Aug 122005

Back in June, Anna and I went to the main San Diego INS/USCIS office in Chula Vista to be interviewed for my residency application. We weren’t sure what to expect. Would they separate us and interrogate to expose our choice of toothpaste? Well, no. Nothing like any sort of movie description happened. But, it was a bit weird. She went through the expected questions at the start. When did you meet, where were you married, did family come to the wedding, etc. She asked us if we had our rings inscribed (no, is that normal?) or if we brought our wedding album with us (uh, no). We replied that our wedding photos were all on our web site, and she could use the computer in front of her to check them out if she wanted. She said they weren’t allowed to use the internet. Homeland security issues I guess.

The interview changed in tone and she started asking questions like: Are we going to have kids? If not, then why? Why did you (asking me) marry someone older than you? Why do you like her? Does it bother you that she might not have kids? At this point I was thinking, jez, you’re kind of being a dick. She abruptly stopped, and gave us a sheet of paper outlining things we bring back to show as proof that we were married. Wedding photos, photographs together, proof of travel together, joint taxes or holdings, proof we live together, etc. She was apparently not convinced we were married and we had no clue why. We were frustrated. The interview letter only said to bring our existing forums and official documents. If we had thought we would have needed any of this ‘proof’, we would have brought it. Why weren’t we told to bring it anyway?

The more we thought about it afterwards, the more it seemed that the woman didn’t know what to make of us. We may have been a pretty big anomaly for her personally as well as professionally. I would guess about 90% of the people going through this USCIS office is (or was) Mexican. Marring older in life, with an age gap in the opposite direction (woman older than the man), having a minimal wedding, and having kids late in life (or possibly not at all), are not exactly usual things for most people that come through this office. Who knows, maybe we are reading too much into this. It is just hard to shake, her questions and reactions seemed so unusual.

We rounded up all the information she wanted and dropped it off at the office a few months back. All was silent until last week. Finally they wanted me to come in, get my passport stamped, and wait for my permanent resident card. I did that yesterday morning. My resident card, once I recieve it, will not be permanent. It is only good for two years. At that time we have to reapply, and I assume, prove we are still married. I just hope I get my card before I have to renew my passport (early next year). I was told the stamp could not be re-issued, and to keep my old passport. There is a problem with that though. Canada requires that I submit my old passport to apply for a new one. Maybe I will ‘loose’ it if I have to. Fun fun.

As a side note, if you do happen to be in Chula Vista on 3rd Ave, I highly recommend a visit to Tropicana 100 for some nice fruit, sandwiches, and smoothies. I think the Mexican-American businesses do fresh fruit better than anyone else. You can almost always be assured that the fruit will be the ripest and sweetest possible. Though I gotta say, I’m not a fan of the Mexican Papaya (Carica) which frequents the fruit mixes (Hawaiian is fine). To me (though others seem to like it), it has a bile-ish smell and aftertaste. Maybe I need more chili and lemon. It is too bad really, because the giant fruit is cheap and easy to come by in the markets around my house.

  6 Responses to “INS adventures and bile.”

  1. It really sounds like they were being dicks to me. And what’s up with not being able to use the internet? That could probably be one of their best resources.

  2. In a security officer’s thinking, no internet means next to no chance of outside hacks or viruses. I think it is SOP for most govt offices.

    You’re right though, they are killing off a tool that would make it much easier to do their jobs, especially these days. If anything they should at least have a few terminals with net access that are not connected to the network.

  3. What a bunch of pricks. I can’t believe you guys have to go through all that. Doesn’t the entire process seem like you’re on trial?

  4. Completely. Since then I’ve talked to people that didn’t even called for interviews, which makes my experience even more crazy.

  5. For my wife Rosario and I, we hired a lawyer. The lawyer prepared us in advance and told us what to bring (photo album, bills with both names, shared bank account, credit cards, receipts of items bought together, etc) The lawyer actually “represented” us in the interview. It was pretty smooth because our lawyer was good. The lawyer knew the INS officer by name, and they chatted about parasailing throughout our interview.

    The most peculiar thing to me is how they judge what “marriage” is supposed to look like. What if we didn’t want joined bank accounts? What if we didn’t own a camera or didn’t hire an photographer for our wedding? Sometimes I don’t know who is more paranoid, me or Uncle Sam.

  6. You are exactly right, Nathan. It seems likely that if you don’t follow the traditional rules of marriage, you will have a rough time with the INS.

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