Well, not really an update, because unless Congress does something about the backlog, I’m still in a five year-long line, waiting my turn to continue the process. I’m a little more than a year into the line-up, so I should be getting to the front of the line in four more (and I thought Jersey lines were bad!), and then, in another year or two, I (we) should have our green cards! For those of you keeping score, that will mean we will have been living and working in the U.S. for 14 years.
What I really wanted to talk about here was the recent fun I/we have gone through as part of life in U.S. as a non-permanent resident.
The first was after waiting over 2 months for my new visa to arrive (I’m back on the NAFTA-based TN visa, which is the yearly one my wife has been on for the last 8 years, and will be until we clear the line and begin the process again), I had to update the paper-work at the payroll office where I work. After doing that, they told me I also need to update the information in the GLACIER system. GLACIER is the system the government uses to track tax information for non-resident aliens. In essence, it’s a memory test of unrelated information designed to tell you something at the end so blindingly obvious, you’d rather fill out a tax return. As I started filling it out, it was basic info; no-brainer things, some of which was already filled in. Then you get to the section that asks you to detail your presence in and out of the U.S. since 1986. The “out of the country” is required for as long as you’ve been legally in the U.S., so for me, that’s 8 years. We don’t spend a lot of time in Canada or traveling each year, so that’s not too bad. The other part – “in the country before that period”, took a little more thought. After all, in 1986 I was 15 and still in high school. Having relatives in the U.S. that we visited on a semi-regular basis made this a little challenging. Two things came out of this: one was being told to “do your best, they don’t really check it”, and second was getting to the end of the form to be triumphantly (as much as a web form can, anyway) told “Hey! You’re eligible to pay taxes!”. I could have told them that, and without the memory test.
The second event just happened, and while this is to be attributed to life post-911, it’s still annoying. As mentioned, we have lived and worked in the U.S. for 8 years. During that time, we’ve held New Jersey state driver’s licenses, and have had to renew them twice, as they expire every four years. At least that used to be the case for us. Recently, NJ switched to a “digital driver’s license”. In moving to that system, they did something deviously clever. To get your new license, which is all about security: are you who you say you are, you need to provide various forms of ID in a point system: you get different amounts of points for different pieces of ID, from 1 to 4 points. With the caveat being you can only use, at most, 2 1-point IDs, this ensures you have ID from the higher point values. As non-permanent residents, none of the 2-point IDs applied to us (well, I guess if I had an FAA-issued pilot’s license), so that meant the big 4-point ID was our passports, with our work visas in them, and in that is the cleverness. By forcing you into that position, you’re forced to let them know you’re a non-permanent resident without them having to ask. The result? Your driver’s license now expires 90 days after your visa, and for us, that means we’ll be renewing our licenses every year. Michelle even caught a bonus: her current visa expires in May, so she’ll be back in the MVC even sooner. The only saving graces are the fact that they pro-rate the fee (I paid ~$12, and Michelle had to pay ~$8), and it only took us 15 minutes, plus driving, which only added maybe 10-15 minutes.
Maybe it’s just that there’s been a few of these recently, but I used to be fairly complacent about the 5 year thing, and now I just want things to move along. Oh, well, back to waiting. At least I’m not really been hassled the way I’ve read stories about other non-Canadians. I have a way that lets me stay and work in the U.S. legally for as long as someone wants to employ me, and that means I’ll be putting up with the little hassles that crop up from time to time. It is fun, however, to talk about them, and get people’s (ie American citizens’) reactions to things their governments put me through! Is that wrong?