It's taken a while to post about this. Life has been hectic, but now that we've settled into the US, we'd like to share our experiences and give back to the community.
Much of what I shared below hopefully will be still relevant, though not totally sure how the most recent March 2017 State Dept cables I heard about will affect things.
1) About us - My wife (nicknamed JiaYou) is a Chinese citizen from a smaller Hunan village, and I'm a U.S. citizen. We met in Shanghai, and I'd been working in Shanghai for about 6 years by the time we applied for her green card. We'd been married for about 4 years at the time of application.
2) Timeline for DCF - The entire official process lasted about 7 months (June 2015-December 2015), from I-130 application submission to the successful interview at the US Consulate in Guangzhou. We received the actual visa in her passport in the middle of January. But it took about 2 months to get the needed paperwork. So we really started the process from our end at the end of March 2015.
3) Interview questions - Her interview questions were quite basic. The USCIS interviewer asked how we met, what type of work I did, why we are moving to the US. Nothing tricky here.
4) Lawyered up - Yes, despite the cost and that we technically could have done it all without any professional help, we definitely did have legal help from an American immigration lawyer based in Beijing. He was quite knowledgeable and shepherded us through the process, especially the more nuanced issues. Given how high stakes this was for us - we needed to return to the US to take care of my parents in their ailing health - it was well worth it.
Tips in general:
1) Keep records and be organized - If you have a valid, strong case, the most important thing you have the most control over is keeping records and being organized. From the beginning of our relationship, we recorded our travels together to meet her family, international travel (even more critical), ensured both of us were on apartment leases, adding her to my health insurance as a dependent, etc. The photos and paper documents we submitted with the I-130 consisted of a couple of binders of material, each at least 1 inch thick.
2) Get started on the notarized, translated Chinese specific documents as soon as possible - The most nerve wracking part really was the fact that JiaYou was born before normal hospital birth certificates were standard. So she had to get a special statement from her hometown's police department. But since her hometown was so small, none of the officials knew (or wanted to find out) what the process was. It took some guangxi on the part of her parents to get the right people to do the right thing. And get the special second copy of the Chinese marriage certificate (for those getting married in China) that's needed by USCIS along with the original when you actually register. It'll save a lot of trouble later on.
If anyone would like to have the name of the lawyer we used, let me know.
AddingOil & JiaYou