How to Get a Czech Woman to Love You, Part 3

It’s time to continue the great story of how Štěpi and I miraculously met and got married. If you haven’t yet, check out part 1 and part 2 to see how we met and what long-distance dating was like for us. It’s almost unbelievable how we met! Let’s jump right in to the next part: Immigration.

If you’re like me (or how I was before I met my wife), you probably have no idea what someone goes through to enter the US. Why would you? America has always been a country of immigration, we know that, but the details aren’t really that important for someone who was born here. I knew people took a test to become citizens, and that some people have green cards, but that was pretty much it. Turns out it’s quite the complicated (and expensive) process.

Where We Started and Why

We determined to do things the right way: 100% legal, so that our conscience would be clear, and we could live our lives in total peace. It would have been much easier to do just what we wanted, but we are happy we took the hard road and now can stand blameless before our government and God. You probably didn’t know this, but you have to have a specific visa to get married in the US. It’s a K-1 Fiancée Visa. If you get married while vacationing, or on any other visa, it’s considered visa fraud. This can cause some major problems if you’re trying to move here permanently and legally.

So, we decided to wait to get married until we had that visa. You might be wondering, “Why not get married in her country and then move here?” That’s a great thought! However, unbeknownst to you, USCIS has a secret contest going on where they all compete to make life as difficult as possible for anyone unfortunate enough to cross their path. Who knew?? It takes longer to get your spouse into the US than it does to get your fiancée in. Is that dumb, or what?

As I mentioned in earlier posts, we were waiting until marriage to be physically intimate. This is right before the Lord. We both figured that if we got married, and had that level of intimacy, then it would become significantly more difficult to be apart. That’s why we went with the fiancée visa. This is the fastest way into the US permanently (work and student visas are faster, but not permanent). So, now you can see our starting point and our reason for being there.

How Were We Able to See Each Other?

Thankfully, Europe and the US are on very good terms with each other. For a European to visit here, they need only apply for an ESTA. This is like a tourist visa, but better. You apply online for free, and the processing usually takes just a couple weeks. Once approved, it lasts for 2 years and allows you into the US for up to 90 days at a time. There is no hard limit on how often you can visit. Their website just instructs you to not let the border patrol officer think you’re trying to live here. It’s even easier going to Europe; you don’t need anything but a passport for a 90-day visit.

Part of the Vienna airport. Best airport I’ve been in, but I’m glad to not see it for a while!

The legality for visits was easy, but what about the practicality? She was still in college when we started dating, and only online. I was self-employed and only did work online. This gave us the freedom to travel whenever we wanted, as long as the finances were in place. We both had savings, and families that were eager to help us out. That’s what made this possible. Through our whole relationship (and even now as newly-weds), we simply could not have done what we did without so much support from our families. We are eternally grateful to them.

Beginning the Immigration Process

Now let’s quickly run through allllll the things we had to do to get Štěpi into the US for more than a visit. Like I said, we had to apply for a K-1 fiancée visa. It’s not as simple as just applying for a visa, though. You have to apply for an I-129F Petition for Alien Fiancée first. That’s right – you have to apply to apply for a visa. The first form is with US Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS), and the visa comes from the National Visa Center (NVC). The NVC is easy to work with, but USCIS is terrible.

We decided to pay Boundless Immigration to help us out with the first application. USCIS will reject your papers for the pettiest, smallest reasons. Sent your forms out of order? It’s sent back to you. But, you can’t know what the right order is because they don’t tell you. It’s not an official rule, just something that a bitter employee picks up and decides to not like, seemingly at random. Hiring an immigration firm gives you a high chance of success on the first try because they, through trial and error, eventually found the order of forms (and all the other tiny things) that usually gets through.

The First Step

Okay, I’ll try to not rant too much about immigration. It’s just very fresh still. As a side note, we wanted to get married in March 2023. We picked the date before we knew how much immigrating involved. This, of course, made everything harder as we had in the back of our minds how long we should have been married for.

So, we’re applying for the first part, and Boundless made it very easy. The forms are complicated and full of terminology that’s unfamiliar, but Boundless has an easy set of questions that gets the needed information and automatically fills out the forms. It’s pretty cool (and no, I’m not getting paid to say all this). After filling out the forms, though, you have to start gathering evidence.

The biggest part of gathering evidence is for the validity of the relationship. They want to make sure you’re not getting married only to get a green card. We got letters from family, 20 pictures of us together as required by them, all our financial information, and several other things. It’s a lot of work just to get the evidence. By the time we got everything together and sent the packet away it was April 2023. We wanted to send it sooner, but the firm recommended we wait just a little to get more pictures together. Plus, fast-moving relationships are a red flag to them.

