Finally! Approved!

Around 5 pm today, when I was coaching Odyssey of the Mind, Good Man called.

“Where are you?”

“Work, OM, you?”

“Home. When are you coming home?”

I checked the clock. “About 40 minutes, why?”

“I got the approval letter. I will get the green card in 60 days. Let’s go out to dinner to celebrate tonight.”

Finally! If today weren’t a leap day, it would be nine months exactly since we sent the file off. He’s finally approved!

Red Tape, Good and Bad

Red Tape, Good

You do not have to be licensed in gifted education to teach gifted education in Virginia. However, there is a state endorsement available, and since Good Man and I will probably not live here forever, I figured getting the state endorsement was a good idea. If we move to a state that has reciprocity, it may count or reduce required coursework. If we move to a state that doesn’t require a GT endorsement, it will still help me get a job working with GT students.

Last month I dropped off my state endorsement paperwork at the central office. They told me it would take eight to ten weeks to get my endorsement from the state, but I got home Tuesday night to find my new license. Now I am qualified to teach Gifted and Talented in the state!

Red Tape, Bad

So, a long time ago we mailed off Good Man’s ten-year green card application.

As quick refresher, you do not immediately get citizenship when you marry a US citizen. (More than half of the people I’ve talked to about immigration matters seem to think that is the case.) If you are married less than two years when you get a green card, you get a temporary green card. Two years minus ninety days later, you apply for a ten-year green card. Three years minus ninety days after getting any sort of green card, you’re eligible to apply for citizenship through marriage. (Employment-based citizenship is a five-year wait, I think.)

So we mailed off our application in June, Good Man went for his biometrics in July and…nothing.

It’s supposed to take six months or so to get approval. It’s been over eight and we’ve heard…nothing.

According to USCIS, the Vermont Service Center is working on May 2nd cases. California, meanwhile, is routinely approving people in approximately 90 days.

And we wait.

Hurry Up and Wait

Mailed in Good Man’s I-751 (ten-year green card application) last week and got the NOA today. The Notice of Action is basically the government’s way of saying, “Hey, folks, we got this, and now you’re a number to us, so wait.”

And so we wait.

And now I fret because apparently they’re doing RFEs (Request for Evidence) on people who don’t send in tax transcripts and instead send in tax filings. Sigh. Guess which one we sent in?

But what can we do but hurry up and wait?

Operation Immigration: Round Two

Alright. Today I mailed off the I-751 application for Good Man’s ten-year green card. As proof of our ongoing relationship, and as part of the application, I sent:

1) I-751 application and fee ($590)
2) Copy of Good Man’s passport and visa
3) Copy of Good Man’s green card (front and back)
3) Federal tax returns (filed jointly) for years 2010 and 2009
4) Proof that I’m the beneficiary of Good Man’s life insurance policy
5) Copy of joint bank account statements (one each year from 2011, 2010, 2009)
6) Joint credit card statement
7) Copy of our joint car insurance policy
8) Copy of our renter’s insurance policy
9) Copy of our joint health insurance cards
10) Copy of our joint dental insurance cards
11) Copy of our AAA cards showing joint membership
12) Copy of our bowling league standing sheet
13) Letter from my mom
14) Letter from Mark
15) Photocopies of our passports showing join trips to Canada, South Korea, and Sweden

The bowling league thing was something I threw in there for fun. The government is primarily interested in knowing how your lives are financially entangled, but they also like knowing you present yourself as a couple in public.

Hopefully that will be enough.

Green Card It Up

How in the world did (nearly) two years pass since we got Good Man’s green card?

Now it’s time to reapply for his green card. I forgot how much “fun” it is collecting all of this paperwork. Ugh.

So far I’ve discovered that VA tax returns don’t have room for two last names, so apparently Good Man has taken my name. Oh joy, that’s not going in the packet.

The Slow Slide Into Americanism

Since Good Man didn’t have a SSN, getting a credit card in America would’ve been nearly impossible. But in order to be approved for his green card, we needed to show joint finances. So I added him to one of my credit cards as an authorized user. Of course, this did nothing to actually create a credit record. He’s basically non-existent on the financial playing field in America.

