The Bureaucratic Maze of Immigration

I applied for a visa in 1970 in Vienna, Austria after I got married to an American.  After many questions on the form such as “Have you been a prostitute/communist?” were answered, I was told that I needed to be cleared from the countries I have visited like Thailand, Germany, Switzerland and so on that.  The waiting game started where I checked in with the counselor who had a prompt a response, “Nope.  Nothing today.”

It went on for weeks until the neighboring country, Germany cleared me, but no other countries did.  And then suddenly our counselor was assigned to another case and the young deputy counselor oversaw in the absence of his old jaded boss.  One day our new counselor said, “If there is no response from any other countries by Monday, you can go!”  Yahoo!  The Monday came as usual in the cold grey February, but what was unusual was that the sun shone in that embassy as I walked into the office.  The counselor said, “Well…no response…but you can go.  I will make a note…”

We took the trans-Atlantic flight out of Iceland where the plane skidded on the icy tarmac.  In New York City, I dropped off the documents related to my immigration status and we continued the flight to Hawaii.

In 1973, I applied for the citizenship in Honolulu, Hawaii.  As I told them that my documents were dropped off in New York City, the officer shook his head in dismay and said, “We’ll never find those files.”  I understood that two offices in the far end of the country operate their own system.  Nevertheless I was assigned to a date for the competency test.

I went to the office on that assigned day and joined the long que in front of a large glass door of the examiner.  As I got close to the partly open glass door, I heard the examiner asking the examinee, “What are the three branches of the government?”  The examinee simply said, “Yes, yes,” nodding his head.  As she (examiner) repeated her question to communicate with him (examinee), her voice got a notch higher each time as if the loudness would break through the wall of language barrier.  Finally she said loudly, “You learn three branches of the government, I will give you the citizenship!”  The man said nodding his head, “Yes, yes” to the good hearted civil servant.

It was my turn.  She said, “I will make it easy for you.”  She repeated the question.  She really wanted to pass someone in that bright sunny day in Hawaii as palm trees swayed in the constant trade wind under cumulus cloud.  So my competency test was passed in the questionable bureaucratic maze as the waves broke over the barrier spewing spray into blue air.  She and I climbed the wall of the language barrier.  Maybe…



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