Thursday, October 27, 2011

Greencard stuff

Last week, I handed in my Greencard application.

I have lived in the United States since the last nineties. Since then, I have gotten married and divorced, begun and completed a Ph.D., and moved several times. Because I had applied for my papers while living in Israel, I initially received a 2-year visa and went through a series of F-1 student visas. Each had to be renewed outside the US, accompanied by the requisite paper work and an appropriate amount of panic. And money. There was the time when I had to prove that I had $20.000 on my account, money that, needless to say, I did not have. The visa clerk suggested that I max out my credit cards for one day, print out the balance and bring it in. A friend offered to sponsor me but she did not earn enough to satisfy the INS. In the end, a fellow graduate student vouched for me. I was on an F-1, a student visa, for a while, switched to OPT (Optional Practical Training) for my Postdoc, then to a J-1 and finally to H1B, a work visa. I have never crossed the US border without an accelerated heart rate, scared to be arrested, called out, or refused entry, especially after 9/11. Not much ever happened to me. At the Canadian border American, border police once asked me to leave the car and I had to force a friend, who thought all this was hilarious, to come with me. Another time, when I was already in my second year of teaching here, a Homeland Security officer asked me what I was studying--the Consulate in Jerusalem had forgotten to invalidate my visa, meaning that I had two valid visas in my passport  and had processed me as a student. Luckily, he spoke to me: how could I have proven that I hadn't entered the country illegally as a student?

I have made appointments for consulates through an incomprehensible calling center in India, waited for hours before the Consulate in Eastern Jerusalem, petrified to be blown up--could there be a better target than Americans waiting in the open air?--and I shivered in Europe where I wasn't even allowed to bring in a handbag and where my mother went into a diabetic shock waiting in the freezing cold. I was yelled at by an infamous clerk in Jerusalem, and promptly burst into tears when she told me that she had denied my request because my papers, fedexed by diplomatic pouch, were lacking a form (that later re-emerged). I have picked up my passport in shady buildings, rescheduled flights, and waited panic-stricken by the letterbox for the visa to arrive so I could return "home" in time for the semester. Some moments were comical, so when the queen of visas at my school showed me the first page of the H1B visas on her screen: "Are you involved in sheep herding?" As it turns out, sheepherding is highly subsidized, and there is a quota because of the lack of qualified personnel..

And now, finally, I could apply for a Greencard. These are the forms I had to fill in order to apply:

I-485: Application to register for Permanent Residence
- a list of all organizations I adhered to since age 16, with addresses and dates. This, luckily, was interpreted to refer only to professional organizations, although the form says differently.
- check over $1,070, payable to US Citizenship & Immigration Services
- two photographs, each with my name and "A-number" on the back, tucked into special tiny envelopes that kept them apart.

I-765: Application for Employment Authorization
- a list of all paid jobs with addresses, job descriptions, and dates, that I have held since coming to the US, plus my last job abroad. In my case--being a graduate student--that added up to a lot of jobs until the Visa Queen decided to subsume all this under "Graduate Instructor" which to me sounded silly but was deemed more respectable than "Graduate Assistant"
- two photos, see above.
- This form costs $380 if not filed with I-485

I-131: Application for Travel Document
- Called Advanced Parole, this will enable me to leave the country while I wait for my Greencard to arrive. I applied for multiple entries--who knows how long this will take!
- two photos, see above.

I-693: Medical Examination
- in a sealed envelope
- Lots of Immunizations, incl. tetanus, Syphilis and TB test. This cost $308 because my records didn't arrive on time. There were two guys with guns at the Civil Surgeon's office and I had to go twice.

G-325A: Biographic Information, including a list of my addresses of the last 5 years.

Copy of 1-140 Receipt or Approval Notice--the result of SERIOUS paper work from last year that enabled me to put in a bit for my "parking slot", my place on the list to receive a Greencard.

Employment Verification Letter from my school. Deemed too important to be handed over to me.

Copy of front and back of my current I-94 [proof that I entered and left the country, every tourist receives one of those cards in the airplane and submits it upon leaving the country]

Copy of I-797 to provide evidence of lawful admission and continued maintenance of status, that is, that I hold my current visa lawfully. This particular piece of paper consists of 2 inches of a green sheet of paper. It was given to me three years ago in Israel when I picked up my passport. I only kept it because I kept everything that had to do with my visa and spent seven hours last Tuesday looking for it.

Copies of ALL pages of passports on which any US stamp appears, in my case: 2, 64 pages in all. I had to highlight the most recent US visa and the most recent US Immigration entry stamp in the appropriate passport.

International birth certificate, requested and paid for online from my  birth city, a place that has undergone rezoning twice since my birth.

Copy of divorce decree. Boy did I feel crummy re-reading those pages.

Once I had it all together, the actual assembly of the file took about half an hour. Now it's all in a Lockbox in the Dallas of Homeland Security. Mabruk, let's see what happens next.

1 comment:

dw said...

Exhausting just to read!