Monday, September 22, 2014

They Hate Us for Our Freedom

The view from the lovely Chiayi 149.

My friend Faye writes up her story on Facebook of trying to get US citizenship for her child. Most of this is not due to AIT, but rather to Congress. Note how the law punishes you if you're a single mother...


How I proved that Zephyr had the right to US Citizenship -- Or How the West Wind was (Not?) Won -- Or Why Being an American is Nothing But Stress

The American Institute in Taiwan is the organization that acts as an "embassy" in Taiwan, since Taiwan has no status as a nation in the world. They force me to make an appointment on the website, but the first time I go to the website, it is broken. I have to take a US$50 40 minute taxi ride to get there with the baby. When I get there, I have to go through security checks that I have never seen visiting any public office in Taiwan, but which are all too familiar to Americans. Metal detectors, leave your phone and your laptop downstairs in their custody. I get inside and there are no elevators, but the office where I have to get papers for Zephyr is on the third floor. I proceed to carry Zephyr up and down these stairs in his stroller at least four times, as I try to collect all the things I need to get this done.

They have no one to take a photo for you in the building, so you have to go across the street to a private vendor. The Taiwanese photographer was so nice, he made extra copies for me and gave me the originals on a flash drive. When he heard that I don't get many photos with the baby, he took some extras just so I could have more happy photos with Zephyr, no charge.

First, I was told over email that I would need to have his birth certificate translated, and that I can do it myself, so I did. When I got there, they didn't like it. They wanted me to write on it that I had translated it myself, like they didn't trust me. Later, they insisted that I needed to get a special English version of the birth certificate from the Taiwanese government... pushing their paperwork onto the Taiwanese government. I didn't see what the point was, since everything on the form was then provided by me and translated by me anyway. But I did it, I went back to the clinic where I got my original birth certificate, and I wrote down on the form exactly the same information I had written in my own translation... Paid someone else to type it up. Took extra time.

Second, their website said that they could accept cash or credit card, but it turned out that their credit card machine was down that day, so it was back to only cash. I only find this out at the end of the process, so I have to carry the stroller up and down again to find an ATM to pay the exorbitant US$100 fee for Consular Report of Birth Abroad and US$105 fee for passport (US$205 total). Taiwanese birth certificate costs negative money, in fact, they gave me a gift of US$300 for having a baby, and a Taiwanese 10-year passport costs US$45 and has a turnaround time of FOUR DAYS, standard, not rushed!

Third, they informed me only after I got to the office that according to the US government, if the mother of the child is presenting her identification as an American citizen when a child is born out of wedlock in another country, I have to prove that I was ever in the United States without leaving the country for an entire year. Ever, in my entire lifetime. This would seem like a simple thing, since I have been in the United States since I was six years old and now I am 40. There are thousands of such year stints that I could point to. However, if you look into this, there is actually no way to prove this. This law really needs to be scrubbed from the books, because it is meaningless and a total stupid run around, but there's no one who will ever accomplish this task. Anyone who runs into this law will be too busy being a single mom to ever get this changed, and no one else cares about us.

In order to prove this strange requirement, I am told the only thing that would work is a transcript from either high school or college, plus summer school, or prove that I was working during the summer between semesters, or pay stubs from a year of work, or IRS records showing that I was working for a full year. I found all of these things to have no relevance to whether I was in the country without leaving, since I lived in lots of places where I could easily take a day trip to Mexico or Canada, and it wouldn't leave any trace anywhere or matter if I was in school or at work. However, that is what the AIT wanted, so I went off to find these things.

The high school was very kind about transcript, but they had to go dig up microfiche from some basement for me, I'm THAT old. UC Berkeley transcript office cost money to send transcripts, AND if you ask for one online, there's no way to get it sent to Taiwan because there was an error in the website form. The AIT agent kept insisting that it was easy to do, just click the link, but after she took the time to click it herself, it turned out that I was right, of course. I didn't have any paystubs with me... who travels with a year of paystubs, are you kidding me??

