ACS explains international marriage, visa process
July 28, 2010
CASEY GARRISON - Marrying a foreign national and taking that person back to the United States can be a complex and expensive process, but the Army Community Service's quarterly International Marriage and Immigration Workshops being offered here are making the task a lot less daunting.
Staff Sgt. James Balheimer, a wheeled vehicle mechanic with the 61st Maintenance Company at Camp Stanley, and his 31-year-old fiancAfAe, Felina Anciado, learned that first hand during the workshop at the Casey Garrison Family Readiness Center July 15.
"It was pretty valuable for us," Balheimer said. "Both of us were kind of confused. We got a lot out of it."
The 29-year-old Honolulu resident is methodically working his way through a myriad of legal and counseling requirements that will permit him to marry and take Anciado, who was born in the Philippines and is a South Korean resident, back to the United States with their children.
The workshop organized by ACS, in conjunction with the 2nd Infantry Division Staff Judge Advocate Office, is designed to help Soldiers, civilian employees and foreign-born spouses learn about the legal aspects of international marriage and the procedures for getting a visa.
Capt. Briana McGarry, a legal assistance attorney for the 2nd Inf. Div., gave the attendees a presentation about the United States legal system. It covered the protections afforded by the three branches of government, an overview of U.S. law and issues associated with the immigration process.
She also touched on the visa rights afforded to U.S Soldiers, civilian employees and their family members by the Status of Forces Agreement. The SOFA establishes the legal framework under which U.S. forces operate in South Korea and how its domestic laws are applied to them.
"All Soldiers entering into an international marriage will have to visit legal assistance for their marriage brief, but we can help their families in other ways, too," McGarry said to the nine workshop participants.
Participants also received an in-depth presentation about the Petition for Alien Resident, also known as Form I-130, and the entire visa process that enables foreign-born spouses to legally enter the United States from P.J. Brockmann, Red Cloud Garrison's Relocation Readiness Program manager.
Brockmann said the requirements are easily accomplished once the applicants know what to do and it seems to be helping at least some of the attendees.
"This class is really interesting because we could learn and know exactly what we need to do to prepare for our marriage," Balheimer said.
While the legal requirements for marriage and obtaining a visa were the crux of the workshop, the participants also learned about cross-cultural issues and adjustments typically associated with international marriages, U.S. history and major recent international conflicts, and skills for living, which included American holidays and customs.
With money often being cited as the top reason for divorce in the United States, the workshop also included a briefing about finances and marriage. It ended with a questions and answer period, during which some of the participants requested counseling to help with their specific circumstances.
"The international marriage process and later the series of steps that need to be completed for the I-130 immigrant visa are somewhat daunting to many people," Brockmann said.
"Those who complete the class are better prepared to complete both processes, as well as to know where to go to get additional assistance."
ACS has offered the workshop at Casey Garrison - home to the largest troop population in Warrior Country - since October 2009. Call 730-3107, 732-5883 or 732-7779 to learn more about the workshops and get future dates.