Org Prep Daily

October 1, 2007

Don’t panic – We will serve you!

Filed under: Uncategorized — milkshake @ 6:24 pm

mantis2.jpg credit:Zooillogix

There is an interview-exam that one takes when applying for US citizenship and one of the questions that came up was to name the benefits of becoming a US citizen. (One can vote, work for government, etc). The most obvious answer to this question was: “As a US citizen I cannot be harassed or deported for some arbitrary reason by government officials and I won’t have to deal with your bloody retarded immigration administration ever again.”  I kept that extended answer to myself.

Even as the citizenship application process was an unpleasant experience and took almost a year to complete (the immigration officials “could not locate” my file – but only for 3 months), getting my green card ten years ago was far more nerve-wrecking business. I had a legal help since my employer sponsored me but I felt like naked and pushing through a scrub whenever I had to see the immigration officials: It was clear from their demeanor that I had no legal rights to get my visa/residency approved, that I could be removed from the country should they decide to do so – with or without a reason – and there are always some government regulations to provide such a reason in ways that even Franz Kafka could not have imagined.  I figured out that the actual role of the immigration officials is to keep out as many applicants as possible, and that it does not trouble them if few applicants are left hanging in limbo or pushed into the “out” group as a matter of a routine error of the immigration administration…

Getting up before the sunrise to stand in a line in front of the imigration office at 5:30 am (they opened at 9 am) to make it to the window already at 10:30am and turn the paperwork in – and then being told (incorrectly) that I needed to come back again with additional forms and documents – was just the initial experience. Being called for a hearing that was  canceled on the day of the appointment was another good one (my wife was doing internship in New York and she had to fly to this appointment to Arizona – twice because the nice people in Tucson office found it more convenient to re-schedule our hearing without sharing the news). Having friends who were removed from US did not attenuate my immigration-related paranoia either. (Husband and wife, both physicians, with 3 kids. He was a tenure-track assistant prof at university, she was a staff physician at a hospital. Their employers were sponsoring their H visa but the necessary J-to-H-visa waiver was denied by the immigration). Then another friend lost her job at Reuters in Boston and was doing an unpaid intern for 5 months because she had to re-new her J-visa-related work permit at the end of her first year in US. (But the immigration office did not care to process her renewal papers – which she turned in 3 months in advance). Also, practically every immigration official that I met came across as surly and tense, underpaid and overworked, and behaving like a postal worker about to turn serial.

My theory is that the original immigration rules were based perhaps on some common-sense reasoning but over the years the system got subverted by the changing agendas and got loaded with generous heaps bureacracy. It is now chaotic, inefficient and extremely slow and probably there is some political calculation in keeping it so. It works now like an obstacle course: the luckiest, the most persistant and informed applicants make it trough but others will not – and any idiotic reason is good for the purpose of keeping some immigrants out.

If you are US-born and if you had no personal experience with US immigration officials and if you think that I am exaggerating, please consider the experience that some people get at a DMV office or a courthouse. They could write about it in newspaper and complain to their senator,  go to another DMV office, and the worst misfortune that could befall them is a licence driving exam delayed for weeks. The US immigration is rarely held responsible for its mistakes, it gets away with screwing up lives, ruining careers and splitting families. It is certainly the most awful institution that I got to know since the end of communism.

I just learned that I have been approved and will have the oath-taking ceremony this Wednesday. It has been a huge relief for all the described reasons and also for being able to travel outside the US again.  And now that I won’t be deported I think I may try out some herbal remedies to celebrate.



  1. congrats!!!
    (love the mantis pic, by the way…cute!)

    Comment by Ψ*Ψ — October 1, 2007 @ 6:39 pm

  2. Milk,

    This is fantastic news! I know a lot of people who are still in the H/J visa maze who are filled with anxiety over their prospects here. Good to hear you were approved.

    Comment by Milo — October 1, 2007 @ 10:02 pm

  3. Congratulations. On behalf of damn near everybody I know, I’m sorry for the pain in the * that CIS/INS is.

    Comment by Klug — October 2, 2007 @ 9:53 am

  4. Thank you for the well wishes and don’t worry about the immigration administration, it is not your fault that they do not foster the customer satisfaction – I bet the US Department of Corrections gets even worse reviews. (I did not have the pleasure to compare)

    Comment by milkshake — October 2, 2007 @ 10:31 am

  5. Many congratulations. As a US citizen, now you will just be harrassed more (unexpected searches at airports, wiretapping of phone etc.)

