Thursday, April 13, 2006

They Took Our Jerbs!

Today was a good day.

At 7am this morning, Sunny and I went on a trip to the Department of Homeland Security Application Support Center in North Carolina.

Before I get to that, there’s something I just have to mention. If you ever just happen to find yourself heading north on I-85, keep your eyes peeled when you pass Gaffney on the South Carolina – North Carolina border.

You see, Gaffney is famous for one thing, and one thing only…peaches, peaches and more peaches. Because of this, someone thought it would be a really great idea to make an absolutely giant peach statue, and put it by the side of the Interstate, right next to the Gaffney exit.

This might not seem all that interesting, until you actually see the thing. Essentially, what you see is a giant sunburned ass-on-a-stick.

That’s right, when you head to Gaffney, the first thing you see is an 80 foot, big red ass.

I dare you to look at it and not snigger.

I wish I’d taken my camera.

Anyway, back to my main story.

The reason I was visiting my good friends at the Department of Homeland Security was to have my Biometrics taken. This is a roundabout way of saying I was going there to answer the questions you answer for an ID card (Race, Hair Color, Weight, etc.), and to be fingerprinted.

Now, despite that this all gets me one step closer to my Green Card, I wasn’t exactly happy about it. This is for two reasons. One, every time I get contacted by the DHS, nothing good ever happens (I’ve started to call the briefcase I keep all my paperwork in ‘Pandora’s Box’), and Two, I seriously mistrust fingerprints, and anyone who has them on file.

Here’s my reasoning. They say that every set of fingerprints is unique. My question is, how in the blue hell do they know that? It’s like the old chestnut that no two snowflakes are identical.

Bollocks. Where’s the proof?

What if my fingerprints match a known and heavily wanted terrorist? Even if they aren’t exactly the same, what if the bottom half of the guy’s index finger matches mine, and they just happen to find that partial print on the end cap of a pipe-bomb? It could happen!

The other thing is that I have terribly bad luck. Now that I officially have an FBI File, and that my fingerprint is now in the AFIS database that they check on CSI every time they find a crime scene…I can say that I’m honestly concerned. I’m also completely paranoid.

For example, what if I finish a can of Pepsi and throw the can in a trash can in Greenville City center. Then, they come to pick up the trash, and on the way to the land-fill, my Pepsi can falls out of the truck, gets caught by the wind…and lands smack dab on the head of a female murder/rape victim.

I choose a trash can, and unwittingly become the Pepsi-Cola Killer.

It could happen!

Anyway, we arrived at the DHS office…two hours early. We weren’t taking any chances. You see, in bold writing across the front of my summons letter, it says: “If you do not appear at this date and at this time, your application will be considered abandoned.”

In other words, if you’re late, you’ve fucked up, and you get to start your whole status change application again.

This is also true, one guy walked in twenty minutes late for his appointment. I felt sorry for him, they just said, in essence: “We’re really, really sorry, but you’re late. Go away.”

Of course, an 11am appointment just means you have to be there at 11. It doesn’t mean you get seen at 11. You walk through the door, show your appointment letter and ID, they tell you to fill out a form (surprise, surprise), then wait in a line.

Then when you get to the head of the line, they check your form and hand you a number.

You sit down until your number appears on one of those TV screen thingies (Oh, and the sound for a new number coming up was exactly the same sound as the door made when it opened…which just added to the fun.)

When your number appears, you go to a desk, hand the form over, then go sit down until your number is called.

In other words, not exactly pleasant.

Then, after all that, you get fingerprinted.

Now, this isn’t your regular ink on the fingers and a piece of card type dealies. Basically, they scan your fingers into a computer.

Let’s just say that these people must take about 500 sets of prints every single day. Quickness, not comfort is their top priority. I was being fingerprinted by a 4 foot tall, very strange looking Asian woman, who had the very disconcerting habit of pushing the back of my hand against her boobies while she held your hand on the scanner.

Eeew. (Shudder).

