Monday, June 05, 2006

Cutting it fine

As you know I've lodged an application for naturalisation as a US Citizen. If I can't bring myself to spell the word 'naturalisation' with a Z I'm not sure I'm the ideal candidate but I'm hoping they'll let that little eccentricity slide!

Today we checked the mailbox and found a couple of missives from The Department of Homeland Security. Yup, US immigration is now a sub-department of DHS.

The first missive was an acknowledgement of receipt of my case (and more importantly, my fee!) and the advice that I should expect to hear from them within a year. Oh, they also noted that I had failed to include a required piece of evidence; said evidence being a completed fingerprint card.

That particular failing for an application lodged in 2006 isn't fatal; indeed it's impossible to include it in the initial application. They even note that completed fingerprint cards dating after some day in 1997 would not be accepted. *shrug*

Then I opened the second missive. This was a scheduled appointment to have my fingerprints taken. I had a fingerprint taken in March 2005 at my greencard renewal but that was only my right forefinger.

Becoming a citizen requires much more than a single digit. According to what I've read on the 'net (backed by my experience of being fingerprinted for the Australia wide criminal background check required of Australian intending immigrants) this particular fingerprinting session will involve all ten digits, my palms and that part of the hand from wrist to little pinkie!

I'm told it's done electronically these days; I sure hope so. After that Australian fingerprinting session back in April 2002 it took me a couple of days to get all the ink off my hands!

Once I'm fingerprinted it all goes off to the FBI and they do a background criminal check. I'd never have imagined I'd be the subject of an FBI investigation.

Well I knew I'd be fingerprinted to within inches of my life but I really had expected that my naturalisation application would take a year to bubble to the top of the pile and only then would they do the fingerprinting thang! So it was quite the shock, accompanyied by that sinking feeling in the stomach, to see that I was required to attend, in Phoenix, on Thursday next. I'll be in Dallas that day and they note that failure to attend constitutes abandonment of the application and the forfeit of the fee.

Of course there's an out. Check a box or two on the notice and mail it back to them. So I'm hoping that sending it registered mail with a prominent 'Reschedule request' on the envelope does the trick! Pointless to take it there in person; if you haven't tried to deal with USCIS you have no idea how difficult it is to even enter the building! They won't let you in unless you have a letter from them bearing todays date as the appointment date and even when you have that you have to pass through airport style security. I can see why but it does render it difficult to be certain that my request for a rescheduled appointment reaches them in time.

Cross the fingers time methinks! Care to cross yours on my behalf? :-)

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