Journeying to the States: I-130 Stage

 

The first step in coming the US is proving your relationship. Start gathering evidence as soon as you can. Don’t throw away tickets with your names on them. Go back into your hotel reservations, etc. Take as many pictures as you can. Document everything. Save old chats and Skype history.

Form I-130 is filling out basic information about you and your spouse. You’ll need your Social Security number or your A number (in order to bring your spouse to the United States you must be a U.S. citizen or green card holder), your address history for the last five years, your employment history and addresses etc, as well as your spouse’s, and so on. The updated I-130 now has biographic information on it as well (hair color / race / eye color. When I filled out the forms and submitted them I had to fill out forms G 325A for my spouse and myself, but now you fill out for I-130A instead.

Also, try to get your name/ your spouse’s name changed as soon as possible so that you can provide the updated ID, passport, and Social Security.

Here are the updated links to the current forms that you’ll need to fill out:

I-130 Form and Instructions: Petition for Alien Relative
I-130A: Supplemental Spouse Information used instead of G 325A

If you’re having trouble filling out the forms, do not neglect the instructions that are given with them. I know that it’s extra reading, but what’s ten extra minutes of reading compared to a few extra months of waiting because of a silly mistake?

When submitting evidence, be sure to include a cover page detailing everything that you’ve included in the packet.  See the following images. I’ve added some notes on the side.

Cover letter pic 1

Cover letter pic 2

Cover letter pic 3

My summary of our story included how and where we met, places we’ve been to, important dates, our jobs and education, etc. Everyone’s story is unique. Try to keep it to one typed page. I also stated that I moved back to the states and have already secured a job etc even though that information isn’t necessary until NVC gets involved. You want USCIS to know that there is a steady income over a certain amount so that they know the immigrant will not be a burden on the US. This information usually isn’t required until the NVC stage which typically won’t be until at least six months later (earlier if you’re super lucky or had an expedite approved) or much later (like in our case – nearly ten months and we didn’t even have any missing documents). Unless specifically stated, do not include originals of documents. Copies are fine.

When I was including pictures in my Word document (later saved as a PDF and then printed in color, one sided), I made sure to add the date that they were taken (digital copies usually have the date encrypted in them), where they were taken, and who was in the picture. Pictures of your wedding and engagement are very good evidence. Especially if you have photos of you signing your marriage certificate / book. Pictures with your spouse and their family / your family etc are great. I probably went a bit overboard, but I included about thirty pages worth of pictures and explanations. I also included the link and screenshots of our wedding website, Facebook events that I had made for the wedding and bachelorette party etc. I included copies of airline tickets going to see him and even our university transcripts to prove that we were there at the same time. Anything that has both of your names on it especially a rental agreement or something of the sort is wonderful evidence. Do not include CDs or USBs etc. They will not look at them.

Photo evidence 1

Once I triple and quadruple checked all of the documents and signed the I-130 and other forms (make sure your documents are signed or your application will be rejected), it was finally ready to be sent off to the USCIS. Don’t forget the money order for the I-130 fee which is currently $535.
Here are the addresses to send your I-130.

Once you submit everything, you should get your first notice NOA1 which will be the receipt that they received your package and are reviewing it. Don’t lose this receipt number. You can use it to check the status of the application.

There are a few sites that are great for help and questions as well.

VisaJourney.com  is great for creating your timeline and tracking other timelines of those who may have similar cases to yours.

The Facebook group (you’ll need approval to join) “I-130 filers Immigration Visa Group.” is also great for asking and answering questions.

Search around on Facebook as well for groups that pertain to the country that your spouse is from because the information may be more beneficial to you.

Keep doing your research while you’re waiting for you approval. Start getting your documents ready for the NVC stage. I’ll write more about that later. The wait time is probably the most frustrating and painful time. We got our first receipt from USCIS September 8th, 2016 and didn’t get our approval until June 29th, 2017 – that was 295 days or 9 months 22 days.

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Nine, Ten; A September 11 Story

As the summer goes on and nears its end for us teachers, I’ve been thinking about books to read to my students. I wanted to try to do at least one chapter book per month or perhaps two depending upon the length and time that we have.

I read a book, recently, that I’m thinking about reading to them. It’s called Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story. Now this book mainly talks about the lives of some children who were all affected in one way or the other by the attacks, but it talks mostly about the days leading up to the attacks. As an adult reading their individual stories, and the days and minutes got closer to the actual  event, I could feel my heart beating faster and the tension building because I knew what was coming.

