Tag Archives: Permanent Residence

USCIS Round Seven… “But I saw it with my own eyes!”

Round OneRound TwoRound ThreeRound FourRound FiveRound Six, Round Seven, Round Eight

Yesterday morning P and I woke up, got ready, and at 7:35 (I gave the USCIS office staff 5 minutes to get inside, take off their coats, get a cup of coffee and boot up their computers) I called the Lawrence USCIS Field Office.

When I called on Friday afternoon I heard a recording that stated their business hours were 7:30am-3:30pm Monday through Friday, so I figured that was why I got the recording (It was 3:31pm on Friday). However I got the same recording at 7:35 Monday morning. I slowed down and listened to the whole message and realized that it gave me 4 options: 1) if I had someone’s direct extension we could dial it and potentially reach a real human being, 2) if we had to schedule an appointment we could call the 1-800-misinformation number, 3) if we had information about something suspicious I could call a different number, or 4) if we don’t fit into any of these categories, tough luck.

After listening two or three times I realized that “Terry” from Friday afternoon did not give P a direct extension, so even though we had a phone number to this impenetrable office we were still stuck.

I wasn’t sure what to do, so in a stroke of crazed frustration/genius I said to P, “Let’s start dialing random extensions to see if we can get a real person.”

I first tried “0” for a potential operator (that works for some numbers) then I tried “1,” “11,” and “111” to see if that might get us into a phone tree, or perhaps give me an idea of the number of digits in an extension. After a few four digit combos I finally pressed “7654” and Hallelujah, the phone rang!

A man picked up the phone and said, “USCIS, how can I help you?”

What I probably should have done was ask for “Terry” from Friday, but instead I briefly launched into my story about how we had a Green Card interview scheduled for Oct 31st at 9am and we got a call at the very end of the day Friday October 28th saying that my husband’s immigration file had been “misplaced” and that our interview “might” have to be rescheduled.

“I’m not sure where this leaves us or what to do next!” I said, “We didn’t have an extension and got your number through random chance, but I was hoping you could help give us some insight.”

The man said he would check the system and put me on hold for five minutes. Then he came back on and said, “Our computers show that your husband’s immigration file was never at our office. The appointment will have to be rescheduled once we receive his file.”

Whoa, wait a minute, never in their office? I knew with 100% certainty that this was not true.

“But sir, I was at the Lawrence Office on October 11th with a different issue and I spoke to someone with my husband’s file. He had P’s file right in front of me, and we looked through it at the front desk together. I know it was there. I saw it with my own eyes.” (I kept repeating this last phrase, hoping it would make the man on the phone realize that his computer was wrong, but it probably just made me sound crazy.)

“I’m sorry ma’am, but our computers have no record of his file ever being here, I don’t know what to tell you.”

“But I know that’s wrong! I saw it with my own eyes!

He sighed and said, “I don’t know what to tell you, the computer says…”

“Okay… I understand that perhaps the file might not be there now, but it was there on October 11th. I just want to know maybe what happened to it. If it was sent back to the USCIS National Benefits Center, or if it has been misplaced within your office, or something.” I could tell I was starting to lose the guy on the phone, so I tried to think of every detail… “When I walked into the Lawrence office on October 11th, I went through the metal detector, and spoke to the woman with gray hair at the front desk and showed her the UPS tracking number sent to me by USCIS for what I thought was an envelope with an immigration document delivered erroneously to your office for my husband. The packaged was signed for by someone named O’Gorman. The front desk woman went and got that guy from the back, and he said the tracking number USCIS gave me was actually for a 15 pound box full of immigration files and he got a man who he described as the ‘Number 2 man in the office’ to come out and answer my questions. The ‘Number 2 man’ had my husband’s file with him and we looked at it together. If you find Mr. O’Gorman, or the ‘Number 2 man in the office’ I’m sure they will remember this incident since I think it’s relatively unusual. Do you know who the ‘Number 2 man in the office’ is?” I asked.

“No,” he said, “Can you describe him?”

