Thursday, August 25, 2011

Green Card Success

Today’s relief is that I’m going to get to go to England without any green card issues. I had my appointment with the U.S. Immigration and Citizen Services (USICS) office today to try to get a temporary green card until my new one is issued.

I ended up getting a nice stamp in my passport with very little trouble at all unless you count having to wait in line behind a very angry and belligerent African man who clearly wasn’t happy with what he was being told and a pair of Latino men who did a lot of complaining in Spanish about the African man holding up the line.

I don’t speak much Spanish but I knew enough to pick up on some of the conversation plus the heavy sighs, eye rolling and aggressive pointing at the man sort of gave away the topic of the two men’s conversation.

The African man took a very long time to shout at the lady. She kept telling him the same thing which was pretty much that just because he wanted a green card didn’t mean they could just give him one. He needed documentation which he didn’t have. When, finally, the lady gave him a form to fill out, he went away.

It turned out that the Latino men were there on the wrong day. They had made an appointment for September 1st and mistakenly thought it was for today. From the conversation I overheard, it sounded very much like my situation: They had to travel and needed a temporary green card. Unfortunately for them the USICS is rather strict about appointments; i.e. if you don’t have one for the day and time you’re standing at the window, you will NOT be helped. Dejected, the two men left.

Finally it was my turn. I admit that I was a little nervous. I knew, theoretically, that there should be no reason I couldn’t get a temporary renewal but you never quite know, do you? I’ve found that with governmental offices with strict policies, if you don’t follow everything to a T, you’re out of luck. I tried to make sure I had everything I could need: My passport, my (expiring) green card, extra passport pictures, my social security card, money in case there was a fee and all of the documentation that I’d been told to bring including proof of my online renewal of my green card.

It turned out to be easy. I found the lady to be very helpful. She didn’t even hesitate when I told her what I needed. She actually seemed quite relieved that I wasn’t irate or shouting at her nor did I want something that was impossible for her to grant. Within ten minutes, I had a stamp in my passport for a one-year extension to my current green card. I was relieved. Even better, the lady managed to alleviate another little thing I’d been stressing about: My biometrics appointment.

My biometrics appointment is required for a green card renewal. All it really boils down to is a set of photos that the USCIS has to take and a session of fingerprinting. However, you cannot schedule your own appointment. Instead, you have to wait until the USCIS sends you a letter summoning you to your appointment. There’s no way to go before that.

I’d been worried that this would arrive during the time I was going to be in England. It didn’t help that the lady told me that if I missed my appointment, I had to immediately reschedule it or it would give the USCIS cause to deny my green card.

Fortunately, she was nice. I secretly think it’s because she was so relieved to have someone treat her like a human that she was willing to help. She checked on my appointment and made sure it was scheduled for me prior to my trip. That was another relief off my mind.

All in all, the whole process was far more painless than I expected. I didn’t have to wait long. I could see that there were quite a few people waiting with immigration lawyers for appointments with immigration interviewers. My family went through that when we first got our green cards and that is a LOT of waiting. I think the hardest part of the whole experiences was navigating my car in downtown Cincinnati which, like most cities, is nothing but a tangle of one way streets with traffic signals that are not the easiest to see because they hang horizontally rather than vertically.

By the time I returned to work, I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my chest. I really didn’t have any real doubt that things wouldn’t work out but it still felt like it was hanging over me. It’s one of those things that there’s no way to feel better about until it’s done. I’m just glad I noticed my green card was expiring a month before my trip instead of, say, the night before or, even worse, at the airport when I tried to come back into the U.S. That would NOT have been good.

So, I’m grateful as I often am that things worked out just fine and there was an easy solution that I could take care of myself. All that’s left is for me to go get fingerprinted and photographed and then I just have to wait for my green card to arrive in the mail.

In the meantime, I can rest easier knowing that I can travel internationally again without anticipating any immigration problems on the way back. I’m not a fan of airports at the best of times- there’s a reason why in Emmy Goes to Hell that I set the entry to Hell in an airport. It’s a lifetime of bad flying experiences healthily employed as a cathartic release for me as a writer. I’d hate to have had to added “Refused back into the United States” to that list.

And now I don’t have to- thank you USCIS!

Happy Friday!

No comments: