is being held for review. At this time, USCIS does not require any further information or documents from you. Should further information or documents be required, you will receive a notice in the mail. Otherwise, a final decision will be mailed once your case is complete”. This was also the same words we heard the officer told us at the end of our interview. My husband and I are really not that disappointed or sad because we felt that we did everything right in the interview and we have all the necessary documents submitted to them, so we still walk out of the room with a smile and a sigh of relief that finally, the interview that lasted for about an hour was already finished!

The aftermath.
All the waiting and the interview itself made me and my hubby so hungry so we drive straight to Burger King, which was the closest we can go eat.  (Insert picture here)
As we are ordering at the counter, I received a text message from USCIS, around 12 noon, saying that my case number has now been updated. I was so excited to check it in hope that it was our most-awaited approval. But it was only to say that “Interview Was Completed and My Case Must Be Reviewed”.  Oh well, I still enjoyed my meal though.
Burger King's refreshing Oreo shake and flammin' hot Chicken fries (my hubby at the background).

The real ending is soon.
At around 2:45, I received another message from USCIS alerting me of a changed in my case. I went ahead to check it and found out the most happiest news I could ever have that day: “New Card is being Produced”! That means I was approved to receive a Green card and they already ordered it! What a great joy indeed!

My most awaited message of the day!

I still received another message from USCIS around 6:40 pm for another update on my case. I went ahead and checked what could it be and it says: “Case Was Approved”. I was wondering what that meant but when I checked my email, the USCIS explained that it was a Post decision Activity that may include USCIS sending notification of the approved application/petition to the National Visa Center or the Department of State.

The.End.At Last.
On March 7, when I checked the Mail, I found the Approval Letter from USCIS. “Welcome to the United States of America”. It felt surreal! The letter also said that I should receive my green card within the next 3 weeks.
My welcome letter to the United States of America!
On March 9 around 1:00 in the afternoon, I received a new text from USCIS. I hurriedly checked online and saw: “Card Was Mailed To Me”. The update also says that it was sent on March 6 and if I do not receive my card by April 5,2017, I should go online to request them to send me a new one. And guess what, at 4:00 pm, my usual time to check our mailbox, I found my green card! Yes! It was fast indeed! Only 3 days after it was sent to me! Happy dance here. Finally, my husband and I can rest for at least 1 year and 7 months from now before we delve into another pile of seemingly unending paper works. :)

Finally, my green card!
Hope you had enjoyed reading my AOS journey all throughout! See you again within 2 years!

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