Now, We Wait

After they receive the Petition, the only thing you can do is wait. At this step, the only thing they have to do is see if you submitted all the required paperwork. USCIS does not make a decision about the Petition – they only check the papers to make sure everything is filled out correctly and everything is there. Sounds like a 20-minute job, right? Well, apparently it takes 18 months on average. That’s right. It sits on somebody’s desk for, on average, 18 months before they decide to read it and send it to the next office.

We, however, did not accept that timeline. We started to pray – a lot. So did a lot of other people. We knew God had brought us together and that He would not leave the job half finished. In faith, we kept praying and thanking the Lord that this thing was done for us, no matter how impossible it looked.

Impossible For Us, But Not God

There was nothing we could do to speed things up. USCIS does not allow you to call them. They have AI answer the phone, and if you ask to speak to someone it hangs up on you. Getting this thing finished faster was not possible for us, but for God it was.

December 28th, 2023, we got a special letter in the mail. Our case had been sent to the NVC! 8 months instead of 18 is amazing! The NVC is much better to deal with. They make a decision on your case in 30 days, and if you haven’t heard from them at that point, they ask you to call them and see why there is a delay. For us, it was around that 30-day mark that they approved the case and sent it to the US Embassy in the Czech Republic. We were seeing real progress now!

Getting Close

Štěpi wanted one thing very badly: For me to be with her when she went through the last steps of the process. This she prayed for, and this she received. I came to visit her in January because my family surprised me with a plane ticket for Christmas (they’re just the best!). We were notified right before I left that our case had been sent to the Embassy. We were free to take the next steps in the process. Part of this is the DS-160, in which you select that you’re applying for a K-1 visa.

Visiting our favorite cafe after I made it back to Czechia

For this form, we had to get basically all the same information we already gave them. We put in a lot of work again, and we stayed up very late doing it. When we were told that we were able to apply for it (right after I got to Czechia) I felt very urgently that we needed to get it done immediately. We stayed up until about 11:30 pm, working on it for 5 hours straight. Something in me knew we had to get it done that night.

After you complete the form, you’re able to book your appointment to interview at the Embassy. As soon as the form was done, we looked at appointments and were pleasantly surprised. In all February, March, and April, there was exactly one interview available. And it was 2 weeks away. We grabbed that spot so fast and thanked God so much!

The Forms Are Done – It’s Time to Finish Up

I had such urgency deep inside about getting that form done, and it’s a good thing I listened. That slot could’ve been gone the next day. Then, we would’ve waited at least 3 more months to get an interview. But God answers prayer. We set up her interview date and then worked on the other thing we needed.

A doctor’s appointment was needed to make sure applicants don’t bring highly contagious diseases to the US. At least, that’s what they say. The money is the real reason. They have a monopoly, only one office in all Czechia gets to do this examination, and it costs 40 times what a normal doctor there costs.

Yet, we had enough money, so we booked the appointment. We got in very quickly, and at the perfect time so that her results arrived at the Embassy exactly when we needed. After her exam all we had to do was continue gathering evidence for the interview. They wanted a lot of stuff! Thankfully, we had a couple weeks to do it.

Heading to Prague

The Embassy was in Prague (as was the doctor), which is the capital city in Czechia. Some friends there kindly gave us a spare apartment to stay in while we did the interview. We slept in separate beds while there, and thankfully we only needed to stay one night. We got to Prague the evening before the interview and walked around a little.

Her interview was at 9 the next morning, and it’s a 2 hour trip there. We took a tram most of the way there, then walked the last of it. I dropped her off at the Embassy and then left. They will arrest you for standing near it (which would be an illegal arrest, for only standing on public property; but I wasn’t going to mess with them.), so I walked away to a nearby Starbucks and waited about 45 minutes for her to come back.

That was the longest 45 minutes of my life! I tried enjoying the great view, listened to my favorite music, but nothing calmed my mind. She walked in and told me she was approved! It was over! All we had to do was wait for the visa to be mailed to her. Just like that, after a year of waiting, it was done. It felt surreal. All our problems vanished in a moment.

Coming to An End

Now we were finally almost there! Our visa was approved, and as soon as we received it, she could come to the US and marry me at last. Money for plane tickets and immigration fees kept coming in supernaturally, and we had all we needed the whole time. Part 4 is about the wedding and her family’s first trip to the US. Check it out!

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