I wanted to find a book for my students so that they could learn more of what it was like when these attacks happened. Everyone remembers exactly where they were and what they were doing when it happened, but we, as teachers, now live in a time where most of our students weren’t even alive when it happened. Most of my kids this past year were born in 2008 or 2009.

I think that this cotghereuld be a wonderful book to read in the days before September 11th, and then I’ll find another to read after because it’s mostly days that are all leading up to the attacks. Then it does a short chapter about one year after.nineten

This book could be great for teaching perspective and point of view as it follows four very different young adolescences days before the attack. One is a young Muslim girl in Ohio who struggles with fitting in, another is a young black boy who lives in Brooklyn whose absentee father angers him to no end, still another is a young white boy in Shanksville, Pennsyvania who recently lost his father and is struggling to come to terms with that, and the last is a young Jewish girl who just recently moved to California because of her mom’s job and her mom is on a last minute business trip to New York. As you read through each of their stories, there are moments in the timeline that definitely make your heart jump a bit because you know what will happen.

It is emotional and there will be tears, well, for you at least. The kids might not have that type of connection with the story because they weren’t born yet, but who knows.

Either way, I do recommend this story as perhaps an introduction to learning about September 11th.

FSA Prep – 3rd Grade

I know we don’t even want to think about it, but the beginning of the school year is right around the corner. As a teacher, I start August 3rd and my kids return August 10th. Like it or not, it’s time to prepare for the inevitable…

This past school year, 3rd graders took the FSA at the end of March and the beginning of April. We started practicing in January when we got back from winter break, but judging from scores and knowing the kids that are in our school, I believe we need to start practicing much earlier. I won’t lie and everyone knows that I am not a fan of this test nor any other standardized test, but they have to take it anyway.

I used these books last year to help the kids prep for the test. The format was good and easy to go through. I would usually give a Reading passage as morning work, and then during ELA we’d work on reading through the questions, going over testing strategies, etc. The same goes for during our math block. We would do fact review first and, of course, review some other concepts, then jump into answering these practice questions. We’d break apart how and what is being asked (because we all know testing language does not make sense) and then we’d try to solve the questions. While solving the question we would either review old concepts or delve straight into new topics. I would sometimes slip a few of these pages into their homework packets as well.

Like I said, I’m not a fan of testing but it has to be done here. My fellow Florida teachers know as well that 3rd grade is a critical year as it’s the first year that they take these tests and if they do not pass them, they are typically held back unless they fall into certain categories. Being that we are a Title 1 school and we’re not scoring well, it’s time we pick up the pace even more. We’ll need to try new things for sure, and one of those things will to be start practicing from the beginning of the year.

I would check the links below and definitely add them to your library. They wonderful resources to have when you start preparing for testing season. They also have them for other grades as well.
FLORIDA TEST PREP English Language Arts Reading Workbook Grade 3: Preparation for the Florida Standards Assessments (FSA)

FLORIDA TEST PREP FSA Practice Test Book English Language Arts Grade 3: Covers Reading, Language, and Listening

FLORIDA TEST PREP FSA Practice Test Book Mathematics Grade 3: Includes Two Full-Length Practice Tests

Comment if you have any questions! I’d love to hear back from some other FL teachers!

Fidgets…

Hello all!

It’s been way too long since my last post for sure. The school year was beyond busy, crazy, emotional, and everything else you could imagine. I’ve been trying to relax this summer as much as I can since I know come August 3rd, I won’t see the light of day until the following June.

Teacher summers are never long enough! Now isn’t that the understatement of the year?

Now, like most teachers, I am not a fan of fidget spinners. They were a huge distraction this year and there were no observable benefits that I saw with the kids who did have them. They mostly just wanted to show them off.

I did, however, find an item that really kept my kids busy this year (or rather a set of items), was this IQ Challenge Set. I swear, even my most fidgety kids could sit for hours trying to get these puzzles together. Especially the cube. It kept their hands busy, and a few were even able to “play” with it during class. It worked for all ages as well. Normally, I teach 3rd grade, but I did tutoring after school and would have 2nd graders in my room. Both grades enjoyed them as well as the other students and siblings that would pop in the room. I even had some middle school siblings who would come in specifically just to try and figure these puzzles out.
I definitely need to order another set of these. This time though, I need to put each one in it’s own baggie labeled with what it is and perhaps how many pieces there should be to it.
I had a few students who figured out the sphere and the metal puzzle as well. Some got close to figuring out the cube, but, alas, they could not. Perhaps this year I will have a student who will be able to figure it out. Check them out for yourself in the link below!

