Farewell, New York: Back to Asia

After nine years in New York City, a period in which my wife earned her Bachelor’s degree and became an American citizen, we’re on the move again. Determined to keep the dual-continent lifestyle, we’ve uprooted our lives for the second time in a return to Asia that is not “forever”, but “for now”.

nearly empty room
Last day

Leaving was not easy, but it went nearly as smoothly as possible. I could have done a better job of last-minute preparations in the final week (when X had already departed), and I am deeply indebted to Piers calling me on my last day in town and inviting himself over to help out. “Bory,” he said upon walking into my apartment. “You are not ready to leave!” This was about two hours before my car to the airport would arrive. Continue reading Farewell, New York: Back to Asia

Welcome to America

She and I have sometimes discussed the possibility of her becoming an American citizen. The usual waiting period for green card holders (permanent residents) is five years, but as the spouse of an American her waiting time is only 3 years; i.e., once she has lived here as a permanent resident for 3 years, she is eligible to become an American citizen.

Well, this summer it will be three years since we arrived back in New York, so the conversation has started to take on new urgency. In the past, we’ve debated the pros and cons. She already has a lot of rights as a permanent resident: she can stay in this country forever, and come and go as she pleases – the only restriction being that she would have to do some explaining if she stayed outside of America for over a year. And even that would be cool if, say, she or I was working for an American firm overseas. She’s entitled to Social Security and Medicare and unemployment benefits and federal student loans, and she’s allowed to hold a job. The only thing she can’t do is vote (which is odd, considering she has to pay taxes).

Being only a permanent resident, and not a citizen, she is able to retain her Chinese passport, which allows her easy entry back home. I do not believe the Chinese allow dual citizenship, though the Americans do. So if she became an American citizen, I think she might have to give up her Chinese passport, and she would have the same issues that I do when I travel there – getting a visa and keeping it valid in order to stay in the country. But I need to look into this more. It’s unclear how the Chinese would find out that she became American. Perhaps she could just keep Chinese citizenship on the sly. Her family is there and we intend to live there again in the future, not just travel back once in a while, so this is a big concern.

So it has been up in the air, and the standard end to the conversation has been: we’ll decide when we have to. But then she came home last week and, out of nowhere, said with conviction, “I want to be an American.” This was pretty surprising, because she likes to talk smack about “Americans” in the sweeping generalizations that are familiar to expats the world over. Anything she dislikes about a person or a specific group of people becomes a cut against all Americans. It’s wrong, but we all do it. I did it in China. “Chinese spit everywhere and wear their pajamas on the street!” is akin to “Americans wear shorts and flip-flops even in winter and would rather complain about their professor’s teaching methods than study the material.” So I’m always jabbing her about her digs on my countrymen the way she did at mine when we lived over there. And when she said she wanted to become a citizen, it was too rich. Wait, now YOU want to be an AMERICAN??? Haha!

It may have been the French thing that settled it. These French bastards (see how easy it is?) gave us all sorts of trouble about our upcoming trip and it looked like we might not get a visa. A visa, that is, for her, because American citizens don’t need visas to go to France, but American permanent residents do. They want to see an itinerary, hotel reservations which must be faxed, not emailed, a certain, unspecified amount of cash in the bank, paystubs, letters of invitation, insurance, the whole nine. Meanwhile, any bum with an American passport can just show up, and is welcomed with open arms, no questions asked. This is one of the many freedoms we Americans enjoy. (She got the visa in the end).

Another thing may be work-related. She has considered recently the idea of working for the American government, perhaps as part of the SEC, to join the effort to rein in the trolls who wrecked the economy. When she said this I thought it was one of the noblest things I have heard. Of course, her classmates laughed out loud when she said it in Financial Accounting: they all want to work for Goldman Sachs (“typical Americans”). I did not know this, but only American citizens are eligible to work for the federal government. Can you imagine what those Red Chinese will think of one of their own daughters working for the Imperial Dogs of Washington? It is too rich to contemplate.

What to do?

Moving is going to be harder than I thought. I’ve been so wrapped up in getting the visa that I haven’t had time to think about the follow-up. And now that we’ve got it, I’m looking around the apartment thinking, How am I going to get all this stuff home?

Does anyone have any advice in terms of shipping? A friend once mentioned a “book rate” on shipping books, but FedEx and DHL both said no such thing exists here.

