The light at the end of the tunnel

It finally happened.

I called the National Visa Center and — after almost 80 days of multiple redials and hours left on hold — the sweet voice on the other end said “your case arrived today.”

Then on Wednesday, Max had our case number for us.

k-1 visa immigration

What does it all mean?

A series of bungling steps by the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service, accompanied by vague information, confusion and many tears, finally ended and our K-1 visa application should be sent to the Vancouver consulate next week. Once that happens, I fill out forms, schedule my interview, get my flu shot, head down to Vancouver for a few nights and keep my fingers crossed for the nod that allows my entry into the U.S. for marriage and happily ever after with My American and Bella.

While it’s lovely to finally reach this stage, it should have happened more than a month ago. Many of the other couples who started this process when we did in July have an approved visa in hand. They’ve made their travel plans and are closing up shop in their home countries.

Meanwhile, I cried tears of frustration every day for more than a month straight, wondering where our case file was. We were told it was sent to the local USCIS office in Spokane; we were told it was mistakenly sent to the National Records Center, instead of the National Visa Center.

I researched the issue until my brain felt like it was bleeding with information. I begged the clouds in the sky to do something. I killed many bottles of craft beer and red wine (from which the Girl Guide troop of my landlords’ daughter will benefit).

My American made phone calls to USCIS, since its agents speak only to U.S. citizens.

We received snail mail and email notifications that told us nothing.

We enlisted the assistance of Congress woman Cathy McMorris Rodgers.

Nothing seemed to work.

Except waiting.

The squeaky wheel syndrome

Sure, some might say this is a lesson in patience. Maybe it’s supposed to reinforce my life philosophy that if you want something done, you have to make sure it gets done.

Many other couples are lost in the process. We’ve formed a support group on VisaJourney.com and we share the steps we all took to get through this process. Some of us have reached resolution. Others are not so fortunate … yet.

There is more noise to make for them, along with more waiting and more frustration. I tell them not to give up. I tell them to call USCIS and demand to speak to an immigration officer over and over and over again … until they get the answers they need to hear.

I wish I could help more. I wish I could shake some politicians’ heads, rattle a few chains, and tell them how unbelievably, mind-bogglingly exasperating this process can be for well-meaning people to enter the United States legally and be with their loved ones.

The process lacks efficiency and transparency and, with the President’s Executive Order on immigration, it’s about to get worse. Millions of immigrants living illegally in the United States can apply for legal status.

I’m not opposed. Many of them have escaped third-world poverty, violence, crime and other conditions a simple, small-town Canadian girl could never understand.

I’m opposed to not fixing the system holistically. I’m opposed to the process that leaves men and women like me crying in exasperation because we’ve committed the egregious crime of falling in love with an American.

We have more waiting to do. We are only facing, at best, a few more days until we reach the next stage; at worst, a couple of weeks, considering we have a holiday next week to contend with.

We have light at the end of the tunnel, but more cases will fall onto a desk of USCIS employee who sends the packet to the National Research Center in error, or keeps it in a pile to ease NVC’s backlog, or is just having a bad day and doesn’t want to deal with his workload.

And those couples will face long hold times, unresolved service requests and uninformative letters. I feel for them but until someone — anyone — gathers enough steam to make the right kind of noise, this will continue to happen.

This is my little bit of noise.

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