I’ll keep you posted!

IQ Challenge


IQ Set

 
Don’t forget to check out other back to school needs as well my fellow teacher friends!
 Shop Amazon – Introducing Education Supplies for Teachers

My heart is heavy…

I’m sick of this. I’m sick of living in fear every day. I’m sick of the growing panic. I’m sick of my fears coming to life every passing day as something else happens. I’m sick of the media here keeping everything hushed. I’m sick of the media in the rest of the world not saying enough. I’m sick of the lack of compassion or care for this country…. in this country. I’m sick of being restricted. I’m sick of being told what I can or cannot wear, where I can or cannot go, when I should or should not go. I’m sick of being told that I should not speak English in public for fear of being attacked simply because I’m American (thanks Trump for making that even worse and for making the situation even more dangerous for Americans abroad!)

Turkey is not getting the recognition that it needs because it is a country stuck in the middle. It is in between progressive Europe and the conservative Middle East yet most of the world just throws it into the Middle Eastern category. Why? Because the majority of the country follows Islam? Because most people couldn’t point out Turkey on a map? Because most people think Turks still wear fezzes and ride around on camels in the desert because that is how it’s been represented in the past in cartoons and the like? Nobody knows much about Turkey except for the fact that its name is the same as the bird that they eat or just maybe if they stayed awake for that one week in history class the Ottomans kind of ring a bell. So why should they care? It’s just another one of those desert countries over there that is always fighting, right? The world isn’t properly educated on these matters. But these matters matter. A car bomb here, a suicide bomb there, another here, another there, just another day… the more it happens the more jaded people become. They think it’s just a normal occurrence. The world media covers it less and less, and the fact that the government is controlling (censoring) the media makes it even harder for news to get out. People fail to realize though that cities like Ankara and Istanbul are not just some desert  cities in the middle of nowhere. They are constantly busy, overpopulated, traffic burdened, work driven, family oriented cities just like NYC, Paris, London, San Francisco, Miami, and the like. People get up every morning, brush their teeth, kiss their families goodbye, rush out to work, sit in traffic, slouch in their desks at work, grumble through their days, live on coffee and tea, have a quick lunch break, get back to work, try not to fall asleep, finish the work day, and try their best to make it home. But Sunday, that didn’t happen for everyone. Sunday, near a bus station filled with hundreds people, men, women, children, teens, the elderly, a car bomb exploded ending the lives of at least 37 individuals and injuring over 100. Countless families’ lives were destroyed on Sunday and the world hardly flinched.The night went on, the morning came, people went to work, children went to school, and aside from a brief moment of silence held in some schools, it was as if nothing had happened the night before. If this had happened in any of the aforementioned cities, the world would have come to a halt, changed their profile pictures to mach the country’s flag, and sworn solidarity with that city. Even if it happened time and time again. But here? Apparently, it was just another day…and that’s all it ever will be until the world wakes up. I know that I’m just another blog post in the wind, yet another voice and cry for help that will go mostly unheard, but if I can educate at least one person out there, then I’ve been at least somewhat successful.

On a side note, I must say though that I am privileged. I am American, and I can leave at any time. I’ve got my passport, and if I feel unsafe, I can hope on a plane and go home to a land that has rarely felt the pain that this country goes through constantly (and when we have, we unite with the utmost passion). My fiance, my students (my children), and millions of other do not have that privilege. They are stuck here. They cannot just hope on planes. They need to go through a long and costly visa process, and that’s just for the tourist visa!  We Americans do not realize how spoiled and privileged we are.

People Love to Turn a Blind Eye…

What will you see on the streets when you come to Istanbul? Well, there will be the usual guy on every other corner selling simit (a kind of Turkish bagel), sometimes a guy selling rice, and you’ll also see vendors wherever there is a spare patch of space selling all sorts of knick-knacks such as toys, pens, socks, scarves, black market DVDs. But what else will you see? You’ll see things that may startle you at first, but eventually, just like the rest of the people in this city, you’ll ignore them. You will see the beggars, the cripples, the Romani (gypsies), and, most recently, the Syrians.

When I first came here, I noticed the Romani and I really didn’t think much of them. I had gotten used to them when I was in Italy and, to me, the ones here didn’t seem to be badgering me as much. Yes, they would go and sit on the street constantly saying something about money, food, and God; the usual. In Italy, they’d follow you around and wouldn’t leave you alone. One woman even almost stole my camera out of my buttoned up pocket as I was walking into a church.  One thing that was the same though was the fact that in both countries and probably elsewhere, they always use their children to try and the get the most out of you. But, this is their way of life. This is what they know and the only thing that they have known for generations upon generations. Not to say that it’s the life that they’ve always wanted; these are people who have been persecuted for centuries. The Romani don’t bother me much, though I wish I could take all the children and send them to get proper education and live the lives that children should be living.

Aside from them, the Syrians are becoming more and more unable to be ignored. It started out that you’d see a few here and there, but now? Every time you leave the apartment you can’t go a block or two without seeing at least one whole family of Syrians. Most Turks I know, get angry at the sight of them, curse them out, and want them to go back to their own country. At this point I have to bite my tongue, and sometimes I don’t. They say that it’s the Turkish government’s fault that they are here. Well, these people are not here by choice. These people, these families are here because of war. Because the only home that they have ever known is being destroyed. Their families and their neighbors are being killed. Their houses, markets, and streets, are being blown up. They’ve had no choice. Leave or be killed. But then people like to say, “They have refugee camps. They should stay there. They don’t belong here. They don’t belong on our city, on our streets.” Sure, some of them do stay at these camps. Take a minute here and think. There are probably a little under a million Syrian refugees in Turkey (maybe more now), and there is only room for a about a little over 200,000 of those refugees in the camps that are provided in Turkey. Think about the homelessness problem in America. People often say, why don’t they just go to a shelter? Well, many of those shelters are so bad (theft, deplorable conditions, insane rules, abuse, rape, etc.) that people would rather stay on the streets at night. Now think of it here. These refugees camps are probably even worse. Not enough food or water, not enough space, not enough anything. And it is highly unlikely that they’re safe. Some people say that when they see the Syrians on the streets they give them looks of hatred and disgust to let them know that they are not welcome here. They are probably more than aware of that fact and would much rather be back in their pre-war homes with their pre-war families, friends, and lives. Yes, I am sure that there are plenty of refugees who are taking advantage of the system (there are always those who reinforce the stereotypes), but there are also plenty who are just trying to live. This is not the kind of life that they want for themselves or for their families. It’s not something you wake up one day and think, “Oh, hey. Yeah, you know what will be great? I’m going to go beg on the streets, in a foreign city with a language I barely know, where the people hate me, and  I’ll take my baby too. Let’s sit in this 90 (32C) degree weather all day, rain, shine, dirt, spit… It’ll great! People will glare at us, spit at us, humiliate us, treat us like we’re dirt.. yes, that’s what I want to do.” No, people do not wake up like this. This is something that these people are doing out of desperation. A last resort. Maybe they saw Turkey as a get away from everything. Maybe they saw Istanbul as the the city of dreams (many Turks do as well which is why so many people move here). Maybe they thought how could it get any worse than the hell they’re living in their war torn country? Well, they came, they’re here, and they’re living a whole new kind of hell.

I always say to try and put yourself in someone else’s shoes and don’t judge. Just imagine being at the very end of you rope. You have nothing except maybe your family if you’re lucky. Other than that? Nothing. But you need to eat. You need to sleep. You are a human being and you have basic needs and you should have basic human rights. And your family too, your babies. Maybe your family is your driving force. But others around you don’t seem to think you should have those rights. Imagine how desperate and finished you would have to be to give in and beg. Some say it’s a matter of pride, but when you’re left with absolutely no other choices and your child is starving in your arms, I don’t think you’d really care about your pride. It could be worse. They could be violent. But they’re not. They sit there, and they ask for money or food, anything that you could spare. They say words in their broken Turkish that can make you feel bad such as, “How can you just walk by? Look at my children!” It makes you feel uncomfortable?  It should! And that angers you? Why does that anger you? Because deep down you actually feel bad, but you don’t want to feel bad. You’re mad at them for being in your city, for wanting your money that you earned; you’re mad at them for making you feel bad. But yet this country talks so highly about its religion and its loving god. Would your god be happy with you for walking by dirty, starving children? You don’t think so? Aren’t they mostly of the same religion as you all are as well? All of these contradictions in this city frustrate me to no end. They are people just trying to live, the same as you and me. Except they seem to have it harder than we do at the moment. Why can’t people see that? It’s not their fault. They didn’t ask to be put in these positions. Stop blaming them and maybe aim your anger at the actual source of the problem. The government. Their government. This country’s government. The surrounding countries’ governments. None of them truly want to deal with the problem, so what do they do? They set up a few camps here and there to make it look like they’re doing something when they’re really doing next to nothing. Some of them may even use them as a ploy to win elections or to start a war. I’m not saying I know what to do or how to handle this, I wasn’t a PoliSci major or anything of the sort, but, please, just treat these people as if they’re actual people and do what you can to help. Don’t be part of the problem.