I called the IRS for my full tax transcript, and they could offer me some, but none were available for the years when I was in college, because I was a student worker, and it was too long ago. Besides, it wouldn't say "what month" or days I worked, only that I filed a form and paid some taxes. There was a whole series of calls to the IRS. The first one, I waited for an hour while listening to hold music, then they told me I would have to be standing next to a fax machine when they fax me the transcript. The second one, I went down to the 7-11 where I could receive faxes, and I waited for an hour, only to find out after all the explaining that their computer system was down. The third one, I went down to the 7-11 and waited for an hour, where my phone gradually ran out of batteries down to the last second, when they said, we hit send, but sometimes it takes the system 20 minutes to actually send it... and I kept having to keep the fax machine turned on by pushing buttons to prevent it from auto-shut down every few minutes. AND I never got the fax. Mind you, I did all this with baby Zephyr in tow, when he was only about 5 months old.

I explained the problems trying to get information to the people at the AIT, and after much discussion they said... we know what you have to do to meet the burden of proof. You have to go to the Taiwanese government and get a full record of all the times you entered and exited Taiwan. Good grief, so they push their own paperwork onto the Taiwanese government, and then what exactly does that prove? It proves when I was in Taiwan, but it says nothing about all the times I went to Jamaica, Canada, Mexico, France, Italy, Germany, Denmark?!? What the hell are they really getting at? It's just a huge stress for no benefit to anyone. How is it protecting or serving anybody in the US to give Zephyr and I a hard time?

I went to the Taiwanese government office and got this record in fifteen minutes, US$3, using both of my passports (Taiwanese and US), and I made one more trip to AIT to submit my papers. I asked the Taiwanese agents, do you get a lot of people from AIT? and he growled and said, yes, ever since 9/11, the Americans have lost their minds and treat everyone like terrorists. Phew! And that's how Zephyr got his US Citizenship papers, and the start of completely irrational, unreasonable control and danger to him. No terrorists are out to get Taiwanese people.
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kelake said...

Wow, what an ordeal.

Anonymous said...

I can feel her frustration. As a long time expat here, I have encountered similar issues with the For example, live here over 25 years, but still need to get a police report from your home town for certain Taiwanese visas. (Helloooo, this is my home). Permanent resident visa?? nope, leave Taiwan for 181 days and its canceled, etc. etc.

Jenna Cody said...

kelake - the permanent resident visa thing should have been fixed for Taiwan: now you can leave for up to five years.

That is one hell of a story - getting my permanent residency was a joke and a half, but it was nothing compared to that. And honestly the only problem I ever had with the Taiwanese side was that they lost my computer records for my visa 2007-2008. "You weren't in the country then." Except I was. I could offer proof vis-a-vis a rental lease, an Internet contract, a tax stub, a work permit, and other assorted evidence, but all of that meant nothing without my old ARC or a copy from that time. Fortunately, I had a copy. They found my records eventually, but seemed surprised that I myself knew where I was 2007-2008 better than they did.

Otherwise, all the issues were with the very long wait for my US background check and the notarization I needed to even apply for it, because I managed to apply literally a month before that requirement was scrapped!

But I have one question. "US $50 40-minute taxi ride"? Huh? I get that with a baby and stroller a taxi was just a better idea all around, but since when does a 40-minute taxi ride cost US $50? It takes about 40 minutes to get from Zhubei HSR to Mediatek in Hsinchu Science Park in bad traffic, and costs a little less than US $10. It takes about 40 minutes to get from Hongshulin to Da'an - because you have to take a taxi if you're buying a table from some guy, that's how I know - and costs about NT$500, or about $17 US.

There is no way on This Beautiful Island that it costs US$50 to take a 40-minute taxi ride.

Okami said...

