Your tax dollars at work

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…