Thursday, April 16, 2009

Our Appointment with USCIS

PHOTO CAPTION: Here I am with the two big binders of documents and evidence that we took to the appointment with Immigration. Mainly, our interviewer just wanted to see our passports, California driver's licenses, and my 2008 taxes. He seemed very happy that I'd brought a copy for him to keep.

At Andre's suggestion, we arrived at the USCIS (formerly INS) office in San Jose at 7:30 a.m., an hour before our appointment. I carried binders full of documentation and evidence of the validity of our marriage. We were both dressed professionally, as if we were defending a court case.

After going through security at the entrance (including the usual removal of shoes), we were directed upstairs. The security guard upstairs told us to drop our appointment letter in a basket. To our surprise, five minutes later our names were called.

Our interviewer was really nice. He didn't seem to need much convincing that our case was legitimate. In fact, he apologized a few times for the questions he asked, stating it was just part of his job. I'd been warned that they might take us in separate rooms and ask us very personal questions, even about our sex life. But instead, he spoke to both of us together.

The most prying questions were about our age and racial differences, if these were a problem for us. I got to quote my friend Karen who said I needed a younger man to keep up with all my energy. He asked me the race of my first husband, who is Guamanian. He asked Andre if he saw an opportunity to come to the U.S. when he met me in Santo Domingo. Actually, Andre had thought we might live together in Buenos Aires or Europe or Canada. He wasn't that excited about the U.S., but he's enjoying his life in Santa Cruz.

My favorite question was: "Have you ever been involved in terrorist activities?" I asked him if anyone ever says yes to that question. He kind of smirked and said, "No comment." He also asked a lot of questions about the situation in Haiti and if Andre had ever been involved in killing or hurting other people. I think Andre's family locked themselves in at home whenever there was rioting in the streets. They don't get involved at all.

The interviewer didn't ask to see hardly any of the documents I'd brought. And we had everything he asked for. So it was better to be overprepared. He enjoyed looking at our wedding album and then I handed him a stack of photos of us on our honeymoon and on our trips around California and Las Vegas. He pulled out the ones he wanted to include in our file. He especially liked the ones of me with Andre's family in Brooklyn, the ones where his aunt is always hugging me.

He told us that our case was approved and Andre should be receiving his green card for conditional residency within 30 days. He explained that Andre's residency won't be permanent until we come back in two years and do another interview. His status in the U.S. is dependent on our marriage surviving two more years. When I got home, I called American Airlines since I have enough frequent flyer miles saved for one of our tickets. We might go in June.

It was 8:30, the time of our original appointment, when we left the building. Right away Andre said, "oh good, I can still go to my ESL class." I had hoped to spend the day in San Jose, going out for breakfast to celebrate, followed by the science museum. But I admire his devotion to his English studies, so back to Santa Cruz and our daily routine we went.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Not an April Fool

This space reserved for my birthday blog. Please come back in a day or two to see it.

Marching along in 2009

March featured some nice weather after such a rainy February. As usual, Andre and I rode our bikes along West Cliff Drive and checked out the tide pools at Natural Bridges State Beach.
My friend Annie, a restaurant reviewer for the Santa Cruz Sentinel, invited Andre and me to eat lunch at The Greek -- super delicious -- and our friend Wendy was our server. I always enjoy reading Annie's reviews, but it's even more fun when I was there. This is the second time I've had the pleasure.

Luis Valdez, one of my major heroes, spoke at the Mello Center in Watsonville to a packed house. The high school kids who were putting on his play Zoot Suit were on hand to strut their stuff and dance some boogie woogie and swing. The mayor of Watsonville honored Luis with a plaque and lots of admiration. The talk was featured on local television.

My friend Cat brought her daughters Kelsey and Olivia over to California from Maui for their spring break. I had the pleasure of having Kelsey one evening, so we invited another friend of Maya's, Fiona, and went bowling (Andre's 2nd time). The next day we picked up big sister Olivia at her sleepover and then grabbed more of Maya's friends, Mason and Larisa, for a fun time at the Boardwalk. You can see Andre flying high.