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Mike, what was your experience with the INS?

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  • Mike, what was your experience with the INS?

    Hi Mike,

    This is a little off topic perhaps - Assuming you're now a US citizen, or at least a permanent resident of the US (for now anyway - I read about your desire to move) - what was your experience with the US immigration services when you moved here?

    The reason I ask is that I've actually just moved to california to be with my wife and am currently attempting to get used to a culture that is distinctly different to the UK.

    I'm actually a participant of another forum (www.visajourney.com) that deals specifically with people wanting to make the move to the US legally. Obviously a lot has changed post 9/11 and a lot of us foreigners are finding that the new immigration laws require much hoop jumping on our part (with the constant threat of deportation or jail for any deviation of the rules) and places a lot of emphasis on my wife and her family to support me until I get work authorisation (which is likely to take at least 3 months).

    So just wondering really - was the immigration process for you?
    Batman: It's a low neighborhood, full of rumpots. They're used to curious sights, which they attribute to alcoholic delusions.

    Robin: Gosh, drink is sure a filthy thing, isn't it? I'd rather be dead than unable to trust my own eyes!

  • #2
    In a word -- untypical. I decided to get a lawyer to help me apply for immigration. He told me to expect a wait of weeks or months. My application was approved in a matter of days -- the shortest time he'd ever experienced, he said. Which probably meant that I was enough of a public figure to be quickly recognised. And paying enough taxes to be more than welcome! :D So I regret that my experience isn't of much use to anyone else. I would suggest getting a reputable UK-based lawyer to help you. I say UK-based because there are a lot of sharks out there preying off would-be citizens, especially those of Mexican origin.
    It also helps to be white, English-speaking and married to a US citizen.
    That's the distasteful reality.

    Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
    The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
    Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


    Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
    The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
    Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

    Comment


    • #3
      Hi Mike,

      You got in on public figure grounds then?

      I took the much slower route of the fiance visa. Basically translated - a year of waiting (including a 2 month delay where they 'mislaid' our paperwork), in which time I could not visit my fiancee in the US. Now I'm finally here I cannot work (until further notice), and the conditions on my residency mean that if I leave the US (prior to a 'permission to leave form'. No joke), then I can't get back into the country.

      Being the fiance of a US citizen does not confer very many rights these days unfortunately. To add to that - the immigration service is not free anyway. Over the past year alone its cost my fiancee and I over $1000 in form filing fees alone.
      Batman: It's a low neighborhood, full of rumpots. They're used to curious sights, which they attribute to alcoholic delusions.

      Robin: Gosh, drink is sure a filthy thing, isn't it? I'd rather be dead than unable to trust my own eyes!

      Comment


      • #4
        Yep. My experience is that almost all public fees in the US are greater than anywhere else -- except the countries where you actually have to bribe someone to get yourself a passport OUT. I needed something notarised while in Paris. It would cost me nothing at my bank. If I went to the consolate, it would have cost me over $100.

        Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
        The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
        Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


        Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
        The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
        Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

        Comment


        • #5
          Welcome to Kahleefohnyia! Welcome to the wonderful zoo.

          Good luck! (like Keith Olberman says)

          Just kidding! (kind of)
          \"Bush\'s army of barmy bigots is the worst thing that\'s happened to the US in some years...\"
          Michael Moorcock - 3am Magazine Interview

          Comment


          • #6
            I would tend to agree.

            My experience has lead me to the conclusion that the US is now very definitely anti-immigrant. Its curious - because on the one hand illegal immigration (certainly in California) is a huge deal and a real social problem. At the same time though its easy to see why a lot of people opt for the illegal option, especially when its made so difficult to do it legally.

            As you say - unless you are white, speak good English you're still going to struggle. Of course as I've discovered, being solely the spouse a US Citizen grants me no rights whatsoever in US law. I am still classified as an 'alien', as derogatory a term as I've ever heard.

            The new improved INS, courteousy of the Dept of Homeland, is one of the most inept bureaucratic institutions I have ever encountered. Not only are the fees set artificially high ($315 to file one form, $175 for another etc.) they provide absolutely no support to intending immigrants as to what forms to fill in, and what documents they require.

