Green Card Square One

The Line

Above you can see the reason that it takes so long to get a green card or a visa to America. This is the line of people waiting to apply for one or the other outside the US Consulate in Shanghai this morning. This line is there every morning. The people just keep on coming.

As an American citizen, I do not have to wait on this line. And my wife is guaranteed eventual success in her bid for a US green card, unlike the majority of the people pictured above. However, because so many other people are married to Americans and waiting for green cards, there is a bureaucratic backup of approximately one year. Attention loved ones: this is a major reason I do not know when I will be returning to America. Please, for the love of God, stop asking me.

This morning I successfully filed the Petition on Behalf of an Alien Relative for Permanent Immigration to the US. The cost was $190 and many a red-tape hurdle. In fact, I should have filed it yesterday, but when I showed up to do so, I was presented with a brand new list of required documents, about half of which I did not have. So I had to come back today. And even though every document I’ve seen for the last year in my research, including the one handed to me yesterday, has said that the fee was $185, when I showed up today I was told that the fee had been raised. When I asked them if it had changed overnight, they said it had changed months ago. Why, then, was I given incorrect information just yesterday? “Oh, ” said the clerk, in a tone that suggested I should know better, “they never update those forms in Beijing.” It seems the Chinese method of bureaucracy is rubbing off on the American embassy. “Besides,” she continued, “it’s only five dollars.” I wanted to smack her.

We have a theory, one which is shared by many other applicants, that the US government purposefully makes it as difficult as possible to obtain a visa so that many people will be put off by the whole thing and just give up. By making would-be immigrants jump through hurdle after hurdle of red tape, getting these documents, filing these forms, paying those fees, they will weed out thousands of people who just aren’t persistent enough to keep up, and thereby lighten their own load of paperwork. It makes sense. But it doesn’t really work. In China, there is no possible way the US government could design a course strenuous enough to put people off. Not a people who have seen 50 years of mind-numbingly ridiculous bureaucracy become the standard form of government. And it clearly doesn’t work in Latin America, either.

One other funny note about today was the amount of chops the Consulate used on all my forms. I swear, with the amount of stamping, inking, sealing and signing that was going on, I thought I had accidentally ended up at the Ministry of Adoption.

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