US CIS – your government at work

Since I received my greencard ten years ago, I had very little interaction with the US immigration services – basically I showed my greencard to the friendly officers at the airport once in a while. So when my greencard was about to expire, I requested a new one. I payed the $270 (!) fee and got a date to go to Charlotte for a “biometrics” appointment. That date was last Thursday, but due to the winter weather we had, I missed the appointment. So I called the toll free number on the form to find out how to reschedule the appointment. Thus began my little CIS odyssey.

For work I do call customer support phone lines quite frequently, and so I think I’ve see the Good, the Bad and the Ugly when it comes to automated phone systems. So I thought. The US CIS automated phone system is in an wholly separate category. It has layers upon layers upon layers of “options”

if we approved your I-129 petition and you need us to notify a different POE, please press 6

It took me 20 Minutes to “find” a live person in that maze of Orwellian bureaucrat-speak. I explained my situation and she said that that’s no problem – I should just go to Charlotte on a Wednesday, when they take walk-ins for greencard renewals. Oki-doki.

So today I drove to Charlotte, which is about a 2.5-hour drive. I got there at 11:00 AM – the place was really busy. I explained my situation to the security person at the front desk, and she looked at me and said “You called the 800-number, eh? They don’t know what they are talking about. We have not done walk-ins here in years.” Say what??!!

She explained that after 9/11 they began doing full background checks during the biometrics appointment. That takes 2 hours, or more, so they can’t do more than a few applications a day, let alone walk-ins. Oh great! She said I could wait until 2:00 and see if they have time today. Or I could come back Saturday, and try it again – Saturdays are sometimes less busy.

So why do the people at the call center tell us bogus information? I wondered … The CIS security person said that “they ” tried to get the call center people to stop telling people about walk-ins – to no avail. Uh-huh … So what is the real secret for getting a new appointment? Could you give me a phone number for someone who can reschedule my appointment? Sorry … she said, we’re not permitted to give out phone numbers. The proper way to reschedule is to check a box on the form that says “check here to reschedule the appointment” and mail a copy of the form to CIS.

That’s right – even though I was at the office, my only reasonable option was to mail in the form. That is the type of service the US government provides for a $270 fee, at the beginning of the 21st century!! But we are just damn foreigners – so who cares. Since we don’t get to vote, no one cares. I have no congressman to call about nonsense like that. Yet, we do have the privilege to pay taxes.

Taxation without representation is tyranny
James Otis, American Patriot.

Of course, in comparison to what some people have to go through dealing with CIS, my problems are really pretty minor. So minor, I can actually laugh it off and shake my head at the absurdity of this experience. But this experience also reminds me of the abyss of how such gross inefficiencies of an uncaring bureaucracy can completely ruin lives. And they do. Every day.

One Response to “US CIS – your government at work”

  1. Agbessi Says:

    Yeah we’re only Foreigners and at this post 9/11 time when Foreigners are considered “potential threats for the US” especially if they’re muslim, no one cares whether you get your papers or not. Sometimes I wonder whether the green card should even expire since you’re considered a “permanent resident” or even if it shouldn’t be as simple as going to the Post office to renew your Green Card. If it’s someone like me I could understand. Talking about ruining life just like only one Immigration officer can decide your fate at the airport. I still remember a scare I had when I first came to US. At the airport I realize I couldn’t find my copy of the I-20 form from my school. I knew I had it and did everything to keep good track of it. Good thing it turned out it was in the enveloppe in which my plane ticket was and that the american airline Officer in Paris had put it there after checking my papers at the Charle De Gaulle airport. Yeah what can we do. They say I’m a Tax resident now even though I don’t know if I will still be in US in June 2007. Taxation without representation!!! I agree.