When we got his SSN last week, I called MBNA and asked to add his as a joint account holder. The woman asked Good Man a bunch of questions. I listened in and told him how to answer. She rattled off the whole “we’re going to use this number to find out information about you and you might be denied but if you’re not you’re responsible for the bills and…” thing. I just told him to say yes.

Found out today that indeed, he is now joint on my account.

Let the slow slide into Americanism begin… Credit cards are just the first step…

***

I made kiwi-strawberry ice cream last night. (OK, more like “ice milk” because they were out of cream at the grocery store!) Kiwis, strawberries, sugar, milk, vanilla. Ended up being pale, pale pink and full of seeds. Just tart enough.

***

My worm bin is about ready to be harvested. My population is growing. The original newspapers are entirely gone. Food goes pretty quickly, too. Right now the whole system is a bit too wet, so I’ve been adding small amount of dry paper daily to try and get the moisture down a bit. I’m going to feed the worms one more time this week and then starve them for a while until all the bits of brown (paper, cardboard, etc) and green (kitchen scraps) are gone.

I can tell the compost must be some good (worm) poop because stuff grows wild in it.

Carrrots

Scallion? Leek?

Sprouting Bok Choy ‘Flower

Random Sprouts (Peppers, Maybe?)

Trying to Do Better

Good Man and I had 잡채, 파전, and the 총각김치 (chapjae, pa jeon/Korean pancakes, bachelor kimchi) tonight for dinner.

Good Man tried the kimchi. “Mmm! Wow, you are Korean!” he yelled, throwing a swear word in there somewhere. “Did you put soy sauce in this?” he asked, pointing to the chapjae.

“Just a little.”

“Oh, good. That is good for health!”

***
Good Man got a SSN today in the mail. About two weeks ago we got some mail from the bank claiming that they need him TPIN even though their own paperwork says if it’s a joint account they only need the TPIN of the first name and that should be me since I am the original account holder.

Anyhow, the letter from the bank says that you can call their number and provide the info over the phone. Well…surprise, surprise. Apparently that’s not true. I read the letter to person one over the phone and they transferred me. Person two said that the letter says you have to call only if you’re confused.

Um, no, lady, you’re confused. The letter clearly says you can call to provide the info.

I am getting sick of my bank. They don’t charge me many fees because I don’t bounce, I use their ATMs, etc. But they’re useless on the phone. Nobody seems to know what’s going on and their rates suck. I’m thinking of changing but but I’ve been with them for ten years and don’t even know how many accounts I have linked to them!

Still, I think Good Man and I are going to go to my credit union on Friday to see if they can do better for us. (I belong to two credit unions and four banks across two countries, three states, and the internet world. I really need to consolidate some of these.)

***

I realized yesterday that I need to do a better job for my students. I am teaching an advanced math class; my students are a year ahead in math. I think I’m doing a fine job with the curriculum. And I’m starting a semester-long class for teachers new to this curriculum next week. That’s not the problem.

Most of my math students are gifted, and I don’t think I’m meeting their needs in that area. Unfortunately, schools tend to concern themselves with the average student first, the special ed students next, and the gifted students last (even though gifted students usually also fall under special ed and there are double-exception students who are sped and gifted). ESL students? That depends on the population of the school.

Last year I taught the on-level, average-speed math class. Every week I gave them a math problem on the week. They worked on it each morning and we went over it on Friday. Unfortunately, it didn’t go as well as I thought it would. The level was slightly too high (it shouldn’t’ve been but I don’t want to go into why that was the case) and they weren’t very excited by it.

But this group of kids? I didn’t hand out a problem last week because the week was short (holiday, training day so I had a sub) and I didn’t hand out one this week because I thought we had too much to do.

Well, one of the students said, “Awww, I want a problem of the week.”

His friend responded, “I know, they’re hard but fun.”

And it hit me. I am treating these students like slightly-smarter-than-average kids. And they’re not.

