Thursday, March 31, 2011

Waiver Appointment

I received an email from our lawyer today letting us know that they were able to schedule a waiver appointment.  The appointment will be on June 7th at 8:00 am.  The date is a little later than we were hoping for but I am just as excited because it is one step closer to coming home. 

If all goes well at this appointment and they determine that Emma will suffer extreme hardship if she were to have to live without me or move to Mexico to be with me, I will receive my visa within 2 weeks of June 7th.  My birthday is June 19th and being able to come home would be the best present I could wish for. 

The next step is updating our waiver packet and making it as strong as possible so I can come home in June.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

First Appointment Success

I had my first appointment today and I got some great news.  I was approved for the waiver appointment!  I am now officially closer to being home than the first time around in 2009.  I was approved at the appointment in 2009, but a few weeks later got a letter saying that I was approved by mistake and had to wait three years.  It took 2 tries and a year and a half, but I got through it and can start on the next step now.

The appointment was very short and to the point.  I was only asked when I came to the US (1991), how I got there (my parents carried me accross the river), and when I returned to Mexico (2009).  The officer asked if I had tried to cross back since I was denied in 2009 and I said no.  She asked me if I have been using drugs, and I said no and the drug tests from the medical exam were clean so that was all.  I am guessing that I was not asked about my marriage and relationship since I had been interviewed once before and she had all the answers.  I had a big packet of proof of our relationship that we had been collecting over the last few weeks, but she didn't want any of it.  It is weird that I only have that appointment because I am married to Emma, but she wasn't brought up once so it was like she isn't a part of the application.

After the consular officer was done asking me questions, she told me I have a 10 year bar from unlawfully being in the United States and informed me that I qualified for a waiver to the bar.  Until recently, I would have been given a form right then to schedule my waiver appointment, but since the immigration process is going through some changes, I have to wait until it is mailed to me before I can schedule the appointment.  We don't know how long it will take for the letter to arrive at the office in Monterrey.  Luckily, our lawyer informed me that she has been successful in scheduling some waiver appointments without having to wait until the form is sent.  She will try to schedule an appointment as soon as possible and let us know what she finds out.  The waiver appointment is usually around 8 weeks from when the appointment is scheduled.  At this next appointment I will be submitting a hardship packet that will be used to determine if my visa is approved within a couple of weeks and I get to go home, or if I will have to wait for 8-10 moths from the waiver appointment before I get my visa.


Friday, March 25, 2011

First Appointment Packet

I received the packet for my first appointment in the mail from the attorney.  At the appointment on Tuesday, I am going to present my medical exam results and the packet.  The consular official will ask me about myself, Emma, our relationship, and go over the documents.  She will then decide if I qualify for the second appointment on the spot.  If she approves me for the waiver appointment, it would allow me to submit the hardship packet that determines when I get to go home. The appointment I have on Tuesday is the same appointment where I was given the three year bar in 2009, so I'm really nervous.  I'm so close to already being farther along in the process than I got last time.

The packet has all the documents we collected proving that Emma and I have a bona fide marriage.  We have copies of joint bank account statements, joint magazine subscriptions, e-mails dating back from 2005 (those are kind of embarrassing), cell phone records, Emma's ID showing she took my last name, IDs showing the same home address, mail addressed to both of us, apartment leases with both our names, pictures, and our wedding invitation.  It makes us look pretty bona fide, but I have always known we are, so my opinion might not count for much.  The hope is that our packet and my correct answers to the official's questions about how and when we met, got engaged, and married will be enough to prove to her that I should be able to qualify for the second appointment.

I have a phone appointment with the attorney on Monday to go over everything before the appointment on Tuesday.  Since the policy changed so recently, none of know what to expect.  It is possible that the consulate has changed their policies but not their actions, but its also possible that they changed their policies and are going to approve a lot of people.  I sure as hell hope the consulate is following the policy changes, but actions speak louder than words. It all comes down to the outcome on Tuesday.

