I was in Holden Beach, NC when we got the email from our lawyer. We had spent four days in the sun with my in laws enjoying the coast in a beautiful beach house they rented for the entire family. DH and I rented bikes and rode up and down the “island” every morning. I was sun tanned and brown, DH was sunburned and red. It was awesome.
In the email he sent we got a letter from the USCIS office asking to see us for an interview to complete the process. Generally when they interview couples for the immigration process they do the I-130 and I-485 application, the first is for proof of Bona Fide Marriage, the latter is to adjust the status. We were meeting for the I-485 since the I-130 had taken place in January and they had approved our marriage as a real one.
When I opened the email I went on full panic mode (which is pretty much the only speed I operate on when anything Immigration related develops) See, when you are applying for the I-485 you submit a doctor report with a health bill. You need to be cleared by a Civil Surgeon a doctor approved and “certified” by USCIS, not any doctor will do, and they have a list on their website for our convenience.
I immediately started calling doctors in Florida; the appointment was for Thursday, August 30th at 1:30 pm. When I received the email it was the 21st which means I was all the way in North Carolina, with a flight back home scheduled for Saturday morning and only four days to take care of the barrage of medical exams I needed to get done in time for the interview.
The cherry on top was the fact that they had set my biometrics appointment (it is a truth universally acknowledged that aliens’ fingerprints change every six months or so) for Friday morning and we wouldn’t be back to Florida until Saturday morning. After a short talk with my lawyer’s paralegal she said we had 60 days after the date in the paper to go get fingerprinted so it wasn’t an issue. I could go on Monday August 27th.
We landed in Florida two days before Hurricane Irene passed us by and regaled us with fourteen inches of rain that flooded our city. I had managed to find a Civil Surgeon but they couldn’t promise all the tests could be done in time. I had to get the tetanus shot; an MMR shot (Measles/Mumps/Rubella) and a TB skin test. If the TB skin test came showed positive they would have to do a chest XRay to see my lungs. All for the affordable price of $375.00 which couldn’t be covered by the insurance and didn’t include the Xray if it was necessary to do it.
I donate blood, I am not afraid of needles, but my veins are right there so donating blood is not quite a big sacrifice when it comes to pain. The thought of a shot on the shoulder was making me uneasy. After we landed Saturday we drove from the airport directly to MD Now and pretty much begged them to take care of this as soon as possible. They were awesome; I guess they get a lot of us there because they understood the urgency of the matter. This was the final step, I could not show up at the USCIS office without this form, I needed to have everything with me and not give them a chance to fuck this up.
I got the TB test, barely felt the needle but there is something unnerving about having a needle going in parallel to the skin instead of IN. They took some blood to test which shots I had received and if I needed boosters (like some puppy) and check for transmittable diseases. Apparently sick people cannot become permanent residents. I got a tetanus shot because I knew I hadn’t had one in ten years. I could’ve lied and said yes but it probably would’ve shown in the blood anyway.
I spent the rest of the afternoon feeling miserable getting sick from a cold my nephew gave us and with a throbbing arm I could barely move from the Tetanus shot. The pain radiated all the way to the back of my neck.
With that out of the way we woke up early Monday morning to get finger printed. It was interesting to drive through the streets flooded from the overflowing canals. It was as if nature itself was trying to make this process more difficult. I got fingerprinted after waiting for the employees to brave the storm. I can’t tell how many times I have gotten fingerprinted. I could do the process in my sleep. I know which fingers they do first and when the print won’t be accepted by the computer program and we should try again.
That same afternoon we drove back to MD now to have them check my TB skin test to see if I needed an XRay. Thankfully it was negative which meant I have never had TB nor had I ever been exposed to it. Yay me! More importantly I wouldn’t have to pay the extra $200 for it. I then asked for the blood test results but the storm had delayed the pickup of the blood samples and they couldn’t be sure it would be done on time. I begged them to rush it as much as possible.
Tuesday came and went and on Wednesday I gave the place a call, they had received the blood test and they were going to fax the results to my local office so I could go get the rest of the vaccinations. My aunt kindly took me there, they gave me three more shots (MMR) because apparently I grew up like a hippie and my mom never vaccinated us fully.
The doctor then came in, check my blood results which showed the world I am disease free and then checked my throat, my ears, pressed on my ovaries, asked me when I was having children (can’t escape the question!) and then signed and sealed the paperwork for me to deliver to the USCIS for the interview.
I breathed easily for the first time since I got the email from my lawyer. I was done.
I got home exhausted and ready to tackle the interview the next day, nervous, afraid and in pain from all the puncturing. I couldn’t help but feel that it didn’t matter how this logically would be the last step; I knew something still could go wrong. I knew that if they could make this into a nightmare they would. I knew that it should be the last step but there is no shall when it comes to them. I followed my lawyer’s advice and went to bed thinking of all the ways the interview could go wrong. Prepare for the worse and hope for the best. I repeated and repeated to myself before I finally falling asleep.