Sunday, November 15, 2009

Angry, Sad, Upset (Rant about U.S. visas included)

This was not the post planned for today (OK, I have to confess I didn't have anything planned per se, but I always have tons of things to blog about), but I just have to write about this. It's not even "new news" since it happened last week, but we only talked to my in-laws this evening (at 1 am in Brazil... poor them, in fact I feel bad that we didn't know earlier, our fault).

It turns out that my father-in-law's "fate" was finally decided. He ended up being laid off from his job as a pastor here in the U.S. in a very obscure and somewhat dishonest way. It took his employer almost six months to finally contact him -- he got the letter from them only last week, after trying to contact them every week (and nearly every day, more recently) for months. And we learned just minutes ago...

The day after he received the letter he went to the American Consulate to ask for a tourist visa to come with my mother-in-law to the U.S. to sell their cars, pack their things, shop for some appliances and furniture, and ship it all to Brazil. He also wanted to spend Thanksgiving with us because he hasn't seen his two older sons and his four older grandsons for six months. The youngest son is also coming on the weekend from Canada to see us, so it would be a nice family get-together.

It turns out that the lady who was assigned to talk to him at the Consulate was the same one who had received their request for a visa back in June (when they lacked a key document -- the one they were waiting his employer to send all this while) and she was very rude and picky with him. She was actually upset with my 64 year old father-in-law for not having learned to speak English in the three years he lived here -- working with Portuguese speaking people, BTW (Doesn't she know that it's not easy for older people to learn other languages? For some of them nearly impossible?). So, unfortunately, she denied his visa.

If you've never depended on a U.S. visa to travel here and/or visit loved ones, you don't know what that feels like. In fact, asking for a U.S. visa is a really unpleasant experience (for most people, at least for me, who did it over 10 times, it was). And this was just so... I don't know... mean of the consulate worker. My FIL is NOT going to stay here!! Prior to working in the U.S. for three years he had already visited the country eight times since 1990!! And been granted several tourist visas previously. Did she really thing he was coming to become an illegal immigrant? When all he needed was to come and pack his things to return to Brazil? They haven't been to their home in months, all their documents (such as the deed to an apartment they purchased last year) were here, so that was a problem too... And then comes the terrible fear that even though he'll get all the documents he needs and try to get another visa in another state (closer to the Northeastern city where he owns the apartment -- oh, and they're building a house, BTW in the state of Sao Paulo), he might be denied a visa again. And thus, he wouldn't be able to visit us here anymore EVER AGAIN, you hear me? Or until K or his brother "K2" get citizenship and then apply for his residency (apparently, my U.S. citizen BIL, "K3" cannot apply because he's living in Brazil right now). This is just outrageously sad.

OK, rant over.

There's another side to this already complex story, however. One that has to do with the decisions that my FIL (and MIL, but mostly him) made in the past years. They were eligible to have applied for residency with the job he had, but decided against it mostly because they didn't want to be stuck here in the U.S. while waiting for the greencard (in most cases you cannot leave the country after you've started the residency process). My MIL owns a small tourism agency and keeps traveling back and forth to Brazil and back to organize trips, etc. She could have taken a break for a while, but FIL would hear none of it, he just couldn't bear to think of not going to Brazil several times a year. He didn't really like living here that much. The seasons affected him terribly -- last year he was depressed for most of Fall and Winter, I think he had Seasonal Affective Disorder -- but he didn't tell anyone how he felt until later, I mean, it was actually MIL who told us. So, it was not easy for him, even though it was convenient for us and great for the grandsons to live relatively close to the grandparents.

We all (meaning us and my BIL and his family who live here) understand this, but we still wanted them to have applied for residency so it would be easier for them to come visit us several times a year after they returned to Brazil for good (the plan was to return this winter anyway!). We also thought that it would be great for my MIL to work with tourism here as well (K and I fantasized wildly about the future possibilities of this business on our drive from Florida up to here on New Year's day last January and we tried to convince the in-laws to buy a house in Florida -- no dice on that either). In the end, however, we couldn't effectively convince them to apply for the greencard, and thus, they kept depending on the visa to come and go. And come and go they did, several times a year (good for them!).

Then, came the fateful mistake. With new immigration laws and regulations being passed all the time -- this country has become terribly xenophobic since 9/11, I'm sorry to say! -- it so happened that on the day(s) before their scheduled two week trip to Brazil at the end of May, they found out that rules had changed for the religious work visa and that now they needed a new document from the immigration department (that would take from 2 weeks to 3 months to arrive) in order to renew their visa. They traveled anyway, against their better judgment and the exhortations of my brother-in-law (they didn't talk to K, but they knew he was going to urge them to not travel). That's how this whole "soap opera" started.

On the one hand I'm angry at my FIL's disloyal employers and his even more disloyal and dishonest parishioners (some of whom actually lied to him on the phone repeatedly), and on the other hand I know that he could have avoided this.

And then I'm sad on behalf of my sons, who everytime we mention that a grandparent is coming (we saw my parents sporadically after they went to Maryland), ask anxiously, "Is it Grandpa A, or Grandma D?" They were used to seeing them often, visiting them in MA, getting together with them at their uncle's house, spending holidays together, etc. So they missed them a lot (and still do). That's why we wanted them to continue living here a while longer and why this whole ordeal is just so frustrating and depressing.

Well, I guess very few people were able to read to the end, thanks if you did.

One last thing -- my mother-in-law is flying to the U.S. on Tuesday evening so she can take care of everything. I'm really fearful of how the immigration officers will deal with her when she enters the country. If they want, they have the grounds to deport her -- although they shouldn't since she still has a tourist visa (her R visa is no longer valid) and has very good reasons to be entering the country. So, I'm really, really anxious about this. If you pray, please pray that she can enter the U.S. I'll keep you posted.

(I have to post another rant sometime, about my diminished status as a resident when entering the country, BTW... but I'll leave that for another day)

Yeah, it looks like today was the day of talking about the in-laws in my corner of the Blogosphere, first, American Family, then Jody at Raising WEG, now me. Such an uncanny coincidence! :-)


Rene said...

This has been such a crazy/sad/frustrating process. It's hard for a lot of us Americans to imagine what it's like not to be allowed to go someplace.

Renata said...

We also have family that can't come. It's is sad and frustrating.
It's Tuesday already, so I pray that things are working out for your MIL.

Lucy C said...

I understand! Been there so many times, don't even want to talk about it. Oh, one thing I did that helped was right my congressman and ask him to right the embassy on my behalf. when my sister and my brother's visa was denied so they could attend my wedding. The embassy ended up reconsidering and granting a visa to my sister but not my brother because they said he had no stable job.

Lucy C said...

write, not right. argh!