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February 25, 2006

Oh the joys of dealing with US government departments

I just received this from on of my clients;

"January and February 2006 will be remembered by me for the seemingly unending frustration of dealing with government departments.

First there was the USCIS. The regulations state that should you not receive a decision on Employment Authorization within 90 days of applying, you are entitled to walk into any USCIS office and have an INTERIM Employment Authorization Document issued on the spot. Well 100+ days later I still had nothing. The Memphis USCIS office wouldn't even grant me an appointment for another three or four weeks, but I could get an appointment at Louisville Kentucky the following day. So off I went on a day trip. I was told that the fingerprints and photographs taken twice already by the Nashville Application Support Center weren't even in the system, so they did it all again a THIRD time just to make sure. After all that performance I was then told that they couldn't issue me an interim EAD because they had 'just' approved my main application. I would have to be patient and wait for it to arrive in the mail.

Then there was the Social Security Administration. I took my newly received Employment Authorization Card (which contains your photo, fingerprint, signature, and a holographic image of the Statue of Liberty that does all sorts of funky things as you turn it against the light) into the Social Security Administration and asked for a Social Security Card. After waiting for several hours my number finally came up. The woman at the counter looked at my passport and at the Employment Authorization Card and said that she couldn't verify that the card was real. "Well it looks pretty damned real to me" was my reply. "We will write to immigration and ask them to confirm it. This will take about four weeks". Obviously they needed time for the horses to be watered, and for a dispatch rider to embark on the long ride up to Washington DC. Clearly the SSA is yet to learn about the existence of the telephone, and calling their phone number proves that nobody there has yet mastered the skills of answering one.

Finally my Social Security Card came in the mail. A disappointing piece of recycled cardboard with my name and "VALID FOR WORK ONLY WITH DHS AUTHORIZATION" printed on it by a 1970's vintage line printer. I felt like taking it straight back in to the Social Security Office and asking them for proof that THIS card was indeed real. Anyone could've done a better job in 5 minutes with any color inkjet or laser printer - and they would've used better quality cardboard!

Drivers License. Another joyous experience! I have held a valid state drivers license for five years. Unfortunately it was up for renewal.
Unfortunately this state now puts people like myself who LEGALLY entered the US, who have never broken a law in our lives, and who have a permanent residency application pending into the same classification as illegal immigrants. So they confiscated my old driver license and replaced it with a "Certificate for Driving. NOT VALID FOR IDENTIFICATION". This of course after confirming my identity against my passport, and setting the validity period for the certificate by that of the passport. Red lettering on a pink background. Hmmmmmmm. Maybe that's why it is not valid for identifiction.
It would more appropriately read "IMPOSSIBLE FOR A POLICE OFFICER TO READ AT NIGHT WITH A FLASHLIGHT".

THEN there was the Department of Labor and my PERM application. Oh the Department of Labor ...

I first approached Mario Ramos back in April 2005 to file a PERM and then an EB-3 application for me.

As anyone who follows the postings on AILA's website (www.aila.org) will know, DOL has had a lot of problems with their PERM processing. They started a wonderful online system and then had to withdraw it. Then they'd tried to fix things, and then they had to fix the fixes because it still didn't work.

Unfortunately we got caught up in this whole mess.

Mario and Andy ended up having to submit my PERM application manually, because the online system kept on refusing to accept that my company was real. All the official company documents look real and everyone else believed it was real, including the Department of State, Department of Revenue, and the IRS. But not the DOL's computer.

Well the application went in. Months later we still hadn't heard anything.

Mario and Andy have had to e-mail them on a number of occasions, and the typical response time for an e-mail is a month or longer. Finally Andy managed to get someone by phone, and was told that they cannot comment on a pending application - even to the immigration attorney who submitted it - other than confirming that they have received the application.

Finally a rejection letter came back from DOL, stating that "the required recruitment process was not conducted". Well on that front they are dead wrong. The job ads went into "The Tennessean" and we have the clippings to prove it, we have the phone logs of the discussions with the various applicants, we have their resumes, and we have copies of the letters they were sent to them explaining why they were not suitable for the position.

After my other experiences so far this year this didn't surpise me in the least.

Now we have to go through the whole process all over again and wait yet another three to six months. THANKFULLY Mario works on the basis of charging for the various stages reached, rather than for every time something has to be resubmitted or reprocessed. It isn't my fault, it isn't his fault, and it probably isn't the fault of any given individual in the government system. But unfortunately we now have a government structure that is so cumbersome and so tied to out of date methods that the ball gets dropped way too often, or it simply gets stuck in the system only to reappear months later. I bet most of the government employees are every bit as frustrated as we are, but of course they are powerless to change the system - they just have to work within what they've got.

If everyone else ran their private companies and corporations in the same way they'd be out of business within weeks. THAT is the difference between the corporate world and the government. We HAVE to have our systems operating efficiently otherwise we're gone.

This is a wonderful country, full of very talented and capable people. I hope it can stay that way, because right now if every company experiences the same frustrations that we're having, everyone that can go elsewhere will do so. The US needs to recruit and retain the best of home-grown talent with the best available from the rest of the world. And the government needs to facilitate and support that, and not act as some sort of insurmountable obstacle, which is where it seems to be right now".

name withheld

Posted by VisaLawyer at February 25, 2006 12:18 PM

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