Thursday, March 11, 2010

Adventures in Immigration

Ever since I moved to the great U.S. of A. nearly seven years ago, immigration has been the bane of my existence. I need to point out that since 9/11, immigration has become nearly impossible. While I understand WHY that is, it doesn't make it any easier on me and my "alien status".

Starting a few months after we were married, we were allowed to petition for a green card for myself as Justin's wife. The process took nearly six months, and I was issued a temporary, conditional green card. I was allowed to stay in the country for two years, as long as I wasn't divorced or Justin died (lovely, right?) Of course, no one explained the conditions to me, and I turned up in Canada one year with the condition from my green card lifted, but with the green card no longer valid because I needed to get my NEW unconditional green card.

You got that?

So, after another six months I was issued my ten year green card, good until 2017. From here I can apply to become a citizen, or just renew my green card every ten-odd years. Usually I lean to just keeping my green card. I have a hard time with the thought of giving up my citizenship, and word on the street through my immigration lawyer was that dual citizenship is next to impossible to secure in the states. So I still have a few more years to decide what to do.

Now, the thing about green cards is that they are so difficult to get that they trump just about any other government documentation. No matter what else I have, I am supposed to have my green card (which isn't green at all by the way. It's kind of pink) on me at all times. It even trumps a passport, which means I travel on my green card. But this past trip to Alberta was such a pain it had me running for the passport office.

I checked in at the airport down here and went to the gate. Immigration is done in Canada, so when I heard that I needed to check with the gate before I boarded to check my documents I thought it was odd. I went up, and the skippy airline worker asked for my passport and ticket. I handed him my green card and ticket, letting him know that I was authorized to travel on my green card. He took one look at it and handed it back, saying that he would need a passport. At this point I become very flustered because I find it very annoying to know more than someone who gets PAID to know it. I hand him the green card back and tell him that a green card has higher clearance than a passport, and it's fine. He tells me regulations have changed. I was in Canada last September and I knew they hadn't changed since then, so he proceeds to pull out a MEMO and read off that only passports would be accepted.

Now I'm starting to get mad. The guy working at the desk next to us starting talking to my airline worker, letting Skippy know that he has always let green cards through before. (I think he might have had a crush on me) Skippy was relentless. I was slightly offended that he assumed I was just too dumb to understand immigration and customs laws. It's not like I haven't lived it for the past seven years, but whatevs.

After my pleading and the other guy's insistence, Skippy went to talk to a manager. I waited, but when he came back he handed me all of my stuff and said, in a very official sounding voice "I'm sorry, we are going to have to deny you entrance to this vehicle." This is when panic sets in for me. I KNOW my green card is acceptable, but I have no way of showing him. Skippy then tells me I wouldn't even be allowed in the country of Canada because I have no proof of citizenship. It says "Proof of Citizenship: CANADA" on my card.

Besides the fact that the airline really has no right to complete customs and immigration checks before a flight, they also didn't have the scanners necessary to read my card, hence the problem. I explained this to my Skippy, and he went to go get his manager again.

I'd been standing at the desk for around 20 minutes. While Skippy was gone, I joked with my new friend, who I guessed would be merciful with me and act as my ticket outta there. When the manager came to talk to me, he explained that they could only accept passports. Sounding like a broken record, I told him that green cards were acceptable because it is nearly impossible to get a passport from a country you don't live in. I even pulled out my charming, self deprecating persona to try and nudge myself on the plane. He decided to "make a call" and get back to me.

More standing around.

When the manager came back, he instructed Skippy to take my information and put me on the plane. Turns out that HIS manager knew very well that I was allowed to fly on my green card, and told him to let me on immediately. Feeling just a little smug, I waited for my apology. Nuthin.

Finally, as I boarded, my new-found airline friend apologized for all of the trouble, and stage whispered that he knew I was allowed on the plane all along, while Skippy pretended too be engrossed in tagging bags. I'm guessing he really, really wanted a management position.

The best part was that flying back to the States, no one said boo to my green card. As much as I luh-huv being hassled by non-immigration workers, it was enough to make me consider getting my citizenship here. To get a passport, I would need to head back to Canada for a while and prove that I lived there, and I'm not eligible for an American passport. It's the catch-22 of the immigration world.

Can someone remind me of all of this next time I get the bright idea to marry an American?


Morgan -Ing said...

Good grief. What a pain the butt! I'm sorry! Being an American isn't ALL bad you know...

Brooke said...

As a duel citizen, I am telling you that no matter what your status is in the states they cannot take away the fact that you were born in canada. You will always be able to get a canadian passport because you were born there. SO if you were to be a US citizen you could still be both. Everyone in my family has been there. We had to do the same to move my american husband to Canada. BRUTAL!

Carolyn said...

What a pain! Atleast you had a fun trip, right? :)

Manda said...

That totally sucks. My mom has issues with her alien card all the time. The bright side is that she used it to scare kids. She told them all she was an alien, and had the card to prove it. Maybe that would help :)

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