Mt first experience with the green card was when my wife married me and permanently immigrated to the United States in the early 1980s. I don’t remember much about obtaining it, except we had to go for an interview and get fingerprinted. I don’t recall it being much of a hassle.
Back in those days foreigners could get a permanent, lifetime green card. This was the Cadillac of green cards. It was impossible for a foreigner to lose their status unless they did one horrible thing: they stayed out of the country too long.
In 2001 my family moved to Finland. Three years later we wanted to move to California and my wife had lost her status. Not everyone can afford to fly back and forth to the United States from several thousand miles away. My wife definitely couldn’t inasmuch as I was supporting her and our kids on a rudimentary salary from a Finnish university.
So we had to go to the the United States Embassy in Helsinki to apply for an immigrant visa and ultimately a green card for her. Lo and behold, when I was called to the desk to be “served” ( I use the term loosely), it was a Finn asking the questions. He challenged me on my financials. An applicant for a green card has to have an affidavit of support, and apparently my meager salary didn’t cut the mustard.
I told the Finnish man blocking my wife’s way to my country that we should cut to the chase. To paraphrase, I asked the fellow if he was really going to keep the mother of my four American children and a lady who had lived in the US for 18 years out of the country. A man behind my Finnish adversary must have thought I seemed agitated (I was) and he intervened. My wife got her visa.
Off to California we went, having sowed the seeds of a several year ordeal, a real pickle.