Time: 4-6 weeks
Once you've submitted your medical documents and waited around for another couple of weeks, you will advance to being interviewed face-to-face at the local American consulate in your home country. Depending on the location of the consulate, this could mean a ten-minute drive or (more likely) a plane ride to another city.
Or, if you're like me and were already in America as a tourist, you can simply go to a nearby office-
-Oh, wait. No. You'll need to fly out of America, to the other side of the planet, to meet with the Americans in Australia.
But at least you'll have plenty of excitement when you get there, though! Because being interviewed for an American immigration visa is a bit like a job interview, if job interviews scanned you at the door for weapons, made you go up a secret elevator flanked by two guards, confiscated your bag and cell phone, sat you in a holding room clutching your bundle of documents until they called your name, and then barked inappropriate intimate questions at you through bullet-proof glass. In other words, not unless you want to work for Apple.
Do you have any idea how hard it is to run with a fifty pound hammer?
Once inside, you will have to persuade the unsympathetic American consulate worker glaring at you from behind the thick glass that you are worthy to enter their country. Since I'd been staying in the US for three months and only came back to Australia for this conversation, it mostly consisted of me trying to convince her that I had not, in fact, been radicalized by Al Qaeda on the plane ride out of Los Angeles. She seemed skeptical.
The good news about this interview, though, is that it's usually the last step before you're actually physically allowed into the US on an immigrant visa. But alas, it's not all over that easily.
With the U.S. Government, it's never over that easily.
If you're on immigrating to the US because of marriage, like I was, you and your American partner get to have another interview once you get back to the States, in order to prove that you're really in love. Before this interview, I thought that "proving love" would be something either really inappropriate or really cool, like maybe being interrogated by that lie-detecting English guy on TV, who would lean over the table and scream that this wasn't love, and that I didn't know what love was.
But no, proving love the American immigration way is like everything else in the process: submitting paperwork, mostly about things like joint leases and combined checking accounts. Romeo and Juliet would probably have failed this test, because chances are they didn't possess a photocopy of their joint life-insurance policy.
"Two litigation-leashed lovers
And then there's the questioning. In front of your new spouse, under oath, you are asked if you have ever been involved in a series of common crimes like communism, war crimes or sex trafficking. And in this type of environment, it's really not cool to answer, "Yeah, there was that one massacre when I was working for Fidel Castro back in the 1970's. I forgot to mention it on the application until now."
Furthermore, in order to install into all new immigrants a healthy brand of self-loathing that will render them docile, the interviewer then asks a set of questions which are impossible for anyone who is not Jesus to answer honestly. Among these are "Have you ever broken any laws?" and "Have you ever discriminated against or persecuted anyone because of their race, sex or religious beliefs?"
Answering "yes" to any of these questions will get you back to Step 1, and so of course you perjure yourself. So the next time you meet a legal immigrant to America, keep in mind that if he has ever driven over the speed limit, or pulled a girl's hair in second grade because he liked her, then that man is a filthy, filthy liar.
Time: Approximately one year
Cost: Youthful optimism
As a legal immigrant, it's now almost a year since you submitted your application to join your wife, husband, family or employer in America. The DHS now has a folder on you thicker than Mel Gibson's file of Zionist agents active in Hollywood, containing everything from your birth certificate to the address of the cinema you worked at for a month when you were eighteen. You are a conditional permanent resident, and by now have paid another $1,000 to apply for a green card, and submitted another stuck of documents for that.
By now your American partner no longer trusts his or her government, and is now living in a heavily-armed shack in the woods plastered with pictures of Janet Napolitano with X's scratched across her face in black crayon. Your employer gave up dealing with the paperwork months ago and hired a nice man from Kansas.
You still can't open a bank account, not even a joint one, because the 2001 Patriot Act requires a social security number for the process. You don't have one of those, because the application process is a dark labyrinth in which God has suspended reason and logic, where you will, for instance, be asked to supply a photocopy of a document, and then later told that copying said document is illegal.
I'd be trading one island prison for another.
At some point, from within a cloud of despair, you'll realize that you could have simply caught a plane from your homeland to Central America, bribed a friendly drug lord to get you across the border, and then paid someone to give you a dead guy's social security number.
That process would have saved you a year of your life, several tons of money, and your sense of trust in the basic competence of the American government and authority in general. Sure, you might be breaking the law. Sure, you might end up dying of thirst in the desert, your bleached bones standing as an ironic symbol of the drawing power of the American dream. But at least none of the drug lords are going to casually pull you aside at the airport and ask you if you've ever been convicted of genocide.
Read more from C. Coville at http://bloodslides.livejournal.com