28.7.09

U.S. Immigration - Green Card

Immigration and Naturalisation Services

In most of my posts I discuss going to Japan but this time I want to discuss the opposite-- getting into the U.S., via Immigration and Naturalisation Services, otherwise known as INS. During the past few months my wife and I have been in the process of applying for a green card so that she can obtain permanent, legal residency in America. Let me just say that it's been nothing like the land-of-opportunity story of hopes and dreams that's been so highly romanticised during this country's short, 230-year-old history. Instead, it's been a time-consuming, frustrating and somewhat stressful process. In order to explain what I mean, let me describe the parts of the process, which involves many different chores, tasks and fees some of which are fully expected and some of which are a bit surprising.

First comes the completion of several stacks of forms and paperwork under the supervision of an over-priced immigration lawyer. Many of the forms demand that both the applicant (my wife) and the petitioner (me) provide private and personal information such as in-depth facts about family history, employment and educational history, as well as full disclosure of financial information including income, assets, liabilities and taxes. In addition to this, a hefty application fee is collected.

Second is the gathering of documentation. In order to complete the process, INS needs birth certificates, a marriage certificate, passports, IDs, tax returns, paycheck stubs, bank and credit account statements, loan statements and proof of employment in the form of letters written by employers (written according to specific guidelines and containing all required information). Additionally, profiling and finger-printing of the applicant is required during this step.

Third, new forms are created by INS and the immigration lawyer, based on the gathered information. These documents need to be signed and dated and then returned to INS before a specified deadline. Although this step doesn't sound too hard, it's important to understand that you may or may not actually receive the documents in a timely manner. In our case, one of the documents was supposedly mailed to us, but it never arrived so we had to visit the immigration lawyer in person to obtain an original copy that we could use as a replacement. I can't even imagine what would have happened if we were unable to take time off from work to meet with the lawyer, or unable to travel there before the office's *EARLY* closing time. Thankfully for us, having full-time salaried jobs and owning a car made it possible.

Mixed into the whole process, after each of the above steps is quite a lot of waiting and wondering. Another such period of time occurs at this fourth stage, which is finally nearing the end of the process. During this time the applicant and petitioner wait for INS to schedule an appointment for both to meet with an immigration officer in person. Once your appointment date has been set, there is still some more paperwork to be assembled, such as new paycheck stubs, new proof-of-employment letters and copies of bills, insurance documents, photographs and anything that can serve as proof of marriage. If your immigration lawyer is a good one (which my wife's is not), s/he might pro-actively contact you to let you know what's needed.

Chicago Federal Building, 101 W. Congress Pkwy.This final interview appointment is what my wife and I did today, and is the reason why both of us took the day off work. Upon arrival at the INS facility downtown, the typical government-building experience awaited us, complete with sterile-looking walls and floors, security guards, police and metal detectors. In addition to this, the security guards have extremely well-honed skills that help them to speak to everyone entering the facility in a way that makes us feel like criminals with little more than a fifth-grade education.

Once my wife and finally I arrived at our destination, we were handed a pager similar to the ones that restaurants use to communicate that a customer's table is ready. We entered a large room and waited to be paged while we sat nervously and watched the scores of snobby lawyers, angry mothers who didn't complete all of their tasks correctly, and married couples consisting of aging, dis-sheveled white guys with their mail-order-brides. Thankfully, once our pager summoned us to the back-offices, the experience was a good one! A gentleman named Officer Whelan was assigned to our case, and although he was required to ask a lot of questions about our relationship, socioeconomic status and personal lives, he was kind and professional and treated us with respect and dignity. At the end of the interview he informed us that our application would indeed be recommended for approval and that we definitely had "no reason to lose any sleep." We left with smiles on our faces and huge feelings of relief in our hearts. My wife should have her green card within the next 60 to 90 days. Thanks Officer Whelan! To my wife's lawyer-- thanks a lot for nothing AND for charging a premium for it.

5 comments:

rinko said...

Indeed it was a bitch. Both the process itself and my lawyer. But soon it will be all over. I am excited about all the possibilities and freedom we will be able to have. Thank you so much for going through this process with me. I love you so fucking much!!!

Mike said...

I found a website which is a better source to provide better services about the green Card process in U.S. It helps the people to get green card in easy and short time.

Brother Wormgear said...

Thanks Mike! Looks like a very good site! For anyone else reading this, the site is: www.usaimmigrationsupport.org

tim said...

Hi Christopher-I loved your blow by blow green story! Thanks for helping to make Rinko legal!--Tim

Brother Wormgear said...

tim! Thank you for visiting and leaving your kind comments! Please come again! ^^