Friday, November 01, 2013

We The People (dot com?)

from Jacqueline

A bit of rambling about one of my projects this week ….

I think we’ve all read or heard the news about the failure of the “Obamacare” website to meet the demands of a population just dying for a decent healthcare insurance program.  But, given my experience this week, I can tell you it’s not just the healthcare website that’s having problems.  I finally – finally – bit the bullet and decided that after years of being a “Permanent Resident,” it was time I faced the forms, ponied up the money (not an insignificant amount, I have to tell you), and applied for my US citizenship.  I’ve gone on about it before, but this time, it really was time.

 I surfed along to the government’s immigration website, and clicked my way onto Form N-400.  The instructions stated that I could fill out all the details and save the document as I progressed through the questions – so I  began slotting in my answers and, as instructed, I tried to save the doc.  It could not be saved.  The best I could do was to keep the laptop on for several days with the form open on my desktop while I slowly but surely finished completing it at those rare times when I wasn’t working.  Two things – I have been super-busy with the final revision of my next novel, and – of more significance – I hate filling out forms.  Some of the questions were a real slog – transcribing details of every single departure from and return to the USA since receiving Permanent Residence, was exhausting and mind-numbingly boring, though I can see the point of having to provide the information.  And that information was not easy to come by – who saves their flight details for years on end?  Of course, I could look at the entry stamps in my passport, but what about the dates of exit?  However, that was only one problem.

 Then came time to print the completed form.  It would not print.  Even my husband, who is a whizz with these technical things, could not get it to print properly.  An error message on the printer indicated the form was at fault.  Oh lovely.  Your tax dollars at work.  Maybe the government doesn’t want more citizens.  Eventually we fought our way through the problem and the form was duly printed and is now in my hot little hand.  I wish I could say the laptop is untouched by the experience, but it hasn’t been the same since. 

 I asked my husband to proof read the docs, just to make sure I hadn’t inadvertently made any comments that might land me in jail.  He was only a few pages in before he began laughing.  “I can't believe they ask this - as if anyone would admit to being in a terrorist organization,” he said, in response to one of the yes/no questions.  "Or a prostitute," he added.  Then he asked if I had changed my mind about the gun thing.  You know, the question where you have to check the “Yes” box where it asks if you would be willing to bear arms if required by the government of the USA. 

            “I think you lied,” he said.
          “No,” I said.  “If President Obama thinks we’re in such a tight spot that he needs to put a gun in my hand and have me fight, well, I’ll do it.”
            “But that’s not the point,” said my spouse.  “The point is whether you would do it if any president – a President  Cheney, for example – asked you to wield a gun.”
            “Um, well …” I said.
            “Let’s move on to breaking the laws of the land. What about parking tickets?”
            “Oh for crying out loud!”

 But we got through that bit, and I’ve collected my docs together.  Trouble is my Cleveland, Ohio-born spouse has to provide proof of his American citizenship.

            “So, I need your birth certificate,” I said.  “Where is it?”
            “Somewhere,” he said. “I dunno.  Will they take anything else?”
            “Passport,” said I.
            “Now where did I put ….”
           You can tell which member of the family has made 29 exits from and re-entries into the USA in fifteen years! I would go into a meltdown if I couldn't immediately lay my hands on my passport.

 I’m soldiering on, and expect to have all the forms and proofs of this and that together in a day or two. It might take a while to find John’s passport.  I was hoping to be an American by my birthday at the end of April next year.   I’ll let you know how it goes.


  1. Wow! Big step. Can you have dual citizenship?

    I've also had to fill out looooonnnng government questionnaires, in which they force you to remember every detail about your life and warn you that "I can't remember" is no excuse. So which is better: saying the dreaded "I can't remember" or guessing, perhaps inaccurately?

  2. from Jacqueline

    Yes on the dual citizenship, because the USA and UK have reciprocal immigration arrangements, however, there is that thing that once you're British, you're always British - I might have pickled my chances of a Damehood though!!! And really, it seems you have to make a best guess at some things - and sign the form knowing you did your best and did not intentionally lie on the form.

  3. Congratulations, Jacqueline! But what a chore; the form itself then the site not working properly. I hope Michelle reads your blog. Now she'll take action NOW to make sure that site is working as it should. (The President has his hands full right now on website problems.)

    The questions in preparation for the test are not all that easy. I helped a friend by reading the questions to her. Being a political junkie, I knew most but I had to guess at some and guessed wrong.

    Hope you make it through the paperwork in time for your birthday and again congratulations on 1) taking the step and 2) writing about your 'first step.' It was fun to read!

  4. from Jacqueline

    Thanks, Cathy - regarding the question prep, I've looked through it and all I can say is, thank heavens I was a West Wing junkie! I pretty much knew the answer to every question, and I can thank Martin Sheen and co for that!