“He was pretty non-descript. Medium height, brown hair, I don’t think he had a mustache, maybe glasses. I remember he had a small dark mark like an ‘x’ near his right thumb, like a tattoo or something, but maybe it was marker, I don’t know. That’s all I noticed about him was the mark on his right hand.”

“I don’t know anyone with a small tattoo on his hand.” He said.

“I don’t know his name!” I cursed myself for not asking him when I was there, or making note of more details, I pride myself on remember details. The more I tried to see his face, the more it looked blurry in my memory. “But find O’Gorman. I know his name, it was on the UPS tracking slip. He should be able to tell you.”

The guy told me to hold for a bit, and then he put me on hold—with cheesy elevator music in the background—for an hour.

Meanwhile P and I were getting ready. I was already late for work, and we debated between staying in the house and finishing the conversation (P’s vote—“What if they find it and we have to leave immediately for the interview?”) and heading out the door for work while still cradling my cell phone between my ear and my shoulder because the phone call wasn’t getting us anywhere and there was no point missing work if nothing would happen (my vote). As we started heading out the door I asked P to try and call Extension 7654 again  on his phone to see if someone would pick up the same line so we could figure out what was happening, but no one did.

When you are on hold for so long its tough, because you don’t know what is happening on the other end. I was simultaneously imagining a trio of high level staffers standing over the “on hold” phone having a serious conversation about the gravity of losing a file and brainstorming a solution, and  a bunch of staffers chatting “The Office” style around a water cooler with coffee mugs talking about the big snow storm over the weekend and giggling about Halloween costumes.

P and I got in the car and I dropped him at a coffee shop near his work while I borrowed his cell phone to try different extensions when he was inside buying tea (for him) and hot chocolate (for me). I started dialing numbers up and down from the extension that worked. No one was picking up the phone, although they were all ringing. Finally someone did pick up, a guy with an accent.

“Hello USCIS.”

“Hello, I’m sorry to bother you, I called an hour ago to extension 7654 with a question about our immigration interview that was set for today, but I have been on hold for an hour. Is there some way to know what is happening? Should I hang up? Could you check with that extension?”

The guy barked back at me, “We don’t answer immigration questions over the phone. You have to come to our office to find out information.”

“I understand.” I said, “But I have been on hold with your office for an hour. Someone was going to answer the question but disappeared…”

I said you have to come to our office. We do not answer questions over the phone!

“I understand but…”

Click.

He hung up on me! I wanted to cry again. I just wanted to know why I was on hold. Stupid bastards.

I hung up both P’s phone and my phone that had been listening to the same elevator music for an hour and cracked the crook in my neck.

P came back with my hot chocolate and I told him what happened. I said I’d keep calling the extension I had back every hour if I had to in order to figure out what was going on. P, always less emotional and considerably calmer than me, told me that we would sort it out, and not to worry. I dropped him and Sampson off at work and drove off toward my office.

We had a freak snow storm over the weekend that left 12 inches of snow, and knocked down a bunch of trees and tree branches. A fair chunk of the city was without power (ourselves included). As I drove across the city, it looked like a war zone. I dodged tree branches while dialing back the number and extension of the guy who had me on hold for an hour and left a message for him to call me back as soon he heard something (please, please!)

When I got in to the office my boss was curious to hear more about what had happened (being that we both work with USCIS as international student advisors). I explained and he chuckled saying, “It’s not funny, but you know, when you went to their office on October 11th I bet they pulled that box out of their normal processing queue and that’s why P’s file isn’t logged in to the computers, then when they put P’s file back, the box got wedged in a corner somewhere. I bet they have a bunch of files missing right now, because you messed up P’s file and all the others in the box too!”

“So do you think it is probably at the office?” I asked.

“I bet it is, they just don’t know where, and maybe they don’t realize they have it.”

Half an hour later P called saying he finally got back in touch with “Terry” from Friday and she said that they were trying to “track the package” and that it should be back in the office “in a few days.” P explained to her that he was having knee surgery on November 8th and the surgery was scheduled, in part, around the interview, and that if it was delayed too long it would be tough for him to come in with a cast, crutches, etc. He also explained that we called in the morning and were placed on hold for an hour.

