I think the universe decided to play a cruel joke on us since I had the gall to say in my last USCIS related post, “USCIS can make you want to tear your hair out, but sometimes things actually work out” Ha, ha, ha.
So P and I departed the US for Nepal last Friday with the understanding that P’s I-131 Advanced Parole travel documents had been approved by USCIS, that his authorization card had been printed, and was making its way to us through the mail. This allows P to travel outside the US while he has an application for Permanent Residence (Green Card) pending without worry that his application will be affected/abandoned due to his departure from the country.
On Sunday our friend D, who was charged with checking our mail for P’s USCIS documents while we were gone and Fedex-ing them to Nepal, sent me an email that said, “So I checked the mail…you received his Employment Authorization Card. I checked it to make sure that the name and DOB are correct. But I also found that it says ‘NOT VALID FOR REENTRY TO US’. Was it supposed to be like that? Please confirm.”
What the hell…
I figured he must be reading it wrong, there had to be Advanced Parole information on that freaking card after harassing our local congressman for nearly a month to get the paperwork properly processed. I asked our friend to send us a scan of the card, and it included those unfortunate words, “Not valid for re-entry to the US.”
So I quickly fired off an email to the congressional liaison who I had contacted before to expedite P’s Advanced Parole, as well as the immigration lawyer that I originally asked advice from, indicating I would call on Monday morning their time.
At 10am US time I called the congressional liaison, and of course she didn’t pick up the phone, so I left a message. I called the immigration lawyer’s office next, and was told he didn’t work on Mondays.
Next, out of desperation, I called the Customer Service Number on the USCIS website.
I wasn’t particularly enthusiastic to do this. My boss jokingly refers to that number as “1-800-miss-information” since the people who answer the phone have very limited details about any particular case. Generally the person who answers will ask for your case number and pretty much type the case number into the “check my status” section of the USCIS website (the same website that you just accessed to look up the USCIS Customer Service Number), and read the screen off to you. I can do that from Nepal myself for far cheaper than the 2 Nepali Rupees a minute it was going to cost me to call their 1-800 number.
When the computerized system answered the phone I tried to “Press 1 for English” but the system wasn’t recognizing the prompt from P’s dad’s cell phone. So I had to sit through the menu three times before finally being connected to the default Spanish language line. Once the agent picked up my held call he started introducing himself in Spanish. I had to stop him and explain, “I am calling from Nepal, the system is not registering the numbers I am pressing, I need to speak to someone about a problem with my husband’s Advance Parole document.”
He asked me for P’s case number, and like I expected, he probably typed this into USCIS.gov website and read to me what was on the screen, the same screen I too was looking at. I stopped him right there, explaining:
There is more to this issue than what the USCIS website is saying—
On September 14th I received an email from the [USCIS] Missouri Service Center, forwarded from our congressional representative, that stated that both my husband’s I-131 Advanced Parole and I-765 work authorization applications had been approved and that their authorizations were being printing and sent to us shortly.
It indicated in the email that a single card [known as a “combo card’] would be sent that had both the traditional I-765 (work authorization) information as well as a notification at the bottom of the card that says, ‘Serves as I-512 Advanced Parole.’
However after this email was sent, when we checked the USCIS website it only said the I-765 has been approved, and that the I-131 application was still pending. At the time we didn’t think much of this since we knew the Combo Cards came on an amended I-765 and figured this was the reason for the conflicting information on the USCIS website.
But we received an authorization card in the mail on Saturday, and it is only a traditional I-765 card that says ‘Not valid for re-entry to the US,’ not a combo card that includes his Advance Parole.
So does this mean there has been a mistake and USCIS sent us the wrong thing? Or is a second card coming? Has the I-131 even been approved, because we left the US with the understanding that his travel authorization had been approved.
The agent supposedly made notes in P’s record then said he had to forward my call to the regular customer service line for more information. While I was on hold waiting for the call to transfer, P’s dad’s phone ran out of credit and disconnected me.
After P’s dad added more credit I had to call back and start from scratch, again automatically connecting to the Spanish language line. After explaining that I had just called and was disconnected and that someone had made notes in my husband’s record (and because it is P’s application, not mine, I had to keep putting him on the phone to verify, “Yes, I’m P P and I am her husband, and she has permission to talk to you about my paperwork.”) the new agent said she still had to hear the issue, make notes and transfer me.
So I launched into my speech a second time.
And again, as I suspected, she had to transfer me to the main customer service line. I asked her if the next person will know about my situation, or would I have to explain again, and she said I would have to explain again.
I was put on hold for a good fifteen minutes (so now I’ve been calling the US long distance from KTM for about forty five minutes) before another woman picked up the phone. Added to the fact that I had to completely explain myself again, and put P on the phone for authorization to talk on his behalf, this woman also couldn’t hear me properly, saying the line was disturbed, but that she couldn’t give me a direct line to call her back. If I hung up and reconnected I would have to start from scratch again with the Spanish line. I pleaded with her that I was calling from Nepal, had already been on the phone 45 minutes, and couldn’t bare to start again, and started yelling into the phone so she could understand me.
After explaining everything in detail, she, of course, also had no additional information, and had to connect me to someone else who would “have more information on this specific case.” I was put on hold for about fifteen-twenty more minutes.
The next person I was connected to had an even harder time understanding me, causing me to have to yell louder into the phone (mind you it’s quite late in the evening in Nepal at this point). Again I had to explain the situation, and put P on the phone for authorization. Added to all of this, this particular agent was talking to me like I was a crazed idiot.
“Of course his I-131 was approved.” He chided.
ME: “But sir, we have conflicting information—from the service center and from USCIS.gov.”
“No, it’s approved.” He said curtly, “You should know, you already received his card.”
ME: “But we were sent the wrong card, it is only his work authorization—I-765—not his Advanced Parole.”
“Why do you think it is not also his Advanced Parole? It should be, the combo card has both authorizations.”
ME: “That is the problem, it is not a combo card.”
“How do you know?”
ME: “It says, ‘not authorized for re-entry to the US.’”
“It shouldn’t say that, it should say, ‘Serves as Advanced Parole’ Are you sure it doesn’t say that.”
ME: “It doesn’t say anything about Advanced Parole anywhere on the whole document, that’s the problem! [I then read the authorization card word for word] So are they sending another card or do we need to do something to have another card reissued?”
He put me on hold for another ten minutes before returning.
“If that is the case, USCIS will issue a new card by October 11, and if you do not receive anything call USCIS back. You will receive a notice in the mail to explain what to do. Is this all today ma’am?”
ME: “I’m not completely clear. Is there something I need to do to get the new card or is the card printing automatic?”
“You will receive a mailing, I suggest you wait for the mailing, and call us on October 11 if you do not receive anything.”
ME: “So sir, the card should arrive by the 11th or the instructions to get the card?”
“Wait until October 11th” he said, sounding increasingly more agitated as he went along until this last statement when he promptly hung up on me. I had been on the phone for almost two complete hours calling long distance from the other side of the world. The least this guy could do was wait until I understood.
The whole time P’s parents sat in the room with us, listening to the conversation and fretting that P’s documents were in grave jeopardy. While I was on hold, I would try to explain P’s situation to them.
So now we don’t know. Our friend D is still on USCIS paperwork lookout duty, but it is possible P won’t be able to come back with me now. He will be stuck in Nepal until the correct “combo card” is printed and sent.