Immigration is a privilege

This post originally appeared on Feministing. I have re-written it slightly to bring it up to date.

A hour and a half on the road, rush hour traffic, a wrong turn and a meeting with an INS agent later, and I’m ready to become a citizen. It’s been almost five years since this whole mess began, and I keep thinking how fortunate I am, because there are many ways that the process could have been worse.

Firstly, I’m a white Canadian.  ‘Nuff said.

Money.  I’m sure most of you are already aware of this, but immigrating is not cheap.  We spent at least a grand for years ago for my adjustment of status to resident alien–this includes not just the fees for filing (which went up soon after) but also a retainer for a lawyer, fees for a medical checkup and biometrics, and probably a few other minor things I’m forgetting about.  It cost us another $500 for the renewal, including another round of biometrics, then $700 for naturalisation (and MORE biometrics. How many copies of my fingerprints do they need?).  We could have possibly skipped the lawyer, but we wanted to be sure we did everything right–the process can be confusing, and it’s not always easy to figure out just what is required of you. That’s upwards of $2000 for a single person.

A good job.  Not me, my husband.  First of all, we had to prove that we were financially positioned to support ourselves (this one nearly bit us in the butt from lack of a cosigner, but thankfully the process took longer than expected, so he could get his taxes filed for his first year out of university).  Secondly, he had to take time off work a couple times during the process for various things, mainly stuff involving driving me places (his truck at the time was a stick, dammit), but he did need to be present for our interview.  Fortunately, the lawyer didn’t, which saved us some money there.  And finally, since I couldn’t work during the initial process (permission for that would have cost more than it may have been worth), he was able to support both of us on his salary.

Independent transportation.  Well, not really, since my husband drove me most of the time (including a last minute break from work when my ride got stuck in traffic, so I could make the second part of my medical exam).  The medical exam required two appointments two days apart, and needed to be performed by a certified doctor. There’s exactly three doctors in this city of a quarter million people that are able to do this.  We also had to go to Omaha five times, which is an hour away, as that’s the nearest DHS office to us.  I’m not sure how we would have managed if my husband didn’t have his own vehicle and the ability to take time off work.

Health.  I needed to undergo a doctor’s evaluation, as well as prove that I was up to date on my vaccinations. Fortunately I have no real medical issues.

Heterosexuality.  Not an immigration issue per se, but since the whole point was to be able to live with the man I love, a definite bonus for us–our options basically boiled down to ‘get married’.  Had I fallen for a woman instead, we’d’ve been screwed.

I’m sure I’m missing things, but these are the major ones I can identify.  Had any one of these things been different, I have no doubt that the process would have been more difficult, if not impossible.  If I were a POC from a different country, the interview would have probably been harder, and we would have probably wound up paying extra to have
our lawyer with us.  If my husband didn’t have as good a job, there’s a number of ways that could have made it harder.

The process for us was pretty straightforward, but it was still nerve-wreaking at times, and often frustrating as there was a lot of waiting involved–the initial process took 9 months start to finish, the renewal 5 or 6, and naturalisation another 5-6.  I don’t want to touch on the issue of illegal immigration, because the whole thing is a cluster, but I will say
this–being on the inside of the process gave us a new understanding of it.

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