Anyway, after the fingerprinting, the supervisor came over to check the fingerprinter’s work. I started making a bit of small talk.

“One more step towards my green-card.”
“Yup, you already have your work permit, don’t you.”
“Nope, I’m still waiting on it.”

She looked at me like I’d grown an extra head, and asked if I had the rest of my paperwork with me.

Here’s the deal, when I got the receipt letter for the money to pay for my biometrics, I also got a receipt letter for my work permit. This same letter I showed to a DHS Officer at a local office in SC, and I’d asked her what to do with it. She said: “Oh, that’s nothing. That’s just a receipt notice of the cash you sent. Just put it away and wait for them to contact you.”

No, bitch. No.

The deal was that when I went to get my biometrics, I also showed them that letter, and they take it, and send me my work permit 30 days later.

If I hadn’t made small talk, and if the DHS officer at the Biometrics office wasn’t exceptionally good at her job, and really switched on, I would have returned home, and waited for a work permit that would never arrive.

Here’s the real kicker though.

Work permits are only valid for one year before you have to renew them. They start this year, not from when you receive the card, but from when you first apply. They also cost $175.

I had a 6 month delay, because they screwed up my paperwork. I applied, and they asked for all sorts of information I’d already sent. I asked the same lunatic at the local office in SC about it, and why they needed this information twice. She said: “Oh, that’s just the way it’s done, just send them whatever they ask for.”

Remember my post where they asked me to take a $600 medical again? I wrote directly to the main office in Missouri, explained that I came over on a Fiancé Visa, and had already had a medical, and sent them the paperwork.

They never admitted to anything, but it’s clear they where processing me as if I’d just arrived in the country, got married, then applied for residency.

This means that my $175 dollar work permit, that’s valid for one year, that I should receive this time next month…will actually expire in October.

Did I mention you have to renew these every year, 90 days before they’re due to expire?

That’s right, I get a whole two months to work before I have to file for a replacement.

On the other hand, after exactly two years of sitting on my ass…WORK PERMIT, BITCHES!

That’s right! I can get a job, a bank account and actually earn some money!

That’s right. I’m a foreigner, and now I’m officially an immigrant, because I can “Take you jerbs!”

I honestly didn’t know how I’d feel when I got my work permit, or at least a definite day when it was going to arrive. On the one hand, sheer unadulterated joy at feeling like an actual person again, and not an overgrown leech, on the other, I’ve been out of work for a long time, and I didn’t know how I’d feel trying to adjust back to the ‘working man’s’ lifestyle.

How do I actually feel?

Pure Relief.


rayray said...

ain't america great?!
i'm surprised they don't have little hurdles and hoops set up in the waiting area to REALLY bring the experience to life!

OzzyC said...

Get off your lazy ass and find yourself a job that no self-respecting American wants... oh wait, that's only for illegal immigrants.

MC Etcher said...

hmn. Wear gloves. Always.

Although, that would be suspicious behavior...

Paulius said...

Rayray : The deal was, you turn up, wait your turn, get your fingerprints done. This simple step involved one person to check your ID and paperwork when you enter. Another person to give you another form. Another person to check your ID, paperwork and the form you just filled out and give you a number. Then when your number is called you see another person who takes all the paperwork...followed by another person who calls your name and actually takes your fingerprints.

user-friendly is NOT the Immigration way.

Ozzy : Either that or a job a self-respecting american would do...but for wages that no self respecting american would ever consider.

MC Etcher : I don't get it. When I arrived in the country, I ticked no on all the boxes that said: (These are all true)

Are you a terrorist, or a member of a terrorist organisation?

Are you carrying any explosives?

Where you ever part of the Nazi government of Germany?

With questions like that, I wonder why they bother with any of the other security requirements.

I mean, a terrorist might fly a fully laden passenger jet into the World Trade Center, but they wouldn't actually LIE, would they?

MC Etcher said...

Congrats on the work permit!

Kato said...

Woohoo! Congrats! (Nice post title, too).