Thursday, December 17, 2009

Having, and getting, the proper papers

Security:    Boarding pass and identification please.

My passport is gone, left with my UK Tier 1 Visa application back in the Chicago.  No matter, I smile and hand the agent my Dutch residency card.  It’s all in being confident, as though I did this every day.

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Reflecting back, the final act of the application process was anticlimatic: I never even visited British embassy at the white Wrigley Building along the Chicago River.  Rather, I visited a well secured immigration facility on South Pulaski, amidst rail yards and warehouses, to have my biometrics taken by the US government.  Then a short hop to meet the expeditor, A.Briggs, on Jackson St; he thumbed through the exhibits and pronounced it complete.

The UK visa application process is an exercise in avoiding mistakes rather than in doing things right.  I can’t imagine getting it right without help, and First Migration’s stamp has the added benefit that someone the examiner knows and trusts has already done the hard work.  Hopefully, he has confidence passing me through the process when he has a recognized firm’s imprint, adherence to a standard format, and a cover presentation indexed to regulations.

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Te agent Security turns over the card slowly, squints at the baby-pink plastic.

Security:    What is this?

The Netherlands, government-issued residency card.

The agent shines a UV lamp on it, creating a lovely purple glow, but revealing nothing.

Security:    This card expired November 1 .

True, IND hasn’t given me the new card yet although my application has been approved.  

I smile and give a copy of my US Drivers License, made before the Dutch exchanged.

Security:    I need a supervisor.

It’s dawning on me that I no longer have Government-Issued ID of any sort.

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The UK application process cost significantly more than the equivalent Dutch process.  In the Netherlands, I paid €1000 for the support person, €400 for the application fee (it’s recently been raised to €700 now, and about €100 for document fees: €1500 total.  The UK permit was £550 for the preparation, $200 for the expeditor, $1200 for the application fee, and about €400 euro for document preparation fees from accountants and banks: maybe €2000 in all.

On the other hand, the UK permit is good for 3 years and the Dutch must be renewed annually, so the lifetime costs may be closer.

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A truly huge agent ambles over and sorts through my array of worthless government-issue cards and copies.

Security:    Major credit card?

I hand over my American Express Gold with Delta SkyMiles benefit but no photo

Security:    All set, thank you.

I slink though, feeling like a player in one of the old Amex commercials, “Do you know me?”

Nobody knows me until they seen The Card.

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