When it comes to filing immigrant visa forms, sooner is better
CAMP CASEY, South Korea — Despite the 2nd Infantry Division’s unaccompanied tour status, a consistent stream of wives and baby strollers flows through Camp Casey’s main gate every day.
It’s what happens when you mix thousands of junior enlisted soldiers with women from different Asian countries working just outside the gate. The new families and typical one-year tours also mean a high demand for immigration services on a short time frame.
Unfortunately, some servicemembers cannot bring their new families back with them to the United States because they don’t complete their immigrant visa forms in time, said Jose Olivares of the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services.
“Don’t complicate your life,” Olivares told about 100 servicemembers and spouses on Wednesday at Casey Theater. “There is no way of getting around documentation.”
Servicemembers and their new spouses should complete Form I-130, the immigrant visa petition, as soon as possible, Olivares said.
Once the petition is filed, the couple must then prepare a series of documents and schedule an interview before arriving in the United States.
When servicemembers leave before the process is finished, their spouses are often stuck. If a spouse is not South Korean and their visa expires, they may have to return to their native country while the servicemember petitions the United States.
Soldiers like Pvt. Todd Demorest, who recently married a Filipina and will remain in South Korea for another year, are trying to avoid that scenario. Demorest had questions on Wednesday about the ample paperwork needed to obtain his wife’s visa.
“Up until today, we’ve been hearing things mostly from word-of-mouth from others doing the same thing,” said Demorest, of Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 72nd Armor Regiment.
South Korea’s U.S. immigration office processes about 45 immigrant visa petitions each week, Olivares said.
An incomplete G325a biographic information form is one of the biggest culprits for visa delays, he said. Vague work and residence histories over the previous five years sometimes end up on the form when a couple “is married and they don’t know anything about each other,” Olivares said.
Soldiers peppered Olivares with a variety of individual questions Wednesday. Army Community Services can handle some of those questions, he said.
Some servicemembers, like U.S. Army Pvt. Ranjan Sunuwar, a Nepalese citizen with the 2nd Infantry Division’s 6th Battalion, 37th Field Artillery, came for information on becoming a U.S. citizen.
“I was working in a gas station, and I thought I’d had enough of it,” Sunuwar said of his time as an immigrant working in Denver.
When an Army recruiter made his pitch one day, Sunuwar was sold.
Turning servicemembers into U.S. citizens is an office priority, said Olivares, who conducts 50 to 75 one-on-one interviews with servicemembers who want citizenship every quarter. On Dec. 20, about 50 servicemembers will take their oaths at Yongsan Garrison, he said.