Our Immigration Story, Part 2
Telling the story of my husband Kevin and I immigrating to the United States, is a story of privilege. Many are not so lucky and as such if you have the means and are interested in fighting for minorities rights please think about donating to ACLU.
Haven’t read the whole story, you can catch up here
I last left off with Kevin's status as an H-1B visa holder and myself with the H4 in 2017. Around mid April 2018, two letters arrive. These letters detailed an appointment that we would need to attend.
First Time at the Immigration Office
The day before the appointment we headed off to Milwaukee, where the closest immigration office is located. We spent a night in a hotel and woke up early with plans to have breakfast and show up early for our slotted time. As we were getting ready, Kevin decided to read over the scanned letter we had received to prepare for any questions. As he read, he realized we were suppose to bring those letters with us and we had left them at home! Not having the documents we panicked a little and decided to bring our cellphones even though you are asked not to. We had scanned copies of the letters on our phones and hoped that would work for us. We arrived an hour early, went through security with no issues, and joined the line. When our number was called we showed the copy on the phone. They were able to get the numbers off the documents and reprint it for us. With newly printed documents, we were fingerprinted, had our pictures taken, and sent on our way, all before our official appointment time.
It was this morning that I started realized just how privileged we are. It was sitting in line, watching others be racially profiled, while we were allowed through. At the time we were listening to So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo and seeing racism so publicly displayed was shocking. Overall, the immigration process for us has been fairly easy and we are lucky to have a sponsor who is doing the work for us. However this is not the case for everyone. The privilege of white skin and white names allow us to get through without harassment. Not even purple hair raises flags.
It was after that meeting that we realized Kevin's passport would be expiring in November and we needed to update it. When we originally got Kevin's passport we only did a five year. We did that because we figured we would have to get new ones once we got married. Forgetting that I was the one changing my name and not Kevin, his passport information wouldn’t be changing, just mine. Before we moved, we got mine changed to update the last name and changed it to the ten year version. Now we just needed to do his. We needed to do four things to make this happen:
Passport Photo - a new photo is required for a new passport. We had to look up the requirements and dimensions for the photos, and then find a place that would do it. This wasn't to complicated as our local camera store was very willing to help.
Forms - we had to correctly fill out the forms. Not to big of a deal, at this point this type of form is easy.
Cost - I found this to be a little bit frustrating as they don't accept normal cheques even certified ones. I wanted to send a draft, but discovered that our bank doesn't do drafts in Canadian dollars. So we had to fill out a old school credit card form. It makes me uncomfortable, but we were already mailing in the old passport so adding in our bank information wasn't any more important if documents were lost.
Mailing to Canada - the requirements on the form said it must be sent via registered mail for tracking purposes. The US does registered mail but it stops being registered the second it crosses the border. So we had to hope that it would be okay.
No Passport, No Travel - as I mentioned in part 1, we aren't travelling so this wasn't a concern.
Renewing the passport was an easy process and relatively quick one. It did feel stressful at the time because many things happened while we were working through the renewal and we were worried about it arriving back in time. Just before I mailed the passport two envelopes arrived.
Employment Authorization Cards
Those envelopes included employment authorization cards (EAD). One for each of us. This was a shock, especially for me. We had been expecting Kevin's as he has been working all along. Mine, however, was something we didn't expect until much later in the year. It's been almost three years of not being able to work and the change was unexpected. I will most likely write my thoughts about this change at a later date, for the moment it's a shock and one that I am not sure what to do with. These cards prove that we are allowed to work in the United States for a specific time period. They can be treated almost like a secondary ID.
Drivers License Renewal
When we got our drivers license, they expired when our initial visa would have expired. So it came up for renewal around the same time as everything else changing. You hear such terrible things about DMV's and so when our first experience was okay we assumed that the things heard were exaggerations. That still might be the case, I think it depends on the location and Madison is pretty small compared to other cities. Walking in to renew this time, was different though not a bad way. To renew we had to fill out forms and provide our passports, EAD cards, and social security numbers. I hadn't mailed Kevin's passport because I was still working out the payment details and so we were able to renew his right away. It cost us $2 because we said yes to a donation option on the form. That surprised us a little but we didn't think much of it.
I was turned away because I didn't have a social security number. So the next day I headed to the social security office with a book, waited for an hour, handed over the form I filled out online and left with a receipt telling me that in ten business days a card would arrive in the mail. When it arrived I headed back to the DMV with the paperwork pre-filled. Again it was fairly simple and I am thankful I always have a book because even when its a simple process there is still a wait time. When I got called up to finalize things, I was expecting the $2 fee for the donation but was charged $38. It was an easy price to pay but it really confused me, why was one of us free and the other not?
Overall, the cost of immigration has been minor to us. We've had to pay out of pocket for very few things; renewal cost of the passport, our travel expenses to Milwaukee, and the drivers license renewal. But these are all things we would be spending money on anyways.
Will continue on December 3
Project 365 has images that line up with a lot of the events I talk about in this post. Day 170 - first visit to the immigration office, Day 206 - DMV for Kevin, Day 207 - Social Security Office for me, Day 212 - for mailing Kevin's Passport, Day 219 - DMV for me. Day 232 - Kevin's passport arriving.