Design Experience: USCIS

The following is a short essay for my Design Experience class regarding good and bad experiences.

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The U.S. Citizen and Immigration Service (formally the INS)

I feel it’s a preconceived notion that when a foreigner marries an American, a gift basket complete with green card, working documents and a social security card arrives at that foreigner’s front door. In reality, this is not the case, and for those who process their papers through the Atlanta branch, the opposite is true.  Instead it is a long and confusing process that at times seems set for new immigrants to fail.
I was living in Russia with my husband, a citizen of said country, when we decided to move things over to the U.S.  We completed all necessary papers for the appropriate visa (K3, for foreigners wed to U.S. Citizens outside the U.S.).  Upon getting notice that our papers had been received, a document was sent stating that everything would be processed in 30-999 days.  Alas, after waiting six months and talking to a lawyer, meeting with the U.S. consulate and providing every train ticket or email between and documenting every financial asset to prove we could support each other – in September 2003, my husband was finally granted the proper visa to enter the U.S.

After entering the U.S., however, my husband hardly felt welcome.  His visa did not merit him a social security card or permission to work, and the DMV would not issue him a license until further paperwork explained that his visa was valid.  After four months of laborious paperwork, a driver’s license was obtained, but still no work permit.  Multiple trips were made to the local USCIS office, but as always no one knew where the papers were.  After six months, I demanded answers and planted myself before a rude immigration official.  I wanted an explanation as to why the USCIS could not locate the work papers, after the computer showed that they had been completed, but could not find them, and could not issue new a new work permit.  When the immigration official ran out of excuses, he called security and two large men soon appeared at my side, the stench of Fulton Street quickly meeting my nose.  Meanwhile, though our papers were still missing, we received the green card for an applicant of a similar name and were forced to clear up this mistake.  After eight months, summer 2004, the work permit was finally found and sent to my husband and he could begin to look for a job.

That was not the end of the troubles, as my husband’s visa was soon to expire and the Atlanta USCIS office was backlogged again.  This time we awaited his permanent resident card (green card), but again were told to wait.  My husband’s visa expired, and though he was legally in the U.S., he remained without status, unable to leave or reenter the U.S.  In December 2005 we were finally called in for the green card interview, but were declined –my husband’s fingerprints had “expired.”  We quickly got them retaken and in 2006, nearly 3 years later, he received his permanent resident/green card.

In fall 2008, it is possible to apply for citizenship, and we are placing bets as to how many years this will take.

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2 Comments

Filed under atlanta, pig, Portfolio Center, Russia, travel

2 responses to “Design Experience: USCIS

  1. oh my gosh, I was fussing back how much trouble everything was . I did not realize though how easy I had it compared to you folks. After 12 years, I finally got my dual citizenship (took only 7 months!). Dont be discouraged!
    Good Luck with you guys.

  2. Thanks for the sympathy! Sadly, I think a lot of people go through this at the Atlanta branch, as it’s one of the most back logged since 2001. Congratulations on your dual citizenship!

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