December 30, 2005

La Migra

I spent some time today, on behalf of my wife, dealing with the Department of Homeland Security, Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration. What used to be known as INS or, depending on the sweat shop you were in, La Migra.

Ready to be shocked?

You sure?

Ok. Other than having to spend 5-10 minutes on hold, it was an exceptionally easy and pleasant experience. I had to speak to two different people to have my questions answered about a routine form, but both people were absolutely polite, energetic, and helpful. They had all the answers to my questions and were very patient. Both, by the way, were audibly taken aback when I convey happy new year wishes. Both, also, spoke English like you rarely hear anymore – carefully enunciated and crisp, so that if you were a non-native speaker, you stood a much better shot at understanding them.

However, even though they spoke so well and were so very helpful, I despair of most immigrants’ chances of figuring out the forms all by themselves. It took two lawyers in my office (me and someone much older and smarter) the better part of 40 minutes before I phoned. And even then, the older and smarter lawyer was wrong in his advice, as it turns out and as he was gracious enough to admit. All told, figure it took over an hour of billable time by two highly experienced professionals to fill out a simple form and to get some of it wrong anyway. I feel so sorry for those unfortunate non-native English speakers who have to do this kind of thing all alone.

That said, can you believe anyone is writing about how great an experience it was to deal with the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration?

Posted by Random Penseur at December 30, 2005 01:58 PM | TrackBack

Yeah, next thing you know people will be lining up at the DMV!

Uhh... never mind.

Posted by: TeaFizz at December 31, 2005 11:49 AM

We've found that it all depends on the location. The folks at the INS in Buffalo were incredibly friendly, helpful and polite. They went out of their way to make people feel comfortable.

Down here it wasn't such a treat to deal with them. Although they were unfailingly polite they did not offer anything - getting answers to problems was a multi-attempt endeavor. Turn the form in, get it back because item A is wrong. Fix it and turn it back in. Get it back because item B needs clarification. Etceteras, etceteras.

I guess it all depends on how the individual office is being run.

Posted by: Jim at January 3, 2006 10:52 AM
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