Last week, I handed in my Greencard application.
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?
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
- 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.
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.