            The fact that there are (these days at least) web forums devoted to US immigration, has (for me) been a real saving grace, and made it much easier to get through all the red tape. That said though - there is a real culture of fear among many well intentioned people in these communities. For my own experience, back when I was applying for my entry visa it seemed to me that each time I read something online that I would find yet another reason why I might be denied a visa.

            It seems if you're not born into the privilege of US citizenship, you end up being judged by a whole different yardstick.

            By the way - looking forward to reading the White Wolf's Son in the near future!
            Batman: It's a low neighborhood, full of rumpots. They're used to curious sights, which they attribute to alcoholic delusions.

            Robin: Gosh, drink is sure a filthy thing, isn't it? I'd rather be dead than unable to trust my own eyes!

            Comment


            • #7
              The problem with the INS is they have to condrictory missions, help people to immagrate, and keep people out. This may help to expain their SOPs. W was actually trying to ease imigration restriction from Mexico before 9/11 and that got sidetracked.

              Comment


              • #8
                I'm worried I may be in for the same problem over the years. I'm planning on moving to America to be with my Girlfriend via getting a Green Card (and to stalk Mr.Moorcock :D ) and I don't think I could deal with all this hassle.

                Would having American Relatives help matters, do you think? I have an Aunt (on my Mother's Side) who is married with kids and I don't think has ever got into trouble. Would that aid me as well as my being White and English Speaking?

                Comment


                • #9
                  It would help to marry your girlfriend, but that's about all, I suspect. As for paranoia -- I remember the old Macarthy years when they were more worried about your politics than your country of origin. Then there were yards and yards of 'proscribed organisations' which, if you'd belonged to them, made you ineligible. Few Europeans could have lived ordinary lives and not at some time had some connection with one of these organisations, most of which, of course, were completely benign. Bureaucracy is an ass and Americans, for all their traditions, love bureaucracy. Makes me more sympathetic to some of those gun-waving NRA libertarians than I might have been once! I have other stories but no time to relate them at the moment. Storms keep making me shut down and delaying deadlines! Again, I'm always amazed at the courage and resilience of Americans to natural disaster and their hysteria regarding imaginary enemies. How I wish they'd concentrated on nailing bin Laden and his henchmen rather than indulging in feel-good shoot-ups and thus creating more actual enemies.

                  Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
                  The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
                  Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


                  Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
                  The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
                  Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Well if you are intending to immigrate to the US its definitely advisable to do some research. Web forums like www.visajourney.com or www.britishexpats.com would be a great place to start. Visajourney in particular has a focus on marriage based immigration, which might be useful if you are thinking of going down that route.

                    In simple terms the process runs something like this. You can apply for:

                    The K1 (fiance visa) - or permission to enter the US with the intent of getting married to a US Citizen.

                    Or

                    The K3 (spousal visa) - or permission to enter the US as the foreign spouse of a US Citizen (you get married overseas)

                    In both cases you fill out a bunch of forms and wait for them to send you an approval notice. Depending where you live that can take anytime up to 6 months.

                    Unfortunately the non US citizen is expected to wait for the visa application is resolved in order to be travel to the US, as an open immigration case flags up on the computer when the airport officer scans your passport and its up to THEM as to whether to admit you or not.

                    Assuming your application is approved (which basically means, that you filled out the forms correctly and dotted each i etc), then you (the alien) receives some forms in the mail which you have to complete and return to the embassy, who will then schedule you to appear there for an 'interview'.

                    In my case, the process was quite simple (albeit very drawn out), and you can do it WITHOUT a lawyer, assuming of course that there are no hidden surprises. And thats really the crucial part....

                    US immigration law does place strict conditions on who is and isn't allowed a visa. For one thing you are expected to divulge details of any criminal record you might have, that includes any cautions you were given and also if you have EVER been arrested you are expected to divulge that too.

                    Additionally they expect you to inform them of any crimes you committed for which you were NOT arrested. Quite how they prove this I have no idea - if you've ever visited the US on the visa waiver and checked all the boxes to those weird questions on the back you'll know what I mean. Suffice to say - smoking pot 'once' might classify you as a drug abuser and thereby inelligble. Though again no idea how they would prove that.