It’s going to require some masterful cash-flow management (as well as the use of my credit line) to make this happen. If you don’t see the Portfolios cavorting about town over the next few weeks, you know why!

We Done Did It

We got it!

After one year and one month, she finally has the government’s permission to enter the country. The process was long, expensive and weird, but in the end it wasn’t really that hard.

So when she showed up at the Consulate Wednesday, they informed her that she was approved, but that she’d have to wait another two days to pick up her passport and visa package. Should she not be available (she wasn’t – she had a flight back to Shanghai that night) they would gladly mail the documents back to her anywhere in … Guangdong province, which does not include Shanghai.

Neil Diamond
Neil Diamond

She was telling me this on the phone and already I was thinking about paying another two nights hotel lodging when she said, “So I arranged to have them mail it to my colleagues in Guangzhou, and have them mail it to me in Shanghai.” Smart girl!!!

This “visa package” involves some kind of documentation or other and we are NOT to open it by any means. We bring it to America with us, and it is opened on site by the immigration officer at the airport. What it contains, who knows or cares. We’re coming to America!

Cue the Neil Diamond!

Fingers Crossed


So today is the day.

Xianyi showed up in Guangzhou at the Consulate on Monday as instructed, only to be handed a piece of paper which said “Give us your passport and come back in two days.” Still no confirmation that she has actually passed their tests and been granted a visa!

She has had to just wait around in the city for the feds to come through. At least she went over to her company’s local office to check her email and keep busy for a while yesterday.

Today she will return to the Consulate at about 2:30 – two hours from now – and, God willing, be granted entry to the USA.

All our waiting has come down to this, it seems. Hope we get in!

Going to Guangzhou

We received the official letter from the Consulate, instructing Ms.P to return to their Guangzhou office anytime, “Monday to Wednesday, 2pm – 3pm”. Huge window there. So she has booked a flight for next Monday. I will stay home this time to save a little cash on flights. I really think this could be it.

It’s frustrating, though, because the letter, like the email, does not clearly say whether she will be granted a visa or not. I pointed out that we know for a fact any applicant who is granted an immigrant visa must be in Guangzhou in person with their passport to have it stamped, and then pick it up from the post office 1-2 days later. So that would seem to indicate she has passed. But she countered that maybe they have called her down there merely to retrieve the many documents of hers that they held onto, such as our marriage certificate, because they didn’t want to send them in the mail. Perhaps – but I think it would be awfully cruel of them to make her fly to Guangzhou just to be denied in person. I had hoped they would at least give us the truth in the mail and offer us the opportunity to pick up our docs in person or have them shipped.

But one can’t trust the immigration authorities to do anything one might consider civil or logical. After the ordeal one must go through to have his wife admitted to his own country – to have his rights honored by his own government, that is – one learns to withhold all the subconscious assumptions one would usually extend to normal social relations. In other words, one learns never to trust.

So that I may end on a happy note, here is a picture of us from a great party last weekend, taken by our friend, professional photographer Charlie Xia.

Blowing a kiss

Visit Charlie’s site and hire him to do work. He’s awesome.

Meanwhile, we will be hoping and praying that our ship has come in.

Could It Be?

Yesterday I sent an email to the consulate asking them when we would hear some info. So here I am working at the office, just off the holiday, when my Gmail notifier pops up this beauty:

From: Guangzhou Consulate Immigration Affairs
Thank you for your inquiry! We just sent out a notice on 5/7/07 to Ms.P  to inform her…

Aaaaa! What does it say??? I dropped everything and rushed to my inbox to read the full message:

…to come to this office for continued processing. Ms. P  should expect the mail within the next two weeks. Please advise Ms. P to follow the intructions on the notice when she receive it.

Aaaaaa! What does that mean???? I want to reach through the computer and scream, Just give me a YES or NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Hysterics aside, it does sound good. We know that, if approved, she has to go to Guangzhou to have her passport stamped. It seems unlikely that they would make her fly to Guangzhou to be denied in person. Our hearts are racing – it’s nerve-wracking!
I relayed this to Dave online, who donated the following hilarious scenario:

She needs to travel to India…. find the mountain which is touched by the crescent moon… there she will find the magic rocks… which will be guarded by ENDOR the gatekeeper…. she should then steal the rocks and bring them back to the consulate…. where she will wait in line

At this point, I am ready to believe anything.

“You may enter,” says ENDOR