There is a lot to update, but I’ve been deliberately holding off. Without a doubt the biggest news is that after the better part of eight years since I began living in the United States, I finally have a green card.
This has been an ongoing process that has been a nearly constant source of stress for me, especially as I started down the final stretch of the six-year period for which you are allowed to be on an H-1B visa. (If you’re doing the math and wondering how I’ve been here for 7+ years, I was originally on a TN visa that allows professionals to work temporarily but doesn’t lead to immigration.) There was never any substantial danger of my getting kicked out of the country or anything (I’d reached the point in my green card application where I could renew with my current company on an annual basis anyway), but getting it at long last is a huge deal.
I actually was a bit hesitant even posting about it now, as it came with the incorrect date of birth printed on it and I had to send it back with more forms and documentation to get a new one issued. I already managed to jinx the process up once a couple of months ago, the point at which my labour certification had finally been approved and all that remained was for them to finish processing the green card application, which to me seemed trivial by comparison. I let my breathing relax and my guard down, only to receive a Request For Evidence that demanded several pieces of information (including my long-form birth certificate; I can empathize with Obama now) that I didn’t know if we would be able to provide to their complete and utter satisfaction. To make matters worse, you aren’t supposed to leave the country while your green card is still being processed, and I had a trip planned to Canada next month, right at the end of the 60 day period they can potentially take to process your response to the RFE. A conflict was pretty unlikely – if they just so much as got the approval notice to me, I could get my passport stamped and travel without the card itself – but if there was a request for additional evidence or some other problem then my travel plans were probably hosed.
The immigration service has a website you can use to check on the status of your application, and I was checking it compulsively, sometimes even multiple times per day. Its status of “Request for Evidence Response Review” never changed, when one day I received a piece of mail from Lincoln, Nebraska, where the processing centre is. My heart went boom-boom-churn-churn as I opened it, not to a notice saying that they needed more evidence, or a notice that my petition had been approved and my green card was on the way, but to my considerable shock and disbelief the actual green card itself, and documentation that said (among other things) “Welcome to the United States”.
The card alone is something of a technological beauty, layer upon layer of holograms, digital inscriptions and security measures way more advanced than any other piece of identification I possess. It even comes with a little insulating sleeve to prevent its RFID signature from being read wirelessly. Upon discovery of the error in my date of birth I was hesitant to part with it, as it’s such a magnificent trophy and represents so much to me. I don’t know how long it will take to get a replacement issued, but I’m not terribly worried about it as I am now a registered alien (with a number and everything) and can get my passport stamped in time for the trip.
Beyond the actual card, though, what it represents is huge. The autonomy to work for whomever I please, the ability to get paid for my extracurricular activities (ie. theatre), the right to stay and live and work without the difficulties of obtaining a visa or the existential threat of unemployment leading to deportation. As far as getting rid of monkeys on my back goes, this one was a gorilla. I can’t believe it’s been almost eight years.
Oddly enough, the website didn’t report my status had changed for another week or so after I’d received the card. It still thinks we’re in the “Post Decision Activity” phase that comes before the card is actually produced.
It’s not like my life was on hold this past month while all this was happening. There’s some page-two news as well.
Sister Mary ran its two weekends, and wrapped. Our audiences were pretty small but the show was decent, and I was glad not to have to commit too many resources to it while everything else was going on. And if nothing else, I managed to get some cute photos for my gallery from it. Here’s a taste:
Yes, I am the back half of a camel for much of this show. It’s not even the worst experience I’ve had playing an animal’s hindquarters.
In the world of finance, I received my new American Express card that’s supposed to net me some impressive cashback for groceries, gas and department store purchases. After having it a couple of weeks, though, I realized that the 1% it gets back on other purchases was leaving a fair bit on the table, considering how much Elizabeth and I eat out. So I wound up also getting a Citi Forward Visa card that gets 5 “points” back per dollar spent at restaurants, as well as on various entertainment and Amazon.com purchases. The “points” don’t convert exactly to “percent cashback” (although I can potentially get an equivalent 5% value depending on what I use them for), but it’s better than the 1% the Amex gives me, and the card has no annual fee so it’s no skin off my nose to have it.
Finally, some other big (although not green-card big) news is that while the Market Theatre that houses Unexpected Productions (where I do Theatresports) is being renovated by the Pike Place Market, we will be moving to the Intiman Theatre, a gorgeous, professional space at the Seattle Center that has won Tony awards and national recognition for its productions. It so happens, you see, that they’ve recently fallen on hard times and had to cancel their season, which has made them available for our much smaller-budget operation.
So, I will soon be performing Theatresports on one of the most well-renowned regional stages. I’m trying not to let it get to my head. Ironically, the Intiman was actually the venue for Theatresports 13 years ago, before they got the opportunity to have their own theatre at Pike Place Market. So there is a lot of significance to this return that goes beyond it being a simple renovation hiatus.
All that and more to come next month… Elizabeth is graduating, we’re going to Canada, and hopefully summer will truly arrive.