Immigration Woes (Part 2)

Now that we’re married and the petition has been filed to obtain the visa that will allow Gerry to enter the country and stay … we have this low-boil wish for it all to just be done.

We have some young friends—she the daughter of good friends, he an Australian she met on a missions trip—who just got married, after having approached the process from the point of view of a Fiancé Visa. Once you get one of those, you have 90 days to get married. The only trouble is you cannot predict with any degree of accuracy when you’ll get the visa until you have it in your hot little hand. They pulled that wedding together, though. 🙂

I hosted a couple of the Australian groomsmen at our place.

Three Yanks, Three Aussies.

Three Yanks, Three Aussies.

But we’re approaching it from a different angle.

We first looked into the immigration process back in 2008 … but it was too soon for us then. We were trying to get our ducks in a row: that is, plan for our retirement, make sure we could cross every T, dot every I.

The Monday after we got married, 27 October 2014, I filed the petition to bring Gerry permanently to the United States. Katja Hedding, here in Murfreesboro, is our wonderful immigration attorney.

On 30 March 2015 (five months!), the petition was approved by the USCIS. They forwarded it to the National Visa Center, where we would be assigned a case number. Katja said it would take two months (because it’s been published that they’re two months behind on opening mail), but as it turned out, it was only five weeks.

That was probably the only part of the process that happened sooner than expected.

On 8 May 2015, the petition arrived at the NVC and was assigned a case number, provided we paid additional fees (this is not a cheap process, ha). After the fee is paid, we (Katja, really) can start submitting all the additional paperwork (among other things, a “Police Certificate” from the Garda Síochána confirming that Gerry is not a criminal, and including his fingerprints). Once the NVC receives these documents (Katja has all of them ready to go), it should take a couple months to get an interview scheduled. This interview will take place at the U.S. Consulate in Dublin. When Gerry “passes” the interview (which will include presentation of a certified medical exam—presumably so he doesn’t enter the country with Ebola? Oh, wait … someone’s already done that) he will be issued a visa (on the spot? I don’t know).

At that point, visa in hand, Gerry has six months to enter the United States. The visa is good for two years, at which point he will apply for a permanent residency status (what used to be called a green card).

But … we’ve hit a snag.

The NVC’s computer is down and Katja hasn’t been able to pay the fee for two weeks. Sure, she could send a certified check, but it takes two months just for someone to open the mail at the facility, remember (see links below). We know from experience that the computer goes up and down. So she tries every day. And we wait to hear.

We’ve been fairly sanguine about it. I mean, hey, this situation’s been rocking on for twelve years, so what’s a few more days … weeks … months? Right? We have all these lists of things that have to be done, and nothing’s moving. And now that the process is started, Gerry can’t enter the country. Thus the low, slow boil.

Dagnabbit, we’ve both got Immigration Fatigue.

We’re tired, y’all.

We’re tired, y’all.

We would like for this to come to its reasonable conclusion. We would like, please God, for Gerry to fly back with me on the same flight, on 21 October 2015, after our Dublin reception and honeymoon. It doesn’t seem like too much to ask.

Except the NVC computer is still down. I could resort to acronyms, here, to describe my pique (WTF, Uncle Sam? Good grief! Fix it!), but instead I’ll just explain. Or I’ll let Forbes explain:

For foreign spouses outside the U.S., the post-I-130 petition process begins with the National Visa Center (NVC), the quarterback of the U.S. Consular system. It is the job of the NVC to collect all of the paperwork needed to process an application overseas and then to hand it off to a U.S. Consulate for adjudication and approval. This is where things get bogged down.

According to a recent report, the NVC processes 2.6 million cases per year and out of those, about 100,000 are spousal cases. From the numbers provided in this report, one can calculate that they deal with over 20,000 pieces of mail every day. That’s a lot of mail.

Anyone who has dealt with the NVC lately knows that they are severely backlogged. They cannot even look at a piece of urgent mail until it has been in their office for around 2 months. In one case I had, we struggled to get the NVC to expedite an application for a foreign spouse who was dying from cancer so she could join her U.S. citizen sponsor. Urgent e-mails were sent and phone calls were made and still it took four months for the matter to be approved.

But why? I still don’t get the why. The Murthy law firm in Maryland says,

For fiscal year 2014 (FY14), which ran from October 1, 2013 through September 30, 2014, the NVC received substantially more family-based immediate relative cases than in years past. In FY14, the volume of such cases peaked at 25,000 per week, but has leveled off a bit to 17,000 per week. Still, this is up significantly from the approximately 8,000 per week received by the NVC in prior years. The NVC is also now seeing an increase in other types of cases.

The result of this volume increase has been a delay at the NVC in processing times. The NVC has improved its front-end processing backlog, called case creation. This process was taking 45 days during the summer of 2014. As of November 2014, the front-end processing timeframe has been reduced to approximately two weeks. However, delays continue at the document review stage. The NVC reports timeframes of just under two months for this part of the process. While this is a slight improvement, the NVC is working toward cross training employees and otherwise shifting personnel to address this problem.

Why so much immigration activity? Honestly, I have no idea. I poked around on the interwebs but there’s no hard data I can access, though plenty of speculation. A lot of nurses coming in from the Philippines. A lot of refugees from war zones. Companies importing high-tech workers.

And an Irish husband who would like to join his wife in Tennessee. 🙂

As is always the case in these sorts of things, there are a lot of moving parts. Different departments of the government handle different parts of the process. In Gerry’s case, we start at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), move to the National Visa Center (NVC) and take a brief detour with the U.S. State Department.

As I was writing this, we heard again from Katja. The technical difficulties at the NVC will not allow our case to move forward; she cannot even access our case online anymore (and online is the only place it exists). The computer is down, down, down. So she’s going to do an end-run around the computer: she is contacting the U.S. Embassy to ask them to accept Gerry’s case directly.

Fingers crossed.

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5 thoughts on “Immigration Woes (Part 2)

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