Wednesday, 28 April 2010

The Trials and Tribulations of a Green Card Wannabe

"I need to see more evidence of your Maryland address."
"Oh no, this is just our mailing address, for the tour you see, Cory is an actor, we are travelling and-"
"I need more evidence of your Maryland base."
"I didn't make myself clear, sorry. You see this is just a -"
"I can't give you a green card if you can't prove you live in Maryland."

Thus began our doomed green card interview.

After expensive flights, a night at our old Baltimore haunt, a somewhat premature celebratory dinner at our favourite sushi joint the night before, we left Federal Hall numbed with disbelief. How could we have flunked the test so royally?! How could it have taken this strange turn after the upbeat pep talk with our lawyer all of 24 hours earlier. Did I miss the part on the application form that said the address you give MUST be the one where you reside? Obviously. This is usually what addresses appertain to. Two disgruntled and somewhat damp actors bedraggled their sorry selves into the gloomy Baltimorean morning trying their best to soak up the playful energy of their son, now free to run. Looking back I am grateful that our lawyer was in LA. With the time difference we had no choice but to wait two hours before his office was open. I think if I had spoken to him directly I would have come across more truck driver than compliant green card wannabe. Certainly every curse word flew through my mind as the dreadful realisation that months of preparation had culminated in an aborted trip. A simple mistake, albeit a rather obvious one in hindsight, threw me into depths of anger that I like to visit but rarely.
"I am so sorry," I offered the immigration officer, "At no time were we lead to believe that giving Cory's working address would jeopardise my eligibility. We thought this was the safest way to receive communication from you. To avoid delays. We were always under the understanding that the most important thing to prove was our marriage." No doubt I turned in a lowsy job of hiding my frustration.
"Excuse me." was her reply as she left the room to talk with a supervisor.
On her return, and, to be fair, with a somewhat more collaborative attitude (she had to do good and bad cop I spose) she explained that she would agree to carry on with the interview but that my green card would not be issued until such time as we could prove our ties to Maryland.
"We can't do that." answered Cory
"I am going to carry on with the rest of the interview now." she answered.
"I have a house in upstate New York does this help?"
"It shows residence ties yes but in New York state. You would have to move your case to the New York office."
"How long will this take?"
"I don't know. I will carry on with the rest of the interview now."
On she ploughed, verifying that I was neither Nazi, communist or terrorist and, after handing me a green piece of paper (oh the irony) which I was to return in 30 days with proof of our financial and residence ties to the country we were asked to leave her office to face the drizzle outside. I really wanted to kick everything in foot's distance on the way out. I was just in one of those rational frames of mind.

Cut to my angry facebook update an hour later over lunch and an almost immediate response from a very close friend who knew of a kindly man who works for a congressman, who, having heard of our plight, was eager to help. There I was, a little later, in the middle of what was supposed to be a celebratory hair chop with my favourite hairdresser down the Little Italy way, fiercely emailing said man with details of our case, the immigration officer who saw us and other requested details. By the next day Baltimore office had been spoken to by said man. Two days later he had had a private phone conference with the administrator batting for us and attempting to clear up the confusion which culminated in the decision to move our case to New York. Four days later our files had arrived in the new office and on the fifth day we had been called with a rescheduled appointment on Cory's day off. In Buffalo. It is true what they say. It's who you know.

Good people like these who fly in, angel like, in times of crisis. All the while we scramble for a file load of bills and papers to prove our financial and residence ties, calling on favours of friends to scan, fax and photocopy them, as the clock ticks and ticks away the time we have to secure my eligibility to travel for my best friend's wedding. I don't want to picture me saying goodbye to my boys at the airport as they jet off for ten days with family leaving me behind in the distance. People at my in-law's church are praying for me. My friend and mum are reiki-ing. People send us their best wishes.