When I was in seventh grade I was in an “honor” social studies class. The only special, honor-like thing we got was one essay question a week on our quiz and forced participation in the National History Day Project. (I did an awesome project on GPS and GIS and my social studies teacher wouldn’t send it to state because he said GPS would never be of use in any arena other than the military.) I can still tell you exactly what we did depending on the day of the week in that class. It was awful. It wasn’t challenging. It was boring. And the teacher did not care about any of us.

I care about these students and I need to do a better job of meeting their needs. These students are slightly competitive with each other in a good way. They’re excited about math. They compete to be the genius or half-genius of the day. (Yes, there’s a story behind that.) They ask questions. When presented with a question they haven’t “officially” been taught, they don’t say “I don’t know how to do that.” They try. And a lot of them get it right.

I don’t want to destroy that spark. I don’t want to be a mediocre student doing a mediocre job.

When Mark and I were in sixth grade, we were chosen to pilot a seventh grade math program. Our teacher in sixth grade was the math specialist but was really hard to get along with. One of the teachers in middle school was great, and the other was awful. Our ninth grade teacher was sometimes a confusing teacher but obviously cared about us. By 10th grade, when we got the football coach as the honors math teacher—and the stereotypes fit? Well, I think I was over it. I had to drop out of pre-calc my senior/sophomore year of high school/college. It was a professor my mother told me not to take, but it was the only class that fit in my schedule. I had a great professor the second time around and went from a D- to a B+. First semester of Calc, great teacher. Second semester, OK teacher.

My point? I liked math. And I was usually pretty good at it. But the teacher mattered. These students like math. And they’re usually pretty good at it. I want to encourage that and explore it and push it and keep their love for it going.

This morning I was sure to give them a problem of the week. And they all dug into it. And they enjoyed it.

Last night I found some resources for me. Books and the like. And I’ve started to rethink my role in the classroom…

I
Amanda Teacher, teaching affixes: OK, give me some more ‘sub’ examples.

Not-Average Student: Ooooh! Subatomic! Subcutaneous!

Other Students, blank stares

II
Amanda Teacher, in math class, trying to calm the students over a math problem with pigs named ‘Porky,’ ‘Bacon’ and the like: You know my mom and stepdad live on a farm and they have sheep. Well, they either sell the male sheep or… put them in the freezer. So they don’t name them or name them things like—

Another Not-Average Student: Dead meat?

Don’t Throw Away the Green Card

I threw a pile of junk mail in the recycling corner of our kitchen and a plain white envelope slid out from it.

I picked it up and saw that it was addressed to Good Man and from Lee’s Summit, MO. It was stiff. I know that Lee’s Summit location.

“[Good Man]!” I started jumping up and down.

“Why are you doing like that?” he said.

“I almost threw it away with the recycling!”

Good Man opened the envelope and there was his green card. There was also a little Tyvek envelope.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

We recommend you use this envelope to protect your new card.

Nosotros recomendamos que usted use este sobre para protegar a su tarjeta.

Good Man grinned. “This is good.”

The card isn’t green. It’s white with a terrible photo of Good Man, his thumbprint, and a series of numbers and codes across the front. The back is shiny enough to be used as a mirror and has the presidents (through the last Bush) across the top. Across the bottom it’s got the 50 US state flags.

So now we’re clear to travel to Stockholm. No need for an Infopass appointment to get a stamp in his passport.

Two weeks ago we found out that Good Man was denied in-state residency because he didn’t yet have his green card. We did a second level appeal but the Not Idiot Turned Idiot in the international student office wouldn’t accept our letter from USCIS as proof of his residency status. Tuesday when Good Man goes to school, that should change. He should be approved for in-state residency. “Should” being the key word here…

Thursday we received a letter that my bank needs Good Man’s SSN before the 21st or they’d close the account. Now that he’s got his green card, he can apply for an SSN—one time. (He could’ve applied with his EAD, but there would’ve been restrictions that he would’ve needed lifted when the green card arrived. Since the EAD card arrived so close to the interview date, we decided to wait.)

