Wednesdays on this blog will be dedicated to rants of all types.
This Wednesday, I'm annoyed with immigration.
I married a foreigner. When we were dating, we were undecided on which country to live, but one of the pluses in my opinion, of moving to his country (Morocco) was not dealing with the mounds of paperwork and red tape that defines the US bureaucracy.
My cancer diagnosis took that choice away from us, and after a few months married, Younes and I began the process of him becoming a permanent resident. This process has multiple steps:
- Applying for the two-year green card. We sent a massive binder that included a application from him, an application from me, biographical information, birth certificates, copies of passport pages and ID cards, passport photos, medical exam paperwork filled out by a doctor, application of financial support, tax returns and evidence of legitimate marriage, which included pictures together, our wedding invitation, mail addressed to both of us, bank and credit card statements in both our names and affidivats of our relationship. And a check for a lot of money to the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (who I have dubbed the US Tree-Killing Service for all the paperwork they make us print out). After about 4-5 months wait, we went for an interview, where we brought even more evidence of our relationship, including our wedding album, insurance paperwork and updated bank account statements. After a brief lecture on getting on the same phone plan to provide additional evidence, Younes was thankfully approved. (FYI – the card is really green.)
- Less than two years later, we're back in the hotseat as we apply for Younes' 10-year green card. If we fail to apply, he would get deported. We send another application, more passport photos, bank statements from 2014-2016, apartment leases, car and health insurance paperwork and another big check. The US Tree-Killing Service is backed up on these applications, so we, as well as many others, have been waiting a full year for a decision on his green card. We've been waiting so long we can now start the citizenship process.
- The citizenship process involves another application, another big check, more paperwork including leases, insurance papers and every single bank statement going back to 2014 – even if we sent the evidence before, we have to resend it. After that, there will be another 8-10 month wait until he can have his interview, take his test and finally take his oath.
- Some do not pursue citizenship – the most common reason being that they are from countries that don't allow dual citizenship (Morocco thankfully does). Those people have to renew their green card every ten years for as long as they live in the US. I don't know what the renewal process entails, but I imagine it involves more dead trees and another big check.
Finding out when this process will move along has been near impossible. The US Tree-Killing Service has been very unhelpful and the only reason I know as much as I do is because of my other immigration-weary peers on the Internet forums.
Bill Bryson's English wife applied for residency after they moved back to the US and he puts the frustration well:
"After awhile you begin to understand why flinty-eyed cowpokes in places like Montana turn their ranches into fortresses and threaten to shoot any government official fool enough to walk into their crosshairs."
Our mound of paperwork for Green Card #1