Pretty common for AIT, I only had my high school diploma. He said it only showed I was there that day... I said I didn't get my passport till 2000 when I was 25 and to check. He finally relented and gave my daughter her American papers. It took an hour of waiting and not yelling at him.

My daughter's passport has expired and living in central Taiwan means getting a passport besides all the paperwork and special photos(one for each year preferably with parents) The cost would be for missed work, the passport and transportation for my wife, daughter and I would be between $12-15000NT. Screw it the Taiwanese one will work for a trip to the US.

Eric Pickett said...

Do I ever relate to this line: "the Americans have lost their minds and treat everyone like terrorists."

This is exactly my reaction when I started to look into what is involved in applying for a green card for my husband (a Taiwanese, who I plan to officially marry next year in the States).

I knew there would be some intrusive paperwork involved, but was gob-smacked when I saw how freaking complicated it was. It made applying for a ARPC here in Taiwan like a walk in the park.

First, you need to apply for the "I-130 process", details which can be found here:

Then, once that process is completed, there's a second track to complete, the lengthy NVC process, with details here:

We're talking about about well over a year+ of paperwork processing (if you can manage to stay on top of the paperwork while living overseas and have a lawyer to help push it through) and hundreds and hundreds of USD in various fees, which have to be wired from US-based banks only. It's just an overwhelming and grueling ordeal to have to go through.

In an ideal world, the marriage green card process would be something like a) is one of you a valid US citizen? b) is this a valid marriage license? c) do either of you have a criminal record? BOOM, here's your green card.

Instead, the attitude I get from the INS is: "you're a liar, a fraud, a thief, or a terrorist. Now prove to us that you aren't."

Welcome to America.

Mike Fagan said...

" How is it protecting or serving anybody in the US to give Zephyr and I a hard time?"

Don't knock it - it's for the good of the politicians and bureaucrats, without whom we'd all be lost.

Anonymous said...

Be glad you're all not trying to do this in Italy or France!

Anonymous said...

To the person thinking they can use a Taiwan passport instead of an American one, it won't work. Since the US began requiring all its citizens to enter and leave using US passports, dual citizens must use a US passport to enter and leave the US. I, for example, cannot enter the US with a Canadian passport because I am also an American. The US does not recognize dual citizenship, so you're either an American or you're not. If you're an American, you need a US passport to enter the US. Get your daughter's US Passport renewed before trying to go to the US. The angry watchdogs are at the border.

Brian Castle said...

@Eric Pickett
I'm a bit confused by your name being Eric and your reference to your husband. But ignoring that for a bit...

My experience (though it has been a while) was that it wasn't too hard to bring my now spouse into America using a fiance visa. It took a few months for everything to go through, but there wasn't a lot of hassle. But I've heard that people who took other approaches, such as getting married first and then coming to America, had a lot more difficulty. You might want to do some asking around to see if it would be easier to come to America first and then request a fiance visa rather than having your fiance apply for a green card.

Brian Castle said...

While it is not uncommon for a government agency to become inefficient and offer horrible service due to lack of a competitive market, it is even more of a problem for people who are either small in number or can't vote (like people who use INS or prisons). Given the small number of people overseas who vote it isn't surprising that they get lousy service. It is likely compounded by the fact that their votes are spread so then across so many congressmen.

Anonymous said...

As a gay scot, i haven't a clue as to what its like to have a kid get uk citizenship in taiwan, but it has to be easier than this woman had to go through. still, i must say her attitude could do with some adjusting...

Have to make an appointment online? its the 21st century you silly cow!

no photo machine inside? why did you not take one in advance? ever seen those photo booths all around town?

credit cards down? it happens, not only at ait

no school records? when i got a job here, i had to prove my degree was legitmate in order to get visa, so i was prepared with all my uni records. why wasn't she? whats she doing here?

jenna's right. where do you live that it costs 50 dollars to ride a cab for 40 minutes?

the people at ait sound like a right bunch of c***s, but this lassie didn't seem to understand just how bloody serious getting citizenship actually is.