Sunday, October 25, 2009

How it works

Okay, so I had been reading and studying for immigration since I started dating M in February, 2004. It was now April 2006 and the entire game was changed by his expedited removal in 2005. Everything about the immigration system is convoluted. Most Americans still believe, from their extensive study in sitcoms from "Wings" to "Ugly Betty" that once a person marries a U.S. Citizen, they themselves are a U.S. Citizen. . .I mean, it worked for Balky on "Perfect Strangers," right? Nope. It is actually nothing like that. Nothing at all.

There are actually a lot of steps. People who don't believe in the automatic citizenship theory usually--in my limited experience--believe that you just file a simple application, it gets processed and the immigrant comes to the U.S. Much like the idea that immigrants here illegally should have just applied for citizenship (as if a classification like that exists) this is also not true. There are actually a lot of steps and even in the best of circumstances it can take more than a year for someone to make it to the United States, even when married to a citizen.

The first step is filing a petition with the USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Service.) They charge you a little over $300, keep your petition gathering dust on someone's desk for a few months, check to see if you do, if fact, have a marriage certificate attached to your petition and then they either approve or deny it and ship it on to the National Visa Center (NVC) where they ask for more documents--and *cough* more money--and then they can either schedule your interview at the consulate or they will forward the case and the consulate will schedule the interview. None of your documents are really reviewed until that interview at the consulate. USCIS takes them and only verifies if they are there. NVC does exactly the same thing, makes sure that they are *still* there. Only the consulate gets the right to evaluate if they are in fact good enough, and that does not happen until you are months and months into the process.

In our case we would have to submit our marriage certificate and M's divorce certificate from Pakistan. Remember, the one that M had gotten from his parents, the one printed on Rupee paper, yeah, that one.

The marriage certificate from Quebec would not be ready for at least three weeks and so, we were left to relax for the rest of my little vacation. Four days after our wedding I was on my way back home, back to work and back to separation. I had almost forgotten the reality of my life, full time Master's program, a middle school student teaching experience and working 36 hours a week to pay for my Pakistani-Canadian habit.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Next Frontier

Every little girl dreams of their wedding day. Mine was not quite what I had hoped for, but we were happy nonetheless. My husband looked like weight had been lifted from his shoulders. He walked easier and smiled in a way I had not seen in more than a year.

I think the happiest person though, might have been Z. He emerged from the mosque and proudly lifted his hands to the sky above his head with a sigh and an "Alhamdulillah!" and my mom got a picture of it. The look on his face says a thousand words. He was happy for M and I, of course, but I think it counted to him as a personal success that he was able to be a part of his best friend's happiness and a really nice day.

Here now a tribute to my extreme dorkiness. My mom, at my request, had brought a white wedding dress I had purchased with her when she came. It had been fitted and was just waiting for me to wear. There was no way for this to happen. It just didn't fit into the surroundings. That part of my dream, that kind of wedding, was gone. My lengha, on the other hand, made an appearance at a little dinner party at M's house two days after our Nikkah. Z's wife was wonderful, as always and loaned me gold bangles and a lovely pair of hoop earrings. Z purchased food from a local restaurant and his two brothers came to celebrate with us.

Z bought us our only wedding gifts, a watch set for me and flowers to hold. Z took pictures and his wife made a video to be sent to M's mother in Karachi. She was going to be taking a trip there soon and would make sure they saw it.

I had now moved on to my next obsession, one I had been holding onto for many months, one I had been planning for and studying for: my impending battle with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Friday, October 23, 2009

A Wink and a *Nod*

As the conversation with his mother ended, M got up and we were ready to go. The Imam had scheduled us for 3:00 pm and Z was trying to round up another witness. They weren't sure if my father was going to count since he was Christian, not Muslim. No one else was available because it was midday and everyone was at work.

It took about 35 minutes to drive to the mosque. None of us had ever been to the area where this mosque was and M kept telling me I was never going to find it. When we arrived we saw a tall brick building with a bank attached to it. It was large, but was obviously not originally built as a mosque.

The inside had offices and a banquet room. We were directed into the Imam's office and M went for wuzu. My parents sat on my right and when M got back he sat on the left. Z sat on the other side beside M. We discussed the mehr and filled out an application form. The Imam sat behind a large executive style desk. He only had a copy of the marriage documents in French. At this point, that was the least of my worries.

The paperwork was all in French and the Imam let me know that M would recite some Arabic. After M repeated a few phrases in Arabic the Imam asked me if I consented to the marriage. I looked up and nodded my head. I started to say something, but the Imam had already moved on to more Arabic. He had us both sign the marriage documents and I was married.

In short, I married a Pakistani-Canadian in a dual French/Arabic wedding by nodding my head.

Oh, and M wore blue jeans.