Thursday, February 21, 2013

Global apartheid

We're about to apply for Eug's permanent residence and the bureaucracy is overwhelming.

It made me think of all the paperwork we've had to file over the years of our marriage, the money spent, and the number of times we have felt like interlopers. I think we're not unique at all, and the paperwork that others go through is even more overwhelming, the costs even more prohibitive, and the psychological consequences even more dire (in the global apartheid created by strict borders, we are still definitely among the powerful). Asylum seekers in Cape Town must have their right to remain stamped each and every month- each time this can take a full day or more. Is it right that governments and borders hold this kind of power over us? Many refugees don't have any paperwork whatsoever when they start out. For each application, imagine hours and hours of paperwork and signatures.

In the US, for me:

  • F1 application to come to study and marry Eug. (my 4th F1 visa, for the record)
  • Work permission after marriage.
  • Green Card Application (conditional)
  • Permission to travel while Green Card Application Pending
  • Green Card Application (permanent, after 2 years of marriage)
  • Certificate of Naturalization
  • U.S. Passport.

In the U.S., to the SA embassy 

  • Temporary residence application (Noah and Eug)
  • Application to retain SA citizenship before receiving U.S. citizenship

Let's do a tally:

  • Total number of X-rays to determine that I was free of TB: 3
  • Number of Medicals that focused on whether Eug or I had psychosis, addictions, or a history of sexual deviance: 3
  • Number of Interviews where I was asked whether I was a terrorist or a prostitute: 3
  • Number of forms where I signed that I have never been a terrorist or a prostitute: I lost count
  • Number of times I was refused boarding because of visa/vaccination changes: 2

In South Africa (each with multiple trips to home affairs with two tiny children at 7am):

  • Applied for Eli's abridged birth certificate
  • Applied for Eli's unabridged birth certificate (still not through, 10 months later)
  • Applied for Noah's abridged birth certificate of a foreign birth (which will allow him to become a SA citizen and therefore stay in SA).
  • Applied for Eli's South African Passport.
  • Apply for Eug's Permanent resident and a extension of his temporary residence (and possibly Noah's) 

To be done, at the U.S. embassy: Eli's U.S. birth certificate and U.S. Passport

Are roads and other tax funded resources so precious?


leah said...

This is funny because I am just now taking a break from filling our our SNAP paperwork which I need to redo every six months. I joke that I have a graduate degree in filling out government paper-work. But on a serious note, every time I do our taxes or apply for SNAP or health insurance I feel grateful that we don't have anything "wonky" about our situation. We have an income with regular pay stubs, we've never been in prison, and we aren't immigrants. I know some people who should be able to access these services and don't because it's just too complicated. I'm amazed you guys persevere in traveling anywhere... if it were me I might decide it's just not worth it.

Darren Beem said...

Yeah, I can relate as well.

For my licenses, I need to attest that I do not owe child support, I have not committed any felonies and a few other things I can't remember.

Every time, I fill out one of these forms I am a little paranoid. Always afraid I might say yes instead of no on one of the questions, and that it will ruin my life.

"No, I am not really a felon. Why don't you believe me??"

Concrete Gardener said...

Thanks for your comments guys. When I'm struggling with paperwork I am always encouraged by refugee friends who somehow, with absolutely no proof of identity, with degrees from universities that no longer exist, have done really well. My biggest fear is that Eug (and Noah?!) will have to leave the country at some point because we mess up paperwork.