I’m here!

I arrived in Istanbul yesterday afternoon after about 14-15 hours of travelling and no sleep.

Leaving my house and friends and family at around 2 pm on the 25th, I was dropped off at JFK International Airport. I checked in, dropped off my suitcase, went through security and then sat in Terminal 7 Gate 12 waiting for the first of three planes to arrive. After boarding and taking off about ten or so minutes late, I was finally off the ground at about 5:30 pm. I was off! When we landed, I had to rush because I knew my next flight was supposed have already been boarding and was going to be taking off within the next half an hour or so. The walk from where I got off to get to where  had to go to was a hike. It was all in the same terminal but boy was I out of breath.  When I got to the mini customs in order to go through to Gate H I had to fill out one of those declaration forms which made no sense to me seeing as I wasn’t staying in Canada for a period of time. I finally got through and found my gate. When I did, I realized that my flight was delayed. This put me into a bit of a panic considering I was already only going to have an hour to catch my last flight. I tried to put it out of my mind. While in line to board the plane, I made friends with a middle aged Polish woman who was actually a U.S. citizen. She was going to Munich and also had a connecting flight, so she was just as worried as I was. We talked a bit, and I found out she was a study abroad coordinator at a college in Minnesota and someone she knew just won a Fulbright Scholarship to teach in Istanbul. Needless to say, we both talked to each other a for awhile until we had to board the plane and then we separated. Once I boarded the plane, I was pleasantly surprised. The seats were comfortable to begin with and, somehow, there was no one sitting next to me; I had two whole seats all to myself. Dinner came about an hour into the flight; it was nothing special, just ordinary an ordinary airplane dinner and crappy wine. I took a sleeping pill right after, and it did help me fall asleep as I was watching The Big Bang Theory on the enRoute entertainment system on the flight. Not an hour later though I was awakened by the two little girls in front of me giggling every other minute. The plane was completely silent, except for the girls, because everyone else was trying to sleep as well. I thought their father might tell them to be quiet, but, instead, he joins in talking to the one girl (loudly because he had his head phones on). I don’t understand why. He saw that the lights on the plane were turned off and everyone else around him was trying to sleep, yet he continued to babble away. At one point the little girl saw me give them a dirty look and she tried to be quieter. The dad noticed me at one as well but didn’t seem to care. Aside from how hard it is to sleep on planes to begin with, I simply couldn’t because of the chatter. I need complete silence to sleep, and even then I usually cannot sleep in moving objects, whether it be planes, trains, cars, or buses. I thought the sleeping aid would help, and it did help me to get to sleep but once the family was chattering I couldn’t stay asleep. Finally, the dad points out that we were three hours away from Munich and that his girls should get to sleep or they would be exhausted. This is something that he should have done a couple hours back. By the time he pointed that out, the sleeping aid had worn off. I didn’t dare to take another one though because I had a feeling that might not end up well. It was useless for me to try and get some more sleep since I knew that they would soon be handing out breakfast (which ended up just being a piece of banana bread and a drink). I looked at the ETA and I didn’t know what to think. The ETA was 10:53 am. My next flight was at 11:20 am. How in the world was I going to make that? I asked the flight attendant about it and she assured me that I would be fine and that the airlines had been notified about. If I missed the flight, I would be automatically re-booked for the next flight in. This calmed my nerves, but it didn’t stop me from rushing when the planed landed at 10:43. The Munich airport was much more efficient, just as I had hoped and expected it to be. I got off, and was led directly to the next gate the I had to be in. I had to go through a security / customs check, but the was done quicker than I had ever thought possible. Yay Germany! I was in and out of Germany in a matter of thirty minutes. If there is any reason at all that I was disappointed by this, it was because at least if I had stayed for the next flight, I probably would have had time to enjoy some German sausages at one of the airport eateries. Finally, I arrived in Istanbul. I bought my tourist visa, waited in line, went through customs, chased my suitcase around the conveyor belt, and met up with my boyfriend’s dad who was waiting for me right in the middle. It was quite a journey, but now I’m here.