Friday, August 22, 2008

Just get in line to nowhere

Check out this flowchart from that spells out why people can't just "get in line" when it comes to entering the United States. The idea that it is easy to get in is a very common misconception, and I don't really know why that is the case.


Anonymous,  11:57 PM  


Forgive the length of this comment, but as the spouse of an immigrant, I've been through this nonsense.

When we met, my wife was here legally with a work permit, but did not have permanent resident status and had enlisted the services of an attorney in the hope of attaining her green card. Obviously things were expedited when we got married and she was granted a conditional green card, good for two years as all green cards are when first granted as the result of marriage to a US citizen per the Immigration Act of 1986. Ninety days before her green card expired, I was able to apply to have the condition removed. During the time between when we married and the time I made the application to have the condition removed, I saved every telephone bill, every health and dental insurance explanation of benefits form, every bank statement on our joint account, copies of airline tickets for every trip we took together, copies and translations of marriage certificates from our church wedding in Brazil as well as the announcement of the wedding in her hometown's local newspaper, eventually resulting in one pound of paper to send to the INS as proof of the validity of our marriage. Two weeks later we received the letter that removed her condition.

Here's where matters get complicated. On February 27, 1998, we filed her application for naturalization. The check for the fee cleared our account about ten business days later. On June 30, 1999, we received her appointment for her fingerprints to be made in early August. On October 6, 1999, we received the appointment date for her naturalization interview: January 3, 2000. We had already planned (and, in fact already had tickets) for a trip to Brazil during that time. On the note notifying us of this date, they also indicated that if we could not keep this appointment to notify them by mail immediately. The next day I sent a letter requesting a rescheduling of the appointment. I sent the letter as I have sent everything to the INS certified mail return receipt requested (to do otherwise is to invite problems) with copies to both the regional office and the location of the naturalization interviews in Garden City on Long Island. As we had not heard anything shortly before we left for Brazil, I sent another letter enclosing a copy of the previous letter as well as a copy of the return receipts.

Nine months go by and still no response. Finally, I contact Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney's office with all of my documentation. She responds immediately and sends a letter to the District Director with my documentation. A form response is sent to her and subsequently to us, to the effect that they were investigating the matter, but it appears that my wife did not show up for her appointment. Apparently they didn't read any of the correspondence that was sent to them. In any event, they scheduled her for her interview on December 27, 2000, giving us approximately three weeks notice. They asked her to bring certain items including copies of tax returns for the previous three years. I am not able to find copies of the returns for the first two years, but a close friend who is an immigration attorney advises me that she has used tax return transcripts which are stamped as certified by the IRS and that they will suffice.

This is when the payback starts. We got up early to go to the INS office in Garden City for a 10:20 a.m. appointment. I am not allowed to go to the second floor with her for the interview, but I give her all the paperwork and wait downstairs with plenty of reading material, a necessity when dealing with the INS. Two and a half hours later she returns and advises me that her case is still pending and shows me the paperwork from the INS examiner who conducted the interview. He insists on actual copies of the tax returns and additional proof "as to the validity of the marriage" to be submitted by February 1. In talking with my wife, something begins to really smell rank. When she showed him the tax return transcripts he acknowledged that these were obtained from the IRS, but insisted to her that he needed to see the returns themselves. Apparently a certified copy of a government document from a co-equal branch of the same government would not suffice. Regarding the validity of the marriage issue (none of which was mentioned in the notice scheduling the interview), he suggested proof of a joint bank account (which the INS already had). She told him that I was downstairs waiting for her and that I had the checkbook with me, so she could get it from me quickly and settle that issue. His response was that it would be better (?!?!) if we mailed it to him.

This comment of his, however, is the most convincing reason for me why I think that this examiner was engaging in payback. When he first started talking with her, he pointed out to my wife that her appointment had been moved ahead. She pointed out that it had been rescheduled, to which he said that she missed her first appointment. She said that she had contacted the office to reschedule when the original date posed a conflict. He then said, "I see your Congresswoman helped you out." I wish I had been in there. I would have asked him how that comment was relevant.

In any event, I sent "additional proof as to the validity of the marriage" and a letter explaining why I had not been able to get the original tax returns for the interview and asked why the tax return transcripts would not suffice. I received a letter back from the INS examiner without the courtesy of an explanation or response to my question, simply requesting the tax returns by March 1. I finally decided that her naturalization was more important than trying to win this battle. I hoped to win the war, but for now I decided to jump through the INS examiner's hoops. I sent a completed Form 4506 to the IRS along with my payment via Express Mail and upon receiving the copies, I sent them on to the examiner, by March 1, also via Express Mail. Two weeks later her swearing in ceremony was scheduled.

I hope this guy's next assignment was stampng visa applications in Ulan Bator.

Greg Weeks 8:23 AM  

That's crazy. I think the waiting is the single thread that connects virtually every immigration story.

Anonymous,  11:46 AM  

I believe that dealing with them - and I hasten to point out that I have worked for the Federal government and grew up the son of a civilian employee of the US Army - has been the most difficult government agency that I have ever dealt with. The single greatest benefit of my wife having her citizenship is the fact that the only time we have to deal with these jackasses is when we come back to the US.

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