Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Cost of Marriage (or, The Foreigner Tax)

Most young couples need every dollar they can scrape together. Car, home, new furnishings, maybe air fare to see the folks -- it all adds up. But for an American citizen marrying a non-American citizen, it all adds up a lot more quickly. Call it the Foreigner Tax.

Consider the costs of marrying in Russia and then filing all the necessary paper-work with the US and Russian governments. For us, that meant travelling twice between Belgorod and Moscow, in a four person-sleeper compartment. Cost: Approximately $280.

Once in Moscow, we had to get a marriage letter notarized by the US Embassy stating that I was unencumbered and free to marry. After paying my $30 at the cashier's window, I raised my right hand before a Foreign Service Officer, swore and affirmed that the information in the marriage letter was truthful and accurate -- at least according to the best available intelligence at the time -- and then received a raised stamp on the bottom of the page.

The next step was to get this sucker translated, along with my passport. That took another $40.

Finally we had to take the document to the Russian Federation's Department of Legalization, where it costs $30 to have the piece of paper embellished with a messy signature and a shiny sticker like those you see on a credit card. Our fee was bumped up to $130 -- call it a $100 bribe to receive same-day service -- and then we were out the door, done for the day.

When we came back, after our marriage in Belgorod, we had to feed another bureaucracy, not Russia's this time but America's. That meant a handful of documents, but primarily the I-130, a petition for Alien Relative, or -- the way you can bring your wife to America and get her a Green Card before coming. Cost of filing this document: $190. Do I swear and affirm? You bet your ass.

Add in $10 to get around on the Metro both days, $150 for miscellaneous taxi fees and a single round-trip train ticket back and forth between Kiev and Belgorod (so my wife could see me off, when ideally we both would have been leaving together) and the grand total so far is roughly $820, not including time lost on the job (wasn't I writing a novel?) so you can figure out all the forms you need and just how in the hell you fill them out. (For this, many people pay thousands of dollars to an immigration lawyer.)


Consul-At-Arms said...

Thanks for this perspective on the process.

Any word on whether her petition's been approved?

WittyName32 said...

Good Consul, I just plum don't know, as my grandma might say. Come tomorrow, Friday, it'll be a month since our paperwork was checked and inspected and accepted at window number four of Moscow DHS, meaning they at least decided to process our case in Moscow. At that time, the lady who took our paperwork said they'd contact my wife to schedule her interview. We're still waiting for that call or email. Won't she only be approved after she's sat down for her interview and told them that yes, Stephan doesn't floss regularly -- he means to, but usually he's just too tired? I thought they would have at least email a packet of forms she'd need to complete, pertaining to the medical inspection, etcetera.

Consul-At-Arms said...

BTW, I've linked to you here:

QM has already commented thereupon.

Hope you have an enjoyable weekend.

Consul-At-Arms said...

wittyname32: Very simplified, there's basically a two-part process. The first part is filing the petition with DHS, which you've done. They review and hopefully approve the petition, which basically tells you they agree that there seems to be a basis for the petition. In your case, the IV is based on a family relationship, your wife being the spouse of a U.S. citizen, which makes here either an IR-1 or CR-1 case. IR stands for Immediate Relative. If you've been married less than two years, that's a Conditional visa which is how we get "CR."

Once DHS gives their blessing to the petition, it's transferred back to the consular section at post and they'll send out paperwork and schedule things like appointments and medical exams. There is indeed a slew of forms to complete and documents to provide. You should probably begin gathering such things as birth, marriage, divorce, death certificates (if either of you is a widow/er). Most of the necessary information should be available here:

WittyName32 said...

Good to hear, Consul. We're still waiting on DHS' blessing, then. Any idea how long they take? I've heard people say this can take a year, but I was hoping because I was residing overseas, I'd be able to speed it up a bit. The fantasy: together by Thanksgiving. And thanks for the link -- you've got an interesting site.

Consul-At-Arms said...

Unfortunately I don't know long IV petition approval takes in Moscow. If they said up to a year, then that's likely the maximum; if they manage approval in less than a year, everybody can be happy it's finished early. Most of my experience with spouse visas is with them after the petition is approved.

Snowy said...

You should add to that the costs of a foriegner to get a visa to attend the wedding. the cost of an invitation, insurance and fast track visa all added up to over 250USD. Then there is the hotel 45USD x 2 nights. My stay in Russia for teh month cost me over 2,000 USD..

But it was worth it... just to see you married.

PS Can you change the settings for messages on your web then I can use a spell checker :)


Optix said...

So did you get approval yet ?

The Author said...

Oh yes, just haven't totaled up the cost.

blog49 said...
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