                    The term they use is 'Crimes of Moral Turpitude', and they judge you not on whether anything you did was illegal in your own country, but whether its legal in the US...

                    As for paranoia -- I remember the old Macarthy years when they were more worried about your politics than your country of origin. Then there were yards and yards of 'proscribed organisations' which, if you'd belonged to them, made you ineligible.
                    Unfortunately - this is still the case. The immigration forms still ask you to declare ANY political affiliations you have, and I suspect that plays a significant role in defining the US 'no fly' list - hence what happened to Cat Stevens not so long ago....

                    I did also hear of a guy in the 70's being denied entry to the US for being a 'undeclared' member of the Labour party... while they were in power...
                    Batman: It's a low neighborhood, full of rumpots. They're used to curious sights, which they attribute to alcoholic delusions.

                    Robin: Gosh, drink is sure a filthy thing, isn't it? I'd rather be dead than unable to trust my own eyes!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Friend of mine, of Canadian origin, recently received a letter telling him to pack his bags and leave the country immediately, in spite of his having been established here for years, having his kids at school here and paying taxes here. His lawyer eventually told him he would have been better off being an illegal alien and starting from that position. A lawyer once told me that it was actually impossible to get into the US legally without actually telling three or four lies on your application...
                      I'm not sure that's still true, but, knowing bureacuracies, I have a feeling it might be. I think I was lucky in applying for residency at a time when the bureacracy was actually loosening up a bit and was running on a more realistic basis. Things seem to have slipped badly backwards since then.

                      Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
                      The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
                      Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


                      Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
                      The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
                      Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Even having kids in the US, who are born citizens does not give the 'alien' parent any legal right to stay....

                        I think thats why there's such a culture of fear regarding the immigration process amongst intending immigrants. Punishments are extremely draconian for even the most simple breach of the rules (being out of status for even a single day) - and if you are deported it carries with it a stigma that you will have to deal with for the rest of your life.

                        In extreme cases you can actually be barred from visiting the US for either 3 or 10 years, or worse, for the rest of your life.

                        The injustice of it you can easily find yourself the victim of the USCIS' (as the INS are now known) own incompetance. For example, if you change your permanent address - you are expected to notify them accordingly. However, the USCIS are notoriously bad at processing the paperwork, and its not unheard of for people to miss adjustment interviews and become out of legal status because the USCIS still has the old address on file and sent all your paperwork there.

                        And even if you sent the change of address card, the USCIS will still maintain that they never received it, and the immigrant ends up paying the price.

                        It doesn't help when the immigration service outsources all the work to people who don't know the first thing about immigration. You used to be able to call the service centre processing your case and get an update from the people dealing with it. Now there is a national call centre staffed by people who have little or no knowledge of immigration law. They can only look up your case number and tell you what 'status code' it is in - rather similar to many corporate call centres where the ordering system is separate to the actual packing and shipping department.
                        Batman: It's a low neighborhood, full of rumpots. They're used to curious sights, which they attribute to alcoholic delusions.

                        Robin: Gosh, drink is sure a filthy thing, isn't it? I'd rather be dead than unable to trust my own eyes!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          If I remember my history correct, this type of thing happens everytime there's some sort of attack on America. At least we aren't putting people in concentration camps, though I'm sure that's small concelation to anyone getting sent back home. I'm wondering if anyone has suggestions for improving the processes used for deciding who gets sent home.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I'm busily noting the info and websites posted here, so thanks to all! An online friend of mine is an expatriate Brit, a music producer and engineer named Neil Kernon, and his current legal status in the States is apparently...muddy. He's not hurting, so I expect he's pursued all the legal channels open to him, but hey, anything I can do help him, since he's a cool bloke.... (Apparently he can't leave...or if he does, he gets stuck elsewhere...which tends to cramp your lifestyle if an overseas band wants you to produce their new album. --Which, alas, has happened more than once.)

                            Darnit, it should be easier for him to become officially legit as a "public figure"; he worked with Hawkwind a long time ago. :o

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Okay, on a kinda 'and finally' note, when I told my girlfriend about this. She thought it was cool that a critcally acclaimed Fantasy writer advised that I should marry her... I can see her bringing this up one day, ooh boy :D

                              Comment

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