The Line For Beaurocracy Starts Here

Wednesday, July 20, 2005 | 8:35 am

It seems that my decision to work and marry here is good for about 9 years worth of government paperwork.

I am currently in immigration hell, having to manage a work VISA transfer process (old company to new), as well as a marriage based green card at the same time. Outside of the thousands of dollars this costs in government fees, and my financial sponsorship to ensure that an underprivileged team of immigration lawyers will ski Aspen this winter, this also introduces me to all new forms of beaurocratic excess..

Here's the latest episode. Once the green card was filed, I received back a bunch of paperwork requesting that I must call to make an appointment for "biometrics and fingerprinting". Exactly what biometrics is I am yet to discover, but I hope it isn't anything like dianetics, or I may end up as crazy as Tom Cruise.

So I make the 1-800 call. I get 20 minutes of an 8-second hold music loop, and a sore ear from cradling a cell phone (even with speaker on, random fades have me constantly panicking, thinking that I am missing my answer-window). Finally I get the operator. I provide six or seven pieces of detail to identify myself and my case, finalized with my zip-code. Then he politely informs me: "I'm sorry, we have no appointments left."

"Oh" I reply, somewhat perplexed. "So the appointment would have been for today?" I ask, thinking that I rang too late to be fit in.

"No" the patient operator-person tells me, "it would be in 5 or 6 weeks."

Now I am quite confused. If they are booking 5-6 weeks ahead, how is it that they ran out of appointments? Did they reach the end of the millenia and have to reset? After much explanation, it seems that they only book a certain number of appointments each day (for each zip?). So I am advised to ring back at 8am the next day to try again.

This systems confounds me. When they are the ones sending out letters requesting you make an appointment, why do they feel the need to try and limit the number of appointments they can make each day? How does this unnatural throttle help? All I can postulate is they get so many cancellations that they thought it better to not make too many commitments each day, keeping things only a few months out.

Anyhow, I rang back today at 8am. Actually, since there is about 4 minutes of announcements and menus, I got clever rang back at 7:59AM with the intention of coming out of the queue about the time the operators start handling calls but have had a few sips of their morning coffee. Too clever for my own good it seems. I get through only to hear that I should call back between 8am and 6pm to speak to an operator. It is 8:04AM. Seems my call is routed based on the time it is first answered by the call center. Bugger.

I call again immediately. 30 minutes of hold music later, 6 or 7 questions from the operator, and a palpable sense of relief that the ordeal is nearly over, is all cast aside when the operator says "It seems I cannot make an appointment for you". It is 8:32AM - this must be harder than getting Live 8 tickets! "My appointment system seems to have crashed." Lovely.

In the end, the appointment system managed to come back again long enough to get a date for September. Whoopee.

Luckily, she-whom-I-wisely-married is worth every minute. I just wish I could spend those minutes with her, and not Random Government Functionary Level 0.


At 20/7/05 11:07 am, Blogger Kathy said...


By the way, do they still make you take an American history test to become naturalized? I actually don't know if they ever really did that or not, come to think of it.

At 20/7/05 11:19 am, Blogger Aussie-Askew said...

I believe that is for citizenship, not for green card status. I remember "Q" at The Company trying to brush up for it (she is from east asia) and basically not being able to get answers from any of the real Americans there.

At 20/7/05 11:34 am, Blogger erika said...

yes, thankfully we did not have to take an american history test to be born here. or to have parents who were born here.

also, the school system is poor.

At 20/7/05 12:16 pm, Blogger Royce said...

There are still a few "good" public schools left.....but only a few.

I had no idea that the whole green card issue was soo frustrating.

At 20/7/05 12:29 pm, Blogger Aussie-Askew said...

And trust me, this marriage route is the easy way. After 2.5 years of filing for a work based one via The Company, I was interested to hear from the lawyers that I should get it before 2009.

At 20/7/05 1:11 pm, Blogger Dave(id) said...

I'm surprised we are using biometrics here in the US. I figured we'd have bioimperialistics.

At 20/7/05 2:23 pm, Blogger Major Rakal said...

Absolutely classic. Welcome to the land of the free...

At 21/7/05 8:07 am, Blogger Shocho said...

Thank God the Patriot Act protects us from foreign dissidents like you.

That was sarcastic. I'm really sorry you're having all that trouble. I'd be happy to vouch for you if you think it would help.

You could use the tactic I once used with Cox Communications: "This is the eighth time I have called customer service." It booted me up two levels of bureaucracy instantly. It was true then, but I made a mental note to use it as a lie as needed in the future. I bet it won't work with the Feds, though. Sigh.


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