Friday, March 04, 2005

welcome to america, please shake a leg

the department of homeland security[sic] is experimenting with a great new way to track aliens in the US of A. Doggy style. Well, kinda. Anklet bracelets. Nice, ain't it? {NPR story}

Since this is supposed to improve their operations, I am reminded of a few relatively related incidents about how streamlined these operations already are.

When you switch from an F-1 to an H-1B and you are about to travel back to India to get your visa stamped, you will have two I-94s (the first one is the one you had on your passport from the last time you re-entered this country, and the second is the one you received after your H-1B application was approved). Before you board the plane, the airline officers are supposed to collect both from you ("Legally" they will argue that you are supposed to hand both of them over). Apparently, if you don't do this, it may adversely impact your re-entry into the country. Well, guess what, there are people who have ended up accidentally retaining the H-1B I-94. And guess what, they're doing fine (although they do feel bad that it's still with them).

And then there's the case of someone who had shifted to an H-1B and worked for a year and a half before making a trip back. When faced with this person (who had all the mandatory documentation and as much support documentation as could be considered) who worked for an American company whose name rang no bells, the consular officer decided, driven more by self-preservation than regulation, to delay processing until a security check was performed. The person availed of the option (offered not requested) of letting the passport stay at the consulate so that once the visa was processed, the passport could just be sent back via courier, thus saving the person a second trip to make a consular appearance. Several idle cycles later, this person (who had now missed the flight back to the USA) received a phone call from the consulate and all it amounted to was that a return trip was necessary. This trip had a longer wait inside the consulate and eventually it was a mu.Nh\-dikhaa_ii of sorts. The person chose to welcome the extra vacation days rather than ponder better workflow solutions for this process.

Flash forward. Same consulate. Different person. This person worked for a very famous American company. Ended up at the consulate without even the basic mandatory documentation. This person walked out minutes later smiling with the H-1B visa stamp.

The moral of this rant: Isolated cases of success abound in the majority. Human error is omnipresent: it's excusable if it's bureaucratic; if it's the common man, forget about forgiveness. Run for your life.

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