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Experience getting a spousal green card for my wife (Me: USA, her: South Korea)

Hello everyone, we just did her interview today and got the good news that she was accepted for permanent residency.

Here is some basic information about us:

  • Both of us are 26 years old
  • Met: Early August 2019
  • Married: Mid July 2020
  • Initial I-130 application: Late September 2020
  • Moved to NVC: Early February 2021
  • All NVC documents filed: Early March 2021
  • Received interview date: May 2021
  • Interview: June 2021

We did not use an attorney, and so we just used self-help online. After going through the whole process I realized that there was a lot I did not know from using self-help, so I wanted to make a detailed guide that could hopefully help similarly situated people who cannot afford an attorney (or don't want to use one for whatever reason).

This was not an adjustment of status. We were separated for about 4 months while I finished school in the United States and she worked in Korea, and then after I graduated I went back to Korea to help her finish the process. (I was in the USA from early January to mid-May).


I do not remember this part very well, it was so long ago. As I recall it felt very straight forward, we filled in all of the information to the best of our ability and submitted the required documents and that was that. I think we had to submit copies of our marriage license, birth certificates, passports, my driver's license, some mail to show proof of address, and possibly some other things. They asked questions about her parents, her time in the USA, and her social media accounts. As I said, my memory is fuzzy, but I remember feeling at this point like they were not hiding the ball.


This is where things got more complicated for us. At this point she was in Korea and I was in the USA. Since I was finishing school and had no income, I convinced my mother to be a financial sponsor (I already have a job lined up which I will start this August, so it was pretty much a purely nominal thing). For this we had to submit (for the sake of simplicity, I am putting in bold everything from this list that we actually printed and brought to the interview, asterisk***** indicates that it had to be the original document that we scanned and uploaded).

My Submissions:

  • My last tax return
  • My parents' last three joint tax returns
  • An affidavit of support for myself, my mother, and my father.
    • This is a document that gives basic information about the person filling it out (so me and each of my parents)
    • Even though my mother was the sponsor I had to fill one out for my father too since he is in the same household as my mother.
    • It asked for information about addresses, employment, and income.
    • There is also a section for notes/ comments on the back where I said that I would be beginning work in the fall and my expected income (above the required level, which I believe is the poverty line).
    • We had to print, sign, and scan these to submit them.
  • My mother's W2 and 1099R documents which she received from her employer and pension office for the most recent tax year.
  • My mother's birth certificate (proof of citizenship/LPR for sponsor)
  • My mother's driver's license (proof of domicile for sponsor)
  • My father's birth certificate (proof of citizenship/LPR for household member of sponsor)
  • My father's driver's license (proof of domicile for household member)
  • My parent's marriage license (proof of relationship between sponsor and household member)
  • My driver's license (proof of domicile for petitioner)
  • A copy of the letter confirming that I had accepted the job offer I received and showing the start date of my job (my salary is not yet determined as it is based on a budget that is yet to be settled, so it obviously would be better if I had that in writing, but my employer gave me a ballpark figure).

Her Submissions:

  • Passport biographic page
  • Headshot photographs
  • Birth certificate + English translation
  • A copy of our marriage certificate
    • We had given our original marriage license to the Korean government to certify our marriage, so I had to get a certified copy from the county clerk where our marriage is recorded and upload a photo copy of that.
      • You can find templates for translating this, the marriage license, and the police document on the NVC website.
    • We were married in the USA so we had an English language marriage license, if we had been married in Korea we would have needed to include an English translation as well).
  • Her police record
    • The Korean police had an English translation available, but were it not for that a translation would have been required.
  • A certificate of familial relations + English translation
    • I don't know if this was actually required.

Going to the embassy:

After submitting all the documents, we never actually received any confirmation from NVC that our documents were all correctly submitted until I sent an inquiry about how to correctly submit our marriage license. All of our documents except that one said "Accepted" but that one only said submitted. I asked why, and they replied saying that they had all of the documents they needed and we just had to wait. Apparently they just don't change the status once they are ready, because it still only says "submitted."

After two months of no contact and no changes, I sent them another question asking about the "submitted" thing. A week or so later we got our interview appointment. I have absolutely no idea if my inquiry had any affect on getting our interview sooner, those are just two independent things that happened that may or may not be related.

After that, she scheduled a medical examination according to the NVC's rules at a hospital they required. The doctor sent the results directly to the embassy so we did not have to do anything after she finished the checkup, apparently sometimes you have to bring the results yourself.

Here is what we brought to the interview (Bolded means it is something they actually took from us, asterisk* means we brought an original copy (or certified copy of the original from government office which we uploaded online)).

  • Affidavit of supports from me, my mother, and my father.
  • W2 and 1099R from my mother
    • They asked about my W2 when they saw that I had a tax return, but concluded that since I was below the poverty line it didn't really matter (implication being that it was totally dependent on our sponsor's income).
  • Copy of the email which had our interview date on it
    • Note that other people in line had a barcode that we did not have. That seemed to create an extra step for us, but wasn't a deal breaker, I don't know why we didn't have it, I must have made a mistake.
  • Marriage license* (bring an English translation if you got married outside the USA)
  • photocopy of marriage license
  • Her police certificate* + photocopy
    • Before your interview check to see whether you need to go and get a more recent one, they have the criteria online somewhere.
  • Her birth certificate* (and English translation) + Photocopy
  • Both passports
  • Photocopies of the biographic page of both passports
  • Our original ds-260 application
  • Some proof that we lived together in the USA
    • Printed out picture of the front page of a lease we both signed
    • Letter addressed to her at that address
    • Security deposit accounting with my name on it and the address of the property on it.
  • Printed out word document with a bunch of pictures of us on dates/ with eachothers family on it
  • A bunch of polaroids
  • A copy of my job acceptance letter from my employer

The actual interview:

We showed up 30 minutes before our appointment time. Don't bring any large electronic devices or they won't let you in. We had to give our phones to security and collected them after we left. We gave the person at the front our interview confirmation letter, and then were told to go upstairs and sit down.

We went into the room together and waited. The room looked like a bank with 6 or so windows where embassy workers could sit on the other side, they gave us a sheet of paper that told us how to get the documents ready to submit (might have been a nice idea to put that online, I'll try to upload our copy later).

After a while they called us both up to one of the windows to give them the documents mentioned above in bold (sans the interview confirmation email).

After that they told us to sit down and wait. Several minutes later they called her name to one of the windows. I went up behind her and stood several feet back. The interviewer told me I could come to the window. He made us give an oath. Then he asked:

  • How long have you been married
  • When did you meet?
  • How did you meet?
  • He asked some questions about why she was in the United States when we met (she was on a student visa) and about her plans for when we got back
  • He asked about graduating from school and if I had a job lined up.

After that he asked me to go sit down. He asked her a few questions about domestic abuse and that was basically it.

The interview itself was a lot less scary than I expected based on what I read online. Some of the interviewers were stern but ours was fairly laid back. I got the feeling that submitting the pictures and me actually showing up there helped a lot to make them trust that our relationship was legit. Although it's also possible that it was just the result of strong USA/ South Korea relations.

Anyway, that's pretty much it. If anyone has any questions I'm happy to answer them. And thank you all so much for all of your help as we have gone through this process!!!

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