Black Bag

I went back to the clinic this morning and got the sealed black bag with my medical exam results.  Just that I got the bag is promising.  They usually don't give the bag to people when there is a problem or the panel physician decides that someone isn't eligible.  I won't know what the panel physician decided until my appointment on Tuesday, but I feel good enough about it to relax until then. 


Medical Exam

I had my medical exam today.  In 2009, they were much nicer to me than they were this time.  When I went to see the psychologist, she was rude to me from the very beginning, starting with giving me a hard time because I look a lot different than I did at my last exam.  Then she kept trying to have me admit to using cocaine by slipping it in random sentences and asking me about it over and over again.  She even asked how my wife feels about my cocaine usage, after I had said three or four times that I have never used cocaine.  She asked me about why I wasn't in school until this January, what my friends in Mexico City were like, and what we did together.  I'm not really sure how that fit into the medical exam.  To be honest, I don't know why the entire exam went the way it did.  I've heard horror stories about how mean they can be and how they try to trick people, but I wasn't prepared for how inhumane it felt.

The consulate doesn't actually do the medical exams.  There are two private clinics next to it that contract with the consulate or something to provide the medical exams.  I think that lets them get away with treating people worse, because they don't have to even pretend to uphold American values.  No one even speaks English there, so I spent my entire exam trying to explain things in Spanish that were too medical and complex for my Spanish, but I could have done immediately in English.  I don't understand why I can't speak English at my appointments for immigrating to the United States.  It would make more sense for everything to be in English than in Spanish. 

I pick up my results from the medical exam tomorrow morning.  I think that if I get the black bag with the results I am good to go to my appointment on Tuesday.  If I don't get the black bag, it might mean that they tagged me as having some issue.  Apparently it happens pretty often.  I don't think I would have even been worried about getting my results if I hadn't been treated so badly in the exam today.  Just a few more hours, and hopefully this small part of the process will be behind me.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Spring Break

I flew into Monterrey on Saturday and was there for a few days before we left to Ciudad Juarez on Wednesday.  Jose's apartment is pretty awful, with bad air circulation, no oven, a lukewarm shower, and a mattress of pure metal.  The weather was hot and humid, so combined with safety concerns, we didn't go outside much. 

Jose had his kitchen filled with food for me, and I'm ashamed to admit, he did all the cooking.  We spent our time talking, doing homework, watching TV, and eating.  It sounds relaxing, but the awfulness of his apartment succeeded in making it slightly miserable.  That he manages to live there with so little complaining shows his patience.

Just a few days after Jose and I arrived in Monterrey in January, there was a gun battle between some cartel men and the police.  Jose was at school and I was sitting in the living room when it started.  At first I convinced myself that the noise was a jackhammer, but once the big automatic guns (my knowledge of guns is limited) started, I knew it was serious.  I ran to Jose's closet and sat in there until the battle finished, and then some just for good measure.  About an hour later, Jose came running into the apartment after seeing the Oxxo on one side of his block shot up and the dead police officer on the other end of the block, both just two buildings away.  It was pretty traumatic, for me to have heard, and for Jose to have come home to and not know what had happened.  Obviously, it wasn't a great start to Monterrey and neither of us are super excited about being there.  This time was better, and we didn't hear a single gunshot while I was visiting.

Everything in Monterrey made us excited about going to Ciudad Juarez on Wednesday for an "indoor vacation."  We are staying in a hotel with a swimming pool, internet, and a gym.  It's close to restaurants and the Consulate. Pretty ideal, but when we arrived the hotel did not have our reservation even though Expedia had already charged us for the seven days Jose is going to be here.  We sat in the lobby for an hour before we were given a room, and it wasn't even cleared up until tonight.  Not a great start, but the mattress is soft and the shower gets hot.

I've had a kind of weird Spring Break--Monterrey and Ciudad Juarez aren't really what I dream of when I think "Spring Break in Mexico," but we're here for something important.  Let's hope it pays off!