    Comment by Wavefunction — October 2, 2007 @ 5:14 pm

  6. No he won’t, Wavefunction. He doesn’t look like wunnadem Mooslems.

    Comment by excimer — October 2, 2007 @ 6:41 pm

  7. That’s exactly why!! 😉

    Comment by Wavefunction — October 3, 2007 @ 10:27 am

  8. I’ve personally been responsible for two people leaving their jobs/studies in the country… to go to Canada. After I told them how much easier it is to immigrate there and that it takes 1/3 as long, they read up on it and jumped ship. Apparently for them, either Canada or the United States will do as a Western country in which one can be employed as a chemist. I guess you had more important reasons to become a citizen of the United States, but it doesn’t make sense that we should treat educated citizens of the European Union this badly.

    Comment by blatnoi — October 3, 2007 @ 11:42 am

  9. We are from the government. We are here to help ourselves to you. We have come for a piece of all mankind.

    Comment by Uncle Al — October 3, 2007 @ 12:19 pm

  10. Congratulations.

    But now we can’t hire you hear at crappy biotech. Without the fear of deportation we’d actually have to treat people decently to make them stay…

    Comment by atompusher — October 3, 2007 @ 5:11 pm

  11. if you don’t mind me asking, what is the situation with regards to working in a technical position in the US as a foreign citizen? is it a “two years and you’re out” type thing (like the UK), or is it more mysterious?

    Comment by kiwi — October 4, 2007 @ 5:37 am

  12. No, apart from a modest salary, I was actually treated quite nicely at my first company, initially. Normal pushy boss etc but nothing bad – and they sponsored my green card. The situation got complicated when I was admitted to a grad school while working for the company with my green card still in process. My boss (whom I had to ask for a school reference letter) unfortunately told everyone about it, bragging that he got me to Harvard. Shortly after he left, our management changed and the new director thought they should stop sponsoring me because I would be leaving. I told them that I never said that I would leave, that they should not believe the rumors and even though I was admitted I changed my mind about going to school and I am staying. And they had the obligation to complete the green card while I was working for them, that it was the company HR policy and I was given this promise when I was accepting the job (that I would get sponsored after 2 years with the company). And that the process was nearly completed and if they turn back on their promise I would have to start a legal action against the company. So you can imagine the situation – siting at the table with the site director, our HR and one HR superboss called from headquarters in Kansas City to deal with the problem (she kept repeating: “this is most unusual situation”.) But they budged in the end, and I postponed the grad school (the school gave me a 1 year leave of absence) and I got my green card and my wife got her work permit and in the end I think the management was quite happy with me since I finished some work that probably helped to keep the company from being closed down by its new corporate masters.

    Comment by milkshake — October 4, 2007 @ 1:21 pm

  13. Ver interesting. So you finally went to grad school?

    Comment by Maverick — October 4, 2007 @ 1:41 pm

  14. Yes, but then I got fired from the school, deservedly I should say. (I had classes and cumes taken so they gave me MS for my time served. And I ended up on two JACS papers for my 3 months of summer intern there before the school so I don’t complain.)

    Comment by milkshake — October 4, 2007 @ 2:20 pm

  15. Hard to believe that someone like you got fired from school! Did you burn down a building?

    Comment by Maverick — October 4, 2007 @ 3:05 pm

  16. No, I just got stuck in my thesis, and was pretty depressed going through the divorce and so on. I burned my motivation, not a building. The ironic thing is that with the recent bad job situtation in industry, I have had much easier time looking for jobs than many of my PhD colleagues

    Comment by milkshake — October 4, 2007 @ 3:31 pm

  17. Congratulations. Try not to get drafted!

    Comment by Great Molecular Crapshoot — October 5, 2007 @ 7:18 pm

  18. I would put my life in line defending this country as I took the oath to do that. I also believe that one should be circumspect of the government intentions and competency.

    Comment by milkshake — October 5, 2007 @ 8:52 pm

  19. War is the continuation of politics by other means- Carl von Clausewitz.
    You are being generous when using the word “circumspect”

    Comment by Wavefunction — October 5, 2007 @ 11:45 pm

  20. Welcome!
    Re #2, I’ve had experiences with DoC (once removed – not first-hand!). I’d say that they have more silly and stupid rules, but they mostly tell you about them, you don’t have to guess. The people are about equally as petty and nasty as you describe. So it’s probably a toss-up between INS and DoC.

    Comment by Karl — October 8, 2007 @ 9:48 am

  21. I certainly feel your pain. My husband just got his Green Card on September 4, 2007. It basically was like a pregnancy–it took 9 months and was extremely painful. He wasn’t allowed in the US while the application was processing, and I’m a grad student with limited travel resources, so we went quite a long time without seeing each other. The time and money involved were almost enough to convince us just to give up and move to Germany (where he is from).

    Comment by Amanda — October 11, 2007 @ 9:33 pm

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