First off, don’t get me wrong.
I think it’s an honour to be in this country, and I’m grateful I get to be a musician…AND I pay taxes every year in this country…I go to an accountant and everything. I pay monthly for my own health insurance through Anthem, so I’m not a burden on the health care system should I get sick. I fully accept that I should have to pay fees to enter the country on a green card and work at that position for five years before I’m allowed to apply for citizenship (which I really want). I understand.
Just so you can calibrate and understand my complete frustration, a standard application to enter the United States when you’ve been sponsored by an organization for a green card costs approximately $380 in filing fees plus legal expenses for the lawyer. Most people can expect to pay $1500-$2000 to get a green card if they have a good sponsor. My new lawyer charges $375.00/hour, which is fair….and I have a great sponsor, Tustin Presbyterian Church! A Presbyterian Minister, John Witherspoon, was the only active minister to sign the Declaration of Independence. The church has been around for a while…it’s a pretty stable “company.” There should have been no problem.
But, as you’ll see, so far I’ve spent upwards of $50,000 and four and a half years. On Monday, March 15th, 2010, I received notice that I have been granted the card. On Friday, March 19, 2010 the green card arrived in the mail – what an absolute RELIEF!! But the debt is why I’m talking to you now.
Back to our story:
I was finishing my Masters degree at USC and had been working at Tustin Pres since January 1st, 2004. Bob Volbrecht offered me the Children’s Choir, Rev. Dr. Rebecca Prichard (the head pastor at TPC) decided to go to the Session to ask for me to be sponsored through the church, and I thought I was on my way. Dr. Prichard and I agreed that I would pay the green card expenses, and that was absolutely fine with me!
Since I was living in Burbank and still very new to Pacific Chorale and other projects and didn’t really know anyone to recommend a lawyer, I looked in the yellow pages in Burbank and called one of the first companies in the book.
I filled out a contract with that office, wrote them a cheque on August 1st, 2005 for $6000 (which seemed pricey, but I thought that this was a Beverly Hills Law Firm, so I guessed that it was okay). And that was that. Prior to this, my only experience with the law was in Canada. I had never experienced a crooked lawyer in my life and thought that the yellow pages would only print credible people. I was an idiot. I’m trying to forgive myself for not asking anyone.
Dr. Prichard spoke with the lawyer over the phone to get paperwork going. Everything was filed, and on October 2nd, 2006, I got a Letter from U.S. Department of Labor saying my temporary visa had been certified. On December 1st, 2006 I received an appointment to go to the Department of Labour office to get my temporary 1-year work permit, and I was off to the races. I went to their office, got my picture taken, and was fingerprinted. The permit came December 14th, 2006. This was the temporary visa they gave me while they were processing my green card application.
So far so good…right?
I had no reason to suspect anything was anything but fine.
Well, was I EVER WRONG. This seems like a good place to end this section. Continue reading to see where the hell began.