Red Tape and Pure Hope

I cried at work today.

I hate crying at work. It is worse than crying in front of strangers, and is perhaps exacerbated by the fact that I am a teacher. Kids are sweet and curious creatures, and little distresses them more than a teacher in distress. So, when I showed up for afternoon sport with my tear-stained face and red eyes, concerned students lined up to ask if I was okay. Two even did the ‘Friday Feeling’ dance to cheer me up (this involves a very dorky hip wiggle and some equally dorky arm waving – it makes them laugh, at me, when I do it each Friday). It didn’t work. It just made me cry more.

You see, I heard from the U.S. government today.

They received my application for a green card (good). It is in the queue to receive a green card (pretty good). They are currently processing green card applications prior to March 2002. No, that is not a typo. And yes, that means there is a 6 and a 1/2 year wait list (not good at all).

Suddenly, all the plans that Ben and I are making, including where we will live, seemed to flush themselves down a giant toilet. All I could think was ‘my friends go home to their significant others every night, and I don’t’. The weight of that feeling crashed down on me as I imagined another year or two or three of this long distance arrangement.

I called Ben. He responded as someone does when they are side-swiped. That was 8 hours ago.

Since then I have spoken with my mother (the American – not that the Americans seem to care much about that VERY close family connection) thrice, and she has sent a couple of strongly-worded emails to the American government. I am pretty sure these will not make ANY difference, but I think they made her feel better.

I have also spoken to hopeful friends, and helpful friends (and in times like these, hopeful and helpful are equally welcome). And I got a lovely email from my bestest friend (yes, Ben) also telling me to stay hopeful.

With all this hope and support keeping me buoyant (not to mention two glasses of a very nice Barossa Valley Shiraz), I have searched through website after website trawling for ways to circumnavigate the machinations of a slowly turning government agency. I think I have found my answer.

The E-3 visa is a new kid on the block, and is open only to Australians who have a university degree, AND who have a job offer in the U.S. I have two out of three, so all I need now is someone stateside to take a chance on an Aussie girl who is bright, hard-working, resourceful, and creative. Oh, and the biggest plus: the E-3 takes about 2 days to secure an interview, and about 30 days to process.

So, now I (hopefully) line up interviews for my September/October visit to Seattle. Then, (hopefully) I will find an employer who sees the benefits of hiring a brilliant Aussie woman, who just happens to have some red tape stuck to the bottom of her shoe.

Green (card) = Red (tape)

I want a green card.

Not a thick piece of paper coloured green, but permission to live and work in the USA indefinitely.

More accurately, I want my third green card, because I have already had two. I got my first when I was ten, because my mother relocated my sister and me to the U.S. I got my second when I was 19, because I relocated myself to the U.S. Within 2 years of getting the second one, I realised that I could not support myself stateside AND attend university, so I returned to Oz and the card expired.

Now I want another one.

Ben has secured a terrific position in his chosen profession, and will be moving to Seattle within the next couple of months. I am completely proud of him, and wholly support his decision to accept the job. And because we are both over the commute (to see each other), I will be joining him in Seattle at the end of the year – green card pending.

Stage One
On arrival to Perth last week, my mum and I sat down and pored over the forms and requirements for the green card application. She will petition on my behalf as she is a U.S. citizen and fortuitously, my mother. We spent the better part of two days filling in forms, assembling documents, making phone calls, and double checking websites to ensure that our delivery of the application to the consulate would go smoothly.

On the third day, armed with a thick folder of every document relating to our family history, and all forms painstakingly completed, we drove into the city. After 35 minutes of searching we opted for a one hour parking space. The consulate only accepts these applications for three hours a day, four days a week, and we didn’t want to miss our window.

We walked briskly to the building and caught the elevator to the fourth floor. We then endured a 15 minute security check, where we were stripped of everything but our clothes and our documents. Into another elevator, we rose to the 13th floor, and went through security again.

We waited in the inner sanctum, and when it was our turn, the woman nodded and smiled as she accepted all our forms. A frown formed on her pleasant face as she read through them. The forms we had filled out in quadruplicate – there was a problem. Yes, each form was identical, except for the 3 letter code on the bottom left. We should not have filled in the first form and printed it four times. She gave us new copies. 4 each. We stood at high benches and used crappy pens – attached with chains to the bench – to fill them out. Again. Our pens, my mum’s glasses, and my sanity were all locked away downstairs.

Just as mum was about to faint and I was about to cry from the cramps in my hands, we finished and returned to the counter. The pleasant lady completed our transaction, and told us that ‘they’ would go through my forms and documents, and then send me the next batch.

The only thing left was to pay for the application. When I was about to sign the credit card slip, I spotted the amount in Australian dollars, and queried it. “Oh, I see,” I said, noticing the incorrect exchange rate, “you have the Aussie dollar at only 85 cents. It’s 96 cents at the moment.”

“Oh,” she said smiling pleasantly, “that is the amount set by our financial manager.”

“But he doesn’t set the exchange rate – the world market does,” I said, laughing incredulously.

She shrugged as pleasantly as she smiled. “That’s the rate he set.” I was dumbstruck, but was not going to labour the point, as ultimately I want ‘them’ to let me in to their country. Mum and I shook our heads as we walked out, amazed at the arrogance.

Wrung out we walked back to the car, knowing we had overstayed our one hour limit. A nice fat $50 ticket sat smugly on the window. I used my millionth expletive for the day as we got into the car.

Stage one was completed.

I have no idea what the next stages will hold, or how many there will be, but I am steeling myself, because I want a green card, and I will do whatever ‘they’ ask to get it.

And I must say that my mum is a champion, because she says she will do whatever ‘they’ ask too.

Thanks, mum.