“I’m terribly sorry that happened to you.” She said, “I don’t know why someone would put you on hold for an hour. And certainly, we can try to get you in before your surgery; you shouldn’t have to add that to your worries.”

I was getting ready to call back Mr. Extension 7654 when P called me back again, he said that “Terry” was able to (miraculously!) locate his file.

“You mean it was there the whole time?” I asked.

“I guess so.” He said, “They want us to come in today at 1pm for our interview.”

“Book it!” I said, and yelled out to my boss, “They found his file! I’m sorry I have to leave you, but we got to finish this!”

“I told you so!” my boss called back from the other room, “By all means go, let’s close the book on this issue.”

It was about 10:30 in the morning. I had to get home, get all the photocopies of our documents and application papers together, our passports, marriage certificate, wedding photos, anything that they could possibly ask for. I picked up P and off we drove for an hour to the Lawrence office…

And had we not been persistent pains-in-the-butt, our application might still be missing!

USCIS Round Six… Green Card File Apparently “Misplaced”

Round OneRound TwoRound ThreeRound FourRound FiveRound Six, Round Seven, Round Eight

For those of you following the “Great Green Card Saga of 2011,” USCIS surprised us with a new frustration right at the end of the day today.

As I noted before, P’s advanced parole was finally correctly delivered and I DHLed it to Nepal in time for him to catch his 10/19 evening flight out of KTM. I actually expected a big hassle at the airport when he went through the customs and immigration line on 10/20, but he breezed through with no issues. I thought that was a positive sign that our luck was changing. Why is it whenever I start to think things are going okay, I get whapped again by my bad-luck-juju?

P’s Green Card interview was set for October 31st at 9am at the same USCIS Field Office in Lawrence, Massachusetts that I drove to in Round Four. As a refresher, that was the time I went in search of a tracking number (that was wrong) which supposedly went to an envelope that held P’s advanced parole, but instead was the tracking number for a fifteen pound box that included P’s immigration file for his Green Card interview. I actually saw the file with my own eyes. The person from the office leafed through the file in front of me looking for P’s advanced parole. I could have reached out and touched it. I guess I should have grabbed it and run.

So anyway… we thought we were good to go. We are having a Bhai Tikka dinner tonight at our house, we planned to stay cozy inside for the weekend (our area is due for a snow storm on Saturday night!) and I had already taken half a day off of work on Monday morning so that P and I could drive the hour to Lawrence, do the interview, and hopefully be through this next set of hurdles.

But instead, a woman named Terry from the Lawrence office called P at 3:25pm on Friday afternoon to say, “We might have to reschedule your interview, we seem to have misplaced your permanent resident application file.”

Again, I’m utterly shocked. If I was as careless with my student records at my work, the Department of Homeland Security could take away the ability of my university to host international students.

“But my wife was there two weeks ago and she saw my file with her own eyes! Are you sure it’s missing?” P asked.

“We are unable to locate it at this time. We might have to cancel.”

He asked if I could call her back right away to explain how I had been there and seen the file, to see if it could help clear up the situation. She said that their office was closing in a few minutes, but said she would pick up the phone if we called right back, and she gave him the number.

He called me, explained the situation, and was on the phone for a grand total of 1 minute, I looked up the date I was at the office (October 11th) and P’s Alien # and called right back. The clock read 3:30pm exactly.

I got the office’s automated voicemail saying that it was closed for the day.

What the eff again!

So now we have to wait all weekend, call the office at 7:30 in the morning on Monday, and try to figure out what is going on/beg them to do the interview. I can’t believe they messed up again. And the extra stinky part is—P is having knee surgery on November 8th, so if they delay too much longer we will be trekking to Lawrence with crutches and a cast after the surgery.

As you can probably tell, I’m a bit upset with USCIS again. Happy Friday.

USCIS Immigration Paperwork Frustrations, Round Two

Round OneRound TwoRound ThreeRound FourRound FiveRound Six, Round Seven, Round Eight

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.

Boo :(