The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and I have never gotten along. Following college graduation, I was forced to postpone my cruising trip to the Bahamas and pay additional fees because my employment authorization document (EAD) card arrival was delayed without a sensible reason; if I left America without an EAD card, I would have risked not being allowed back into the country. I called the USCIS repeatedly regarding the issue, and the first woman who picked up condescendingly responded she did not know the answers to my three questions and obscenely hung up the phone while I was talking. I reported the unprofessional clerk and received my EAD card fifteen days late; had I not contacted the USCIS, who knows how much longer I would have had to wait?
Soon after I accepted to work for the University of Nebraska at Kearney (UNK) as an international recruitment specialist, the school’s lawyer warned me the USCIS could give me a hard time with a couple of questions: Does this position require at least a bachelor’s degree, and how does my major, English literature, relate? I instantly predicted to run into trouble, as the USCIS had countlessly started fights with me over the pettiest matters since I moved to the United States in 2001. As the lawyer elaborated, the outcome depended on who (and the mood in which he or she) examined my files. I agreed to begin working on August 31, 2015, and booked flights on August 26 from Incheon to Dallas and from Dallas to Denver, where I would either drive or fly to Kearney. I also planned to start my apartment lease on August 27. I should have learned from my previous experience with the USCIS and waited until I had more details on my visa status to make any reservations, as I was informed the services rejected my lawyer’s original petition for me, wanting further evidence my new job connected to my college field of studies. I assisted the lawyer with my own research on other similar positions that require a minimum of bachelor’s degree in English literature. On Monday of the week I was scheduled to head back to the States, I unsuccessfully visited the US Embassy in Seoul without my approved H-1B petition, as a senior woman assisting politicians from the embassy misinformed me I could have an interview first to expedite the process and increase my chances of returning on August 26. I had no choice but to cancel my flights, the domestic one of which did not offer a refund and the package required a cancellation fee, and send a check for a month’s rent and deposit to my landlord by September 1 to secure my housing. More than any other matter, although out of my control, I felt uneasy the school had to wait for me indefinitely after offering me this golden opportunity.
My work visa was approved on September 3, and I returned to the embassy the following Monday to give my petition time to be entered into the Petition Information Management Service, not realizing Labor Day also applied to embassies in Korea. I went back the next day and faced an amiable ambassador for a simple interview over which many Koreans in line stressed. “Why should Koreans go to this school?” he asked reading my title, and though caught off guard, I asserted two points he believed to be crucial. I also shared a unique history between Kearney and Korea, which he found amusing; some of the first Koreans to ever set foot in America studied and underwent military training in Kearney in the early 1900s, around when UNK was founded. I had already booked flights on September 14 from Incheon to Chicago and from Chicago to Lincoln and therefore requested my passport and visa be delivered to me prior to this date. He said he would do what he can to speed up the process, and with the help of the aforesaid woman from the embassy, I received the documents over the “EXTREMELY URGENT” shipping two days later, one to three days earlier than average.
Physically, I used this time off in Korea to rest my body before welcoming the new chapter in my life. Mentally, I was drained, as I did not know what to expect of my departure and H-1B petition approval and wasted hundreds of dollars on flights I never boarded. Nonetheless, I had no doubt God presented this job to me and thus I would return eventually. Hopefully my next step will be a green card so that I can stop boiling over the USCIS every time I move.