Changes to the Process

Last Friday I went to an appointment at the American Consulate in Monterrey.  They are changing the appointment process a little by adding a new appointment at the beginning to fingerprint and photograph people, in an attempt to cut down the time in the first immigration appointment.  There was some confusion about whether I could get the appointment or if I needed it, because this is the first month that they are scheduling the new appointments.  The attorney's assistant couldn't schedule one, but I tried later and scheduled an appointment for last Friday.  I was pretty excited about it, even though it wouldn't change anything for the appointment on the 29th, just because it would make this really start again.  When I got to the Monterrey Consulate for the appointment, they told me I had to fill out a form online, but I don't have a barcode that is required for the form.  I didn't end up getting my fingerprints or photo taken.

I wasn't bothered that I did not get the appointment in Monterrey, but it does make me very nervous that they are changing the process right when I am starting again.  My attorney doesn't really understand what is going on because the changes are so new, and all the people I talked to at my medical exam today are also confused and nervous.  I originally got the three year bar at my first appointment in 2009 because things had changed suddenly and without proper warning for attorneys to understand them.  After waiting a year and a half in Mexico and getting my hopes up again, even though I am trying not to, it scares me to hear that I am the first to go through the new process.  I don't want to be punished again because no one knew what to expect.

I'm trying to stay calm and be positive, but everything feels out of my control.  Tuesday seems like it will never get here.

Monday, March 7, 2011


Jose's going back to Ciudad Juarez!

Two months ago, our original attorney called us and said that policies have changed and Jose might be eligible for a new appointment.  So we worked with her, and our new attorneys, and did all kinds of research and still weren't sure.  Jose called the Consulate at the end of January about scheduling a new appointment and they let him put in the request, but said it would be 2-3 months before we got more information.  Today, our original attorney (who we are using again, the San Francisco attorneys sucked) didn't seem to believe that Jose had been able to request an appointment over the phone.  Jose, being awesome, called the Consulate back to confirm he had put in the appointment request and was told, to everyone's surprise, that his appointment is MARCH 29, 2011 at 7:15 AM. 

That's three weeks away!

That's all we know at the moment.  I assume there is a ton of work to do before the appointment, and I assume we can get it all done by then, but I really don't know.

We're going to keep the blog updated now, for reals.


Friday, March 4, 2011

Tecnologico de Monterrey

I have now been in school for about 2 months and I am really enjoying it and happy to be back in school.  I am only taking three classes this semester because I didn't meat the prerequisites for two other classes I signed up for.  The three classes I am taking are: Thermodynamics, Music Appreciation, and Design of Reinforced Concrete Elements.  The quality of education here is unbelievable.  My professors are all female and very good professors.  They might be the best professors I have had so far during college.  They are all very good at presenting the material we cover in class.  My professors at Cal Poly were very good in their respective field of work but most lacked the teaching experience needed to able to present the material correctly in order for the students to understand it.  Music Appreciation is my only class taught in English. It has been really nice to be taught in Spanish at university level for the first time. At first I was a little worried about my classes in Spanish because although I speak Spanish, my vocabulary isn't the broadest out there, but it was not a problem at all.  At first I struggled with the professors' accents but it only took about a week to get use to.  Everyone here speaks with a very different accent than what I grew up hearing in California or what i grew accustomed to in Mexico City.  The students at the Tec are all from very wealthy families.  The Tec is the most prestigious and expensive university in Mexico and one of the best in Latin America.  Tec students pay around $6000 USD for tuition per semester which is a lot of money here in Mexico, well in the US too.  Walking around campus I feel as if I was back in California.  Everyone has very light skin, blue or green eyes, and are very tall.  Everyone looks like they could be American so sometimes as I walk through campus  and see a group of students talking I think to myself, "they are speaking English, I know they are," but sure enough they are speaking Spanish.  Out of all the students who are here studying as International Students, I am hands down the one who stands out the most.  All of the European students blend in with the regular student body.  It's been a little difficult making Mexican friends here at the Tec but I have made friends with a German and two Singapore International students.  I am really enjoying school and I am glad I am getting to experience university life in Mexico.

Sorry for not writing in so long.  I will try my hardest to keep you guys updated.