Mistakes were made

New York City meets Munich

What do June showers bring?

June 4th, 2003 · No Comments · Uncategorized

In my foolish youth, I once spent all night with a small group of equally stupid friends in line at the Providence Civic Center. Our mission: tickets to see Rush.

I think all white geek boys in the 80s enjoyed Rush to one degree or other, though I was no huge fan. I went mostly for the experience of waiting in line. That, and to sell some of the primo tickets we were sure to score.

We got sixth row, front and center. I’m not sure what was more fun: the concert, or the process of getting the tickets.

This would probably be the first and last time that waiting in line for something would be a positive experience. This morning only verified this.

My wifeWho is Conny is from Germany, in case you didn’t know. Marrying a foreign national means there are papers to file and months to wait until the Government sends documents saying “You may stay here legally”, “You may work here”, “You can open a bank account,” and also “You may leave the country and reenter.”

It is that last one which was becoming a sticking point. “Advance Parole” is document allowing a person who is having paperwork processed the right to return to the United States. We knew when we sent in all our forms and papers months ago that we’d need to travel to Europe this month. We filed for advance parole. As of today, we still don’t have it.

What we do have is a little yellow slip of paper, which looks like a cash register receipt. It’s our proof that the Government has our money and our paperwork. Any other office in the United States would have included an ID number for us to track our case, with an automated phone line. In New York City, they don’t even give you that. You have no option but to wait.

We knew that it is possible to visit our local Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services office to apply for an emergency advance parole, but you must prove that there is an emergency. That means a death certificate or a doctor’s note (translated into English, of course.)

Lying to the Government is not an option. They are a humorless lot. Our only choice is to go and weep openly before a Federal clerk, and hope for a miracle.

That is why we woke up before 4AM this morning. To go get in line in front of the New York BCIS office. Doors open at 7:30am, and we got there before 5AM. There were already about fifty people in line.

There was a flood watch in effect today, due to the torrential rains, and we got to experience it first hand for three hours. I had to send Conny View definition in a new window home to get warmer shoes and clothes, and to fetch me a sweater while I held our place shivering under the umbrella.

I swore the calendar says “June” but who can tell? At least the rain modulated a bit, from heavy rain to downpour. By the time we shuffled through security around 8, we were completely soaked.

We had read up in advance on what documents and photos we would need for the advance parole, and where to go. The official website listed the wrong office number for advance parole applications, but that wasn’t hard to remedy. The queue was short but slow, though shortly after 9am we got to a clerk.

We handed her the woman behind the counter the paperwork.

“Reason for travel?” she asked.

“Special family event,” Conny said.

A woman behind the counter agent appeared. “We can’t process that. You need to file by mail for non-emergency travel.”

“But we did. Several months ago.” I offered.

“Do you have the yellow slip?” the clerk asked. “Let me see it.”

I showed it to her. She examined the dates. She took our application, though she said we could hold on to the photographs, and told us to sit down. We’d be called when they were ready to speak to us next.

Turns out that if you file for advance parole, and do not receive a response in 75 days, you may appear at the office to collect it. This fact is documented nowhere on any of the BCIS literature. Even the immigration lawyer I spoke to before going wasn’t aware of this. So you heard it hear first.

We sat and waited, trying to make out the names they called every now and then. We took turns sneaking out to the bathroom and seeking out food. Hours went by. Finally, at 2PM they called Conny. The woman hands Conny and instruction sheet and starts explaining to her that she’ll need to go get photos taken to a precise specification.

“I have the photos already.” Conny said. She hands them to the clerk.

“We’ll call your name.”

More sitting. More waiting. After over an hour, they mumble Conny’s name into the microphone. We go up, and find ourselves the proud possessors of an advance parole document. My wife can travel freely now.

Now we can go on holiday. And it only took ten hours of waiting around. Never have I felt like I had gotten such value for my tax dollars.

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