Today is our six-month anniversary (legal wedding). What a nice gift to receive.

For all of the horror stories I’ve read and heard about USCIS, from the date we mailed the application to the date we received the green card it was only 96 days. Nothing like the six to twelve months we were expecting. We got no RFEs (request for evidence). He didn’t get stuck in name check hell. The interviewer didn’t ask any really personal, inappropriate questions. We didn’t use a lawyer (just Fiancé & Marriage Visas: A Couple’s Guide to U.S. Immigration, which I highly recommend). And just like all of our friends and family said it would—it all worked out fine.

Happy anniversary to us!

Operation Immigration: Timeline
* To make this easier to read I will use * for new info.

6/1/2009: Mailed AOS/EAD/AP to Chicago Lockbox
6/3/2009: USPS reports rec’d
6/9/2009: Green registered mail with return receipt postcard rec’d
6/10/2009: I-485 check cashed (with no readable receipt number on the back of the check!)
6/11/2009: I-130 check cashed (with no readable receipt number on the back of the check!)
6/12/2009: NOAs rec’d for petition (130), green card (485), employment authorization (765), and advance parole (131); we now have his A-number; rec’d date 6/3, notice date 6/8
6/13/2009: Biometrics appt rec’d for 7/1
7/1/2009: Biometrics appt, in and out in 15 minutes
7/17/2009: USCIS website says that AP/EAD approval notice sent
7/22/2009: USCIS website says EAD card ordered
7/23/2009: USCIS website says EAD sent
7/24/2009: Rec’d notice for interview on 8/27 (Washington, DC location—which is actually in Fairfax)
7/27/09: Rec’d AP
7/29/2009: EAD rec’d
8/27/2009: Interview, approved on the spot
8/31/2009: Rec’d email notice that green card production was ordered on 8/27
9/1/2009: Rec’d email notice that green card production was ordered on 9/1 (again?)
9/3/2009: I-797 NOAs received for I485 and I130
* 9/4/2009: Rec’d email notice that the NOA for the I485 was sent on 9/4 (um, already got it, USCIS)
* 9/5/2009: Rec’d green card

Welcome to America, Good Man

I walked into the living room waving one of two USCIS letters—the one addressed to Good Man. “[Good Man]! You got your Welcome to America letter!”

“What’s that?”

“Open it.”

He felt the envelope. “But it’s not card… ‘WELCOME TO THE UNITED STATE OF AMERICA,'” he read. Good Man looked at me, “Wow! How do you know? You know so much, you are like lawyer.”

“That’s because I pre-worry! I research!”

He continued, “‘This is to notify you that your application for permanent residence has been approved. It is with great pleasure that we welcome you to permanent resident status in the United States.'”

Operation Immigration: Timeline
* To make this easier to read I will use * for new info.

6/1/2009: Mailed AOS/EAD/AP to Chicago Lockbox
6/3/2009: USPS reports rec’d
6/9/2009: Green registered mail with return receipt postcard rec’d
6/10/2009: I-485 check cashed (with no readable receipt number on the back of the check!)
6/11/2009: I-130 check cashed (with no readable receipt number on the back of the check!)
6/12/2009: NOAs rec’d for petition (130), green card (485), employment authorization (765), and advance parole (131); we now have his A-number; rec’d date 6/3, notice date 6/8
6/13/2009: Biometrics appt rec’d for 7/1
7/1/2009: Biometrics appt, in and out in 15 minutes
7/17/2009: USCIS website says that AP/EAD approval notice sent
7/22/2009: USCIS website says EAD card ordered
7/23/2009: USCIS website says EAD sent
7/24/2009: Rec’d notice for interview on 8/27 (Washington, DC location—which is actually in Fairfax)
7/27/09: Rec’d AP
7/29/2009: EAD rec’d
* 8/27/2009: Interview, approved on the spot
* 8/31/2009: Rec’d email notice that green card production was ordered on 8/27
* 9/1/2009: Rec’d email notice that green card production was ordered on 9/1 (again?)
* 9/3/2009: I-797 NOAs received for I485 and I130.