Monday, August 22, 2005

Waiting


I have been in a very intense relationship for more than six years with the hope of getting something out of it one day.

The relationship is with my current employer, a direct marketing agency and the something I have been waiting for is the Green card, the permanent residency registration card of this country where I have resided for ten plus years and have been a tax payer for eight.

I can not explain or understand why I am still waiting. But it is what it is.

Labor certification, the first step of Green Card application, the step to prove that why I should be hired rather than an American citizen, usually take 6 months. That is, prior to April 2001.

My case was filed on Nov, 2001. I am still waiting after three years and eight months. The delay was caused by the Pardoning of illegal immigrants in April 2001 when 40,000 cases flooded the labor offices. Mine was buried somewhere in that office across East river in Queens. My hope and freedom was buried with it. And I remain a legal alien in New York.

I started with my current company in March, 1999, a young, smart yet shy and sweet girl coming from China originally, but most recently from the Deep South. I was hired as Senior Analyst then and developed statistic models to select customers for Sears to call up for Heating unit service. I reported to an unconventionally handsome but serious looking Jewish man with very piercing gaze. I find him smart and straightforward. I was new to New York, excited but was still growing and reaching out for the future.

I did not ask the company to start my case until 2 years after I started working there, in early 2001. I could have used my own lawyer and started it earlier, but I did not have the money or felt that I did not have it. Dinners, drinks and trips back to China took priorities and we were heavy in debt then.

If only I had filed it before April 2001, life would be different by now. I would have gotten the card like my friend and travel as free as wind. Get better rate in Mortgage loan. Quit on my boss if the raise is not above 0.1% and no VP title by end of next week.

I remain a renter and with no VP title and that is that.

Once lawyers started preparing the filing, mistakes happened, filing was delayed and suddenly it was Nov, 2001. Twin towers were gone. My view of lower Manhattan from the Hudson River was left with surreal and disheartening blankness. Immigrants are looked upon with more doubt of their faithfulness to this country. Processing were slowed down. I started my long and intense waiting for the the case to move ahead.

Besides the exclusivity with my employer, which means remain faithful even drastically under-paid and ignore solicitation from head hunters or prior co-workers, and added pressure of not losing the job no matter what, work was not that bad. I went through tough times and survived five different department heads. I managed to have two promotions, made friends and built up a career of my own.

Sometimes I think the Green Card process has given me an excuse of keeping the status quo, of not moving on. Sometimes it helped me in defending the choice that I have not made or actions not taken.

I could have left Wunderman if I wanted up until 2003, since that shall still give me enough time to file a new case with a new employer. I almost did on Dec 2002, when I got a great offer from a large bank. My new boss counter offered me and I stayed for the sake of green card application, believing I was very close to be approved. I waited for another 2.5 years since then. Sometime I wonder what if I left Wunderman at that time, would life be different? Would I be different?

I become a regular visitor of Canada to get my re-entry visa to US every three months in order to travel back home or to other countries.

Toward end of last year, I believe I was indeed very close. Cases filed by Aug 2001 were being approved by end of 2004. I was hopeful for a while. But starting in Feb 05, a new system called PERM was put in place and new labor cases filed can be approved in 2 months. Old cases that piled up were literally abandoned.

My lawyer told me" you old case were transferred to some back log center in Philadelphia which will take 2 more years to process. Let's file a new one now that you are a Group Director and no longer a Senior Analyst. Let's file a new one for you". So far we still don’t know where those old cases are. Not even my lawyer.

So 3.5 years of waiting and patience leads to only a new start and a new cycle of waiting.

My new case was filed on mid July, 2005. When I asked how long it shall take? The answer was from one week to 2 months. That is light speed compared to the 45 months that I have waited for. I could wait for 2 more months. I could wait until the foliage of Upstate is ready for my visit. I could wait until the city is decorated yet again with the holiday lights.

If all goes well, three months after it is approved, I shall get my travel documents and I shall no longer need to go to Canada when I want to travel to Europe. I hope it is indeed getting closer this time.

Sometime you wait just because you have already waited for so long.

But for me, it is more of a quest of an important period of my life that I can not easily give up. It is almost like I want a proof of my enjoyment and devotion I have felt toward this life in this country, this city and in all these years.

I want the freedom to leave and come back to see the blue color of the top of Empire state building at night whenever I feel like, wherever I am. I wan to pack the bag and come back when I suddenly miss this city and the people I once knew. It is in my blood now and I felt hard to stand up and leave, just like that. I need to be more cool when it comes to departure.

Maybe the Green Card is more sentimental for me than I have ever imagined or known. Maybe it is not just the obsession that we immigrants all suffer from with this country, with its own problems, it has indeed offered us opportunities and freedom that were new to us.

I want a permission to stay or to come back with ease, maybe because I know I will one day leave and leave all these memories of waiting and longing behind me and miss them form somewhere far away.

So I will continue to wait, with hope and light in my eyes. And I shall love each and every single day that I spend while waiting in this great city, a place with memories, past and future.

Or maybe, I am not just waiting for something to happen or to come true. I am living my life and I have always been.

Good things happen for people who wait. Better things happen for people who live their life to their fullest with courage and hope.

I am happy I am here. I am happy I am where I am. And I am thankful for having a dream, for having things to live for and to wait upon.

I love what life has led me to have or not to have as yet. But I will not stop dreaming.

Note: I could not find a good image but want to publish this. So I picked Bull Fight. I always want to go to Spain sometime. One key benefit of getting Green Card is to help me travel more easily. So it is not totally unrelated.

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