It was not until 9am on Monday April 26th that either Cory or I could breathe a sigh of relief. We left number 130 Delaware avenue, downtown Buffalo, with a pretty stamp on my passport to permit immigration officers to let me in on our return, and a green card on its way. I don't think joy was what we were feeling exactly. More relief. Gratitude. Overwhelmed at the kindness and generosity of our friends. We have no idea how you can repay that kind of gesture, other than perhaps to be ready for when the same is required of us.

I have been the recipient of American spirit at its finest. Bravery. Energy. Efficiency. Generosity. An instinct to fight the cause. The utter, unswerving belief in freedom, opportunty for all. Many are those who knock this country for its historical and cultural immaturity, but all I know, is that when Cory and I needed help more than ever, it was there. Humanity transcends boundaries of every sort. Our friend has assured us he expects nothing in return, "This is my job. It's what I do everyday. I get great pleasure in doing what I do. I get to delve into the lives of others. Face their difficulties. Fight for them. Share their joy. I get to really help people. That's enough for me." Course you know, my Italian side rears it's head, as I wonder, if years down the line we will suddenly be asked for some incredibly difficult favour in return. I hush it gently. No doubt Dad will presume him a Mason....

Whatever so, we say thanks to him, our friends and the workings of the universe that put us through the ups and downs so that we really feel we have earned this! Now the new challenge of creating residences in both places. Of really setting to work on our transatlantic dream. And I don't mean cultivating that grating twang most Brits develop after some time over here, even if, I will admit to asking for waddderr for the simple reason that waTer never gets me understood till the fifth attempt by which time any waiter is no longer pleased to help me and is silently not wishing me a nice day.

But nice days is exactly what we have been having here in Boston-land. If I ever thought Washington DC felt like London then Boston is the same but ten fold. The Georgian streets are breathtakingly red bricked and bay windowed. The cluster of boutiques and such along Beacon Hill a delight to the eye and the Boston Common, a hop and a skip from our hotel, dotted with 17th century graves gives a palpable gravitas to the place. Akin to London. You can really feel the history here. Quincy market, in all its cobbled piazza-ness harkening to covent garden, street performers and art stalls included. Newbury street with its clash of designer stores and thrift shops a whisper of Marylebone or Notting Hill. The grandoise of the houses clustered around manicured squares, mirror images of the back streets of Bayswater or New Bond street. It is all so familiar, and induces a welcome home-sickness, that allow myself to wallow in for fleeting moments in the knowledge that I can soak me up some London living in a few days time, albeit for just over a week. Just enough perhaps to enjoy the highlights of my town, chinwag with ma n' pa, watch my best mate strut down the aisle trying my best not to break into tears during the reading she has given me to say. Pint at the Hollybush perhaps. Quick trip into the BBC to see my producer and record a few lines of dialogue for the comedy children's series I completed back in September. Just enough of a breather before we start jaunting around the mid west....

For now, I kick back and send out a prayer of thanks for our little journey so far. In all aspects. Now to plan the green card celebration bash for tomorrow night. Have some ideas on a concoction involving food colouring for my own green card cocktail. It's gonna take new-immigrant parties by storm, I can just feel it. May have to iron out some teeth-staining issues...

I gaze about our huge suite and wonder how I will resist becoming accustomed to this luxurious way of life. Mind you, we never pretended we were living reality.

There's plenty of time for that.


  1. wow! how nerve-wracking! congratulations after all that.

  2. I am glad that you discovered a way to get the deed done and sorry that it cost you money and emotional wear. I'm thrilled that the green card is now yours and that you are just a wee bit more ours.

    Again thank you for writing the story so well. You had me yelling at those who unroll the red tape. You did a good job of keeping your success as a surprise until the right moment in your blog.

    Also, you will get plenty of opportunities to pass the good deed along. I don't think that the call will come in some night instructing you to whack someone to pay back the favor.

    Keep your card close to you if you travel to Arizona and for goodness sake don't look suspicious. : )