Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Guest Editorial: The Saga Begins

I haven't forgotten you, loyal readers. I'll be back with more to say very soon. In the meantime, here's the first part of a story...

The government can't do anything right. Some people can't seem to get that into their heads. People say "All you have to do to get a green card is get married, right?" and they seemingly forget that the government is the one in the control of the big mess that is immigration. Just like a trip to the DMV you might leave there happy, or it might turn into a giant nightmare.

When my wife and I decided that we wanted to be together, in America we had to take a look at immigration. Marriage wasn't the first option. We both would have preferred to get married simply because we chose to, not because it was what we were required to do to be together. After looking into things we came to the conclusion that we had no other valid options. It seems that the legal ways to immigrate legally are primarily broken down into being rich, being from a certain country or through family. Legal immigration is hard, don't let anyone tell you otherwise. It is a system of loopholes.

One interesting part of getting married to a immigrant is that you're not really allowed to plan it ahead of time. The only time my wife and I could have been married in America without violating the law was the first time we met. Ironically if we had done that my wife could not have returned to Germany before all the paperwork was in order and she had a green card or else they would not have allowed her to reenter. They can and will deny entry to the United States because you are married to a American. Marriage has to be spontaneous, you can't tell customs that you plan on getting married in America, they will bar your entry.

We found a way that did not break American law. We were married in Germany. This was not the only reason we chose this route, Direct Consular Filing allows for the immigrant to arrive in America with virtually instant working permission and with almost all documentation in order. We married in Germany and fought our way through the paperwork. It wasn't always easy, even a lawyer we talked to seemed to be unaware of how DCF filing worked. We had to make two trips to the consulate in Düsseldorf and eventually two trips to Frankfurt.

The paperwork required is intentionally blind. They didn't care that my wife had TOEFL certification as native proficiency in English. They didn't care that she was self-reliant financially, or was a college graduate. However they did require her police record, proof that she was healthy and as important proof that she was not going to be on the public dollar during her immigration to America (in truth I believe it extends beyond her immigration, up to her first ten years in America but don't quote me on that).

While her path was already in stark contrast to the path illegal immigrants take, this is the point that it really diverges. Illegal immigrants and people that choose to bludgeon their way into our immigration system are spared meeting these types of criteria. Hell, if they make it far enough they might even have the luxury of voting in their native language, we shouldn't trouble them to go so far as to even learn English. You can even take your written driving test in Korean in some states, for example. I'm not sure how you can read the road signs with words if you don't know English but you can damn sure get your driver's license.

All the while my wife had to jump through hoop after hoop, fill out forms, pay fees and go far out of her way to stay within the law. We needed another sponsor since I, in part through my frequent three month trips to Germany and my lack of working in permission couldn't come close to having enough income to prove I could support my wife without her getting any public aid (illegal immigrants somehow qualify for some forms of public assistance, why obey the law when the system rewards breaking it?). My brother agreed to become a sponsor. He managed to find enough time between military exercises to fill out the appropriate forms and get them notarized. The first time he made a tiny error that common sense and white out would have fixed, but since it was noticed by the fine folks at the consulate he was required to fill out, notarize and mail us the completed forms again.

The final step in Germany was easier than we expected. We knew we had a interview, and if they wished they could (for any reason) deny us. We had one minor problem, we needed new photos since my wife's head was turned the wrong way or something. Fortunately they had a photo booth there. Otherwise things went well. Our "interview" turned out to be by a guy behind the glass. We expected to be invited into a room and have a conversation. Instead a person that could have just as easily been giving us our change after we paid for gas started asking questions. We didn't even know it was a interview until he told me I couldn't answer the questions. It is worth mentioning that despite the process going fairly well, it still took around a year from start to finish.

Our arrival in America was primarily nerve wracking because the long lines we had to go through. The paperwork was fairly easy and straight forward. Starting anew in a country is never easy though. No car, waiting for important papers to arrive in the mail. You have to take it one step at a time, social security number, working permission, green card, license, etc...

After being uprooted once for circumstances beyond our control we settled in Alabama and tried to make the most of our situation. It came time for my wife to file her I-751 to remove conditions on her green card and we approached it with a relatively nonchalant attitude. We'd been married for a few years, living in America for a couple years and didn't have so much as a parking ticket between the two of us. We didn't anticipate having much trouble...


HollyB said...

You say say this is the first part of "a" story. I'm hooked. When do we get the rest?

J.R.Shirley said...

Hm. Philip?