Saturday, December 26, 2009

Dedicated Stupidity

The week of our appointment I took personal days so that I could go to Montreal to be at the meeting. It was also the day after Valentine's Day, which was exciting for me because I had spent every Valentine's Day since we had begun dating with M. The plan was that I would fly on the evening of the 14th, a Wednesday, take Thursday and Friday off and fly back Sunday for work on Monday.

I knew with the expedited removal that we would not be approved same day but somehow I fooled myself into hoping that some kind of miracle would happen and they would realize just how pathetically stupid the whole thing was and just give him the visa. I wished for this, but prepared a waiver package to deal with reality.

With an expedited removal, a visa applicant has to file for a waiver called "Permission to Reapply after Deportation or Removal." It is filed on form I-212, and required a package of reasons that the waiver should be approved. I had consulted with attorneys and researched things and was also fairly certain that they were going to try to force us to file a hardship waiver too, this is usually for people with other inadmissibilities like Misrepresentation--lying to officials or on visa applications, or most often overstays with or without a visa. M did not legally need one of these, but based on my conversations with attorneys it was likely they would try to force us to file one. I had an envelope two inches thick to take with me to the appointment. I had also packaged up ticket stubs, copies of my passport stamps and pictures going back three years to show to the consular officer.

The night before I was to fly, a very rare noreaster hit my city and the entire east coast. It followed its way northward towards Canada and all the way up Interstate 95, my route to M. All flights were canceled ahead of time up to an hour before my flight was to take off. I was frantic. School was canceled for the day, so I had plenty of time to panic. I was certain my flight would not take off, and that I would wait there all day and it would be too late to drive the 12 hours to M's appointment. It had become obvious over the days just before the appointment that M was not going to the appointment by himself. Days before the appointment he started having flashbacks to our detention at the border and I knew that if I did not go, he would stay as far away from the U.S. Consulate as possible.

I started driving in the morning in a manual transmission, 2001 Mercury Cougar. My father felt that this was the least intelligent part of my plan. Not only was there snow, a lot of snow, but once you get into northern New York it is entirely mountainous. There was no way I wasn't going, I couldn't rent a car (internationally) on such short notice and so he and my mother stalled me as much as possible and eventually just reconciled themselves to the fact that their daughter was a dedicated moron and let me begin my trip.

The first miles were not the problem, but about 7:00pm when I was deep into New York state, the snow started coming down so heavily that I could not see ahead of me. The roads were entirely white and it was obvious that they were no longer even attempting to clear the roads. Around me were tractor trailer trucks and four-wheel drives. Apparently, no one else thought it a good idea to take a manual transmission, low driving car into a blizzard.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Waiting Game

As I have told you before, I am quite obsessive. I had everything planned out and had gone through every last bit of information I could find online about the National Visa Center process. What the NVC does is process the visa application (and $355 fee) the Affidavit of Support (and $70 fee) and asks for all supporting documents (the same ones just sent to the USCIS) and adds requirements for a police certificate from every country a person has ever lived. It also gives you the instructions for getting a United States approved Medical Exam ($250.)

Now, it would not be good government if this did not slow down the process considerably, so at the time we were applying, they would send you the fee for one form, wait til they received it, cashed it and "processed it" and then send you the form to fill out and send back. They would wait for that form to arrive and be processed before they would send you the next fee and the process would start again. Luckily, newer visa applicants get to use an online system where one can pay the fees at one time and recieve the forms to fill out. You can actually get the forms online too, but you have to have a special barcode form to mail back with each application under the laughable guise of "faster processing." I'm sorry, but there is nothing "fast" about the immigration process.

Having said that, I have to defend whatever lovely soul got their hands on my husband's USCIS application paperwork because they transferred it from Vermont, our assigned office, to California. Our I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative) was processed in less than three months! That is completely unheard of! I have no idea how it happened, but I assume some kind soul took pity on us after reading the application and realizing the horrible long process that we were going to have. So, after three months, we were on our way to the NVC and the rest of the processing.

I had every fee sheet sent back to NVC same day, and every application pre-filled from their website just waiting for the barcode sheet to be mailed to me. Once the barcode arrived, I was on my way to the post office to mail that out same day too. Somehow, I was crazy enough to think this was going to help. In the end, it served its purpose. . .it made me feel better thinking I was helping.

Our case "went complete" at NVC on November 14, 2006, seven months after we were married. This meant that all of our paperwork was in and that all we had to do was wait for the consulate to schedule our appointment. Another two months passed before M received notice in Canada that he would be interviewed at the US Consulate Montreal on February 15, 2007.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Charter of the French Language

Three weeks after getting back home I had figured out how to get copies of the marriage certificate. They had originally told me to mail a request back to Montreal, but in my hurry I had found a way online to do it instead. The certificate arrived, in FRENCH. Call me sentimental, but I always kind of imagined having my marriage certificate, seeing it, and it was never in French in my visions. Immigration also prefers to see things in English, though you can have anything translated, it just sometimes causes hang-ups and delays.

If you think the beaurocracy in your government is bad, this is going to amaze you. I called Quebec to get a new copy of the certificate. The nice gentleman on the phone advised me that since I had signed my marriage document in French (something I did not actually realize I had done at the time) that I would never, I repeat, NEVER, be issued a certificate in English. He further went on to tell me that it was actually law under the "Charter of the French Language" instituted in Quebec. (Oddly, the CFL also mandates how languages are displayed on restaurant menus, i.e. French has to be first and a larger font than any other language. . . .there is even more inane, crazy stuff in there, but I won't bore you. . . ) It was not that they did not issue English certificates, they did, they just wouldn't issue one to me.

At any rate, I had to get the certificate translated. Now, the words on a marriage certificate are cognates, so even I could translate it, but someone who is actually qualified has to translate it for immigration purposes. Amazingly, the teacher I was working under doing my student teaching, a middle-school Spanish teacher in her 43rd year of teaching had for the first 24 years of her career, taught French! The dear woman agreed to help me by translating it and signing the certification of translation for me and gave me several copies because we both knew I would need extras for the steps down the line in immigration. It was beautiful, fast, and FREE!

In no time I compiled the package and mailed it out. The applications had been waiting for more than a year to be signed and mailed out, finally we were on our way, May, 2006.