Thursday, October 26, 2006

Stop the Clock

Today at 5 p.m. Moscow Standard Time, my wife's immigration visa, expiring in April of 2007, arrived by DHL, just two days after her interview.

That's thirteen weeks and two days after we filed our paperwork to announce our marriage and request her visa. The Green Card, we've been told, should arrive no later than four months and be shipped here to the US. The stamp in her passport indicates her to be a permanent resident, so even without the Green Card she should have no problems getting a social security card and entering the workforce. I imagine, but can't say for sure, that she could even come and go as she pleased on that visa until its expiration. The Green Card certainly allows such freedom of travel.

The point being, I have some words of thanks to the Embassy staffers involved, who didn't add any undue burdens on either myself or my wife. I can't thank some staffers by name, because they are in the type of profession that likes to meet journalists in darkened parking garages and whisper, "Follow the money." But through both my Fulbright research and my personal experiences, I can say I've got no reason to do anything but praise the people with whom I've come in contact. Everyone I dealt with in Kiev and Moscow were very helpful, and my wife didn't have a single problem during any one of her trips. So: an 'A' for effort, an 'A' for performance. No horror stories here, just a note that the system works as well and as efficiently as it should. In other words, if you'll allow me a Charlie Brown moment, "Good job, US Foreign Service. Good job, US Citizen & Immigration Services. You have a happy customer."

For those keeping score at home, I didn't need to hire an immigration attorney. I simply downloaded all the forms from the internet and did what they said. It took some time, some effort, some concentration, but it wasn't any harder than the SAT or filing your taxes. Just don't go out and get drunk the night before. You should be fine.

As for the cost, let me give a final recap of that as well, if only so the information is known to those who want it. Since last writing about the foreigner tax, the following costs have been incurred: $380, for my wife's immigration visa, $40, for the shipment of the visa by DHL, and approximately $125 for two more trips to Moscow, one for her to receive medical clearance, the second for her visa interview. That brings the total cost of bureaucracy, between two governments, both Russian and American, to $1395. If you included lost days of work, as I imagine any good economist would do, that figure would very possibly double.

To be able to marry a foreigner and bring him or her into the country, you have to earn at least 125 percent of the povertly level, or $16,000 (more if your household size exceeds the two of you). That means someone might have to spend 10 percent of their annual income to bring their husband or wife into the US. I'd like this cost to be a little more democratic, i.e., anyone should be able to do it, but hey, there's a lot wrong in Washington, I think, and this isn't anywhere near the top of the list.

I guess US soldiers are the people with low salaries who are most commonly affected by these costs. So if you're out there reading this blog, buy two fewer beers tonight, and forget about getting that new Ipod. You need to save some of your money, Private.


Consul-At-Arms said...

That's some seriously on-time shipping. You must be thrilled. Bought plane tickets yet?

I've linked to you here:

Your wife will be legal to work in and travel from the U.S. once she's legally admitted; the immigration officer will put a stamp in her passport that makes it so. They also apply for the SSN for her at the port of entry, so she'll be all squared away until the actual Alien Registration Card (I-551 form?) arrives by mail. That can take up to six months, depending on in which part of the country you live (and thus which busy regional processing center handles your wife's case).


Anonymous said...

Great news. You don't need a marriage agent either. I think if your are sincere and all comes up trumps. There is an industry out there that thrives on creating paranoia. I applied for a visa to a friend to visit the west and had no problems. The tourist visa was issued within two weeks. problem is that september 11 happened in between and well it turned out my friend was an opportunist after all and married the first guy that offered he a US visa. I was interested in getting to know her before I made such a commitment.

Anyway it does prove that paying for an agent can only make things worst.. Best if you fill in the forms yourself. I agree not harder then a tax return. They just want to tick the boxes. after all they have a good job in a low cost country and many benefits that others don't get.

Please keep-up the reality postings. I look forward to hearing more about your and others Russian foreign affairs. Greta blog. Well writen. will recomend to the American Writers Guild.

Anonymous said...

Who is John Birch? Is this an American thing...

Couriers please said...

DHL. Delivery on time around the world. The best news and good tidings just in time for Halloween.

The Author said...

John Birch was a US intelligence officer and American missionary in World War II. He was shot in China by Chinese Communists shortly after VJ Day, when he refused to hand over his revolver. The Society that bears his name sprung up about 10 years later, and has become synonymous in America with ultra-conservative politics. That said, it's against globalization too, so it cares something for at least one country's workers.

Consul-At-Arms said...

Your story got some more attention at the Adventures in Bureaucracy web log. Link:

Consul-At-Arms said...

Full link: