There are times in America where I really marvel at the retro way this place works.
A friend of mine has said that America is the most highly advanced third world country he’s ever been to. And I have to agree, there are times when I have South East Asia flashbacks when I’m standing here in the capital of the free world.
One such moment happened recently when my Green Card Attorney gives me a call. Since the moment I arrived in LA, I’ve been hustling to get myself legal. This is a drawn out and expensive process. So far, I’ve put in $4,000 and that’s just to get the ball rolling. While that may sound like a lot of money, there is an Israeli friend of mine who went through, “eight years and two husbands.” I’m getting off light.
Anyway, we have just resubmitted my application after it was returned by the processing bureau in Nebraska. Yes, Nebraska.
Some person sitting out there in the cold, who I never get to meet, goes through my application and decides whether I am worthy of a Green Card. And the first time round, they decided, “No, fuck the Australian that’s moved here with every cent he owns and spent it all on American soil. That’s not the kind of person we need.”
The kind of Green Card I went for is called the “Alien of Extraordinary Ability”, so while it conjures up mental images of me dressed as E.T. juggling packets of M&Ms while I ride a unicycle up the ramp of my flying saucer, the real task is to show that you were famous in your field. And considering that I used to write Nutritional leaflets for McDonald’s, I can certainly spin some kind of bullshit that I was a Nobel prize winning, advertising hack who ranks up there with Mother Theresa.
What followed was a manic, “stop writing screenplays, start writing letters for everyone I ever met to sign and send back on letterhead” couple of months.
The laundry list and the details I had to provide were insane, but I want this thing so badly, I devote my life to it for two straight months over ten warped time zones.
In the end, the resubmission goes back and it was a telephone book. I took it to Governor Schwarzenegger and asked him to rip it. When he couldn’t, I knew we were ready.
I had everything in there except my third grade report card. But there were some lovely chocolate finger paintings I did as a child prodigy, amongst a million award show certificates, letters, print ads, TV layout boards and CD ROMs. And a week after that left my hands, the phone rings and my lawyer tells me, “Congratulations! You are now the proud owner of an I-40!”
I moonwalk, I back flip, I shake-ah-my-moneymake-ah! Then there is a sudden moment of come down clarity. What is an I-40?
And here’s where it all starts to go south of the border. Let me make this far more brief and far less painful for you. All the hard work that you hear about in applications for green cards, is all to get this I-40 thing. Which is not a green card, it’s the right to apply for a green card.
Deep breath in…..and deep breath out…..
After completely emptying my favor bank, I have discovered that I am now merely cleared to apply. This is a great hurdle to over come, the rest of it is kind of a formality.
However, I have to now apply for a green card, a work visa and a multi-entry visa; three separate documents, all of which will take a varying amount of time to come through. The work visa I can get in a few months, the travel doc around the same, the green card might turn up in the post in a year.
The upshot is, while the work and travel visas are being processed, I can’t leave the country and I can’t work here. Yes, that’s right. Can’t leave, can’t work. This is Jakarta logic. This is North Vietnam common sense. But it’s all right here in the US of A.
Everyone punch the sky as you holler, “America, WOOOOO!”
And my favor bank is not the only bank account that has run empty; I spent the last of my savings on my applications, buying folios and award books, paying for couriers.
And there is that tricky thing called rent that is just around the corner. Oh, and eating.
All joking aside, I really don’t know what my options are. If I leave, my application is over. If I stay, I can break the law and get a cash job and risk deportation and barring from the country. I can rob a 7-Eleven. Or I can work as a hooker. Great.
So I sit on Venice Beach (cos it’s free), ponder my dilemma there better be a screenplay in this somewhere, and I rehearse my acceptance speech again.