The INS has been renamed the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Services. Since immigration comes before citizenship, they probably should have been the Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services, but I imagine someone saw the obvious problem with that. (“Twenty Muslim men were rounded up by the DICS last night in San Francisco.”)

Immigration is also now part of the Department of Homeland Security. Hence we have the deliciously ironic situation of the JFK Federal Building housing the Department of Homeland Security. Tell that to Jackie.

Anyway, I turned up at around 09:00 and stood in line for an hour to be handed a small piece of paper with a number on it—in my case, 465. Then I went out to the forms people to get an I-89. The I-89 is for photographs and fingerprints. It’s quite a long and detailed form, but fortunately I wasn’t expected to fill it out. Instead, I had a fingerprint imprinted on each side, and was told to sign the statement at the bottom saying that all the above information was correct. Apparently they fill in the actual information for me later.

My next task was to take the blank form back to the first room. However, instead I snuck upstairs to the JFK cafeteria for coffee and a chocolate chip muffin. In retrospect, I probably should have had lunch there as well, because when I came back down at around 10:30 my day was just beginning.

It was 14:25 when they finally reached #465. I handed over my blank piece of paper, two photos and the letter they’d sent me. They stamped my passport. That was it, so by 14:30 I was outside, light headed from lack of food, walking through downtown Boston looking up at the tall buildings, trying to come to terms with the fact that in some vague yet official sense I now belong here.

I got some curry, then the T to Lechmere to head to work. On the way through the mall I picked up a creme de fleur and coffee from Au Bon Pain, because I felt I deserved it. There wasn’t much time left for actual work, and Glenn had thoughtfully arranged a meeting to occupy most of it, so before long I was wandering home, still dazed. The curry had done its work, and I was sleepier than a koala that’s just switched to decaf.

So, here I am. I have to pay taxes, and they can make me die on the front lines in a war, but they don’t want to let me vote. I suppose it’s a bit like being black.

Well, I spent the morning, and most of the afternoon, at the INS. I arrived around 09:00, and the woman at the entry desk asked me what I was there for. An answer of “I need a second temporary visa extension to cover processing delays in my I-751 application to remove temporary status on a permanent resident card” got me a ticket with the number 465 on it.

I sat down and looked at the “Now Serving” board. Well, it doesn’t actually say “Now Serving”, but it’s just like the boards at the deli counter of the supermarket. Except that the cattle’s still alive.

Anyway, the board said 410. I dug out the latest Private Eye and started reading.

About an hour later, the board said 413. I realized that I needed coffee badly, and also that I had abundant time in which to go get it, sit and drink it, if necessary queue for half an hour to get back through security, and still be back in my seat in time to go talk to an INS Information Officer.

I wandered out and went upstairs to the JFK Federal Building Cafeteria. I didn’t see any prominent “federal employees only” signs, so I bought some Starbucks coffee and a muffin and relaxed.

I returned to the official place of waiting before noon, which is when they close and lock the doors. I’d been told that everyone in there by noon and holding a ticket would be seen.

I finished off Private Eye, finished off Martin Amis’s Heavy Water, and nearly finished off The ClueTrain Manifesto. Finally the number on the board hit 460, and I started feeling a bizarre sense of anticipation.

The Information Officer understood my situation immediately. She told me that what with things being the way they are, the INS isn’t managing to process ‘Green Card’ paperwork in the nine months alloted. In fact, the current estimated waiting time is two and a half years. She verified that my case had reached the ‘in’ tray of one of the local examiners, which means I’m a good year ahead of schedule. She was cautiously optimistic that I might hear from them before June, so she gave me another passport stamp which will let me get back into the country until July.

I thanked her and wandered out into the street. It was half past two. I had some lunch, then dropped in to work on the way home…

It’s February 1st. My current “permanent” resident card expires on the 8th. I filed the paperwork in late November—you’re not allowed to file until 90 days before the card expires.

Unfortunately, the INS service center in Vermont is currently taking 4-5 months to send out receipts (according to the national service center), followed by another 9-10 months to process the paperwork. Since I rather need to be able to keep working, I asked the national service center person for suggestions, and was told to go visit the local INS office and ask for a temporary visa and work permit extension.

So this morning I set off to the JFK Federal Building in the red tape district. (So called because it used to be the red light district, before they kicked out the whores and moved in the politicians. Ah well, there goes the neighborhood…)

I got through security, waited in a line for about 15 minutes, and got a ticket saying I was number C443. Expected wait time was 51 minutes, it said. The woman on the ticket desk told me I’d need various bits of paperwork, and of course one of them was one I didn’t have with me.

Government Center to Davis and back. 51 minutes. The music from “Run Lola Run” started playing in my head.

I needn’t have worried. When I got back and through security again, about an hour later, the sign said “Now serving C434″. I sat and read Scientific American.

When it was my turn, things went relatively smoothly. I was amused by the fact that the passwords for all the computer systems were on a piece of paper in plain view. The guy behind the desk wasn’t sure what to do, and checked with the Chief Data Librarian (or something like that). She seemed pleased that I was doing everything by the book, and actually smiled. A few minutes later I had a couple of stamps in my passport, and I was legal for another year.

I got out of the building and noticed my hands were shaking. I know they’re just a bunch of bureaucrats, but the INS always scares the crap out of me. I called sara, and suddenly realized I’d left my umbrella in the building.

Back through the security scan I went. I dashed back to the waiting room and retrieved my umbrella, and started mentally checking I hadn’t forgotten anything else. Wallet—check. Palm—check. Keys—uh…

I ran back to the security checkpoint, and told the guard I had left my keys there. Since this was my fourth visit, chances are he was starting to recognize me. I got the keys back, and did another inventory. All articles present and correct, I left the building for the last time.

After that, not much. I had lunch with sara then returned home to finish some work.