I am finally a permanent permanent resident of the US. Confused? I was just a conditional permanent (haha) resident because Anna and I had not been married for two years before we applied for my residency (see here for my summary of the I-485 experience). To do this, I had to file I-751 (Petition to Remove the Conditions of Residence) 90 days before the expiration of my residency. They ask for all sorts of proof that we have integrated our lives since then. So we sent loads of paperwork (taxes, banking, etc) and photos. One thing that was weird about this application is that we needed at least two signed and certified affidavits from people that knew us before and after we were married. It feels a bit strange to ask someone “So… mind signing/writing a statement saying we aren’t trying to scam the govt with a sham marriage?”
The timing of my expiration was quite fortuitous. A week after my expiration date, the application costs jumped from just under $300, to just under $600. Our paperwork all packaged up, I submitted it to Laguna Niguel via USPS on June 10th, with tracking and a signature required. The tracking worked. The signature delivery, not so much – it took a month and a half to get back to me. I didn’t hear anything for a while, but they cashed my check, so I figured I had done something right. July 20th I finally received a receipt for submitting my application. Three days later I received a biometric appointment card for August 17th. I’m not exactly sure why I needed to go through this again… it wasn’t like my fingerprints changed much over the course of two years. One learns efficiency isn’t one of USCIS’s strong points.
I lined up with all the other applicants at the application support center on El Cajon Blvd. Your idea of an “appointment” probably doesn’t match the USCIS’s idea of an appointment – fifty other people in line with the exact same appointment, take a number. The mix seemed to be mostly Mexican, with a smattering of Filipino and North African judging by the passports everyone had out. We all filed in, filled out paper work, and then got in line for photos and fingerprinting. On the plus side, they were much faster than the last time I was here. The whole process only took about 25 minutes.
A week after baring my hands and face, and a two and a half months after giving up our privacy, I received a letter in the mail congratulating me for becoming a permanent resident. Yesterday I finally received my new resident card. It has an expiration date ten years from now, but I’m hoping it will be less pain than these last ones to renew.