Lost Hyphen

Now that my green card has arrived, there are certain things I can progress.  Among the most urgent is obtaining a US driver’s licence.  The combination of my UK licence and an international licence permits me to drive in the US for up to a year from my arrival as a legal permanent resident.  Theoretically, therefore, I have ample time to obtain my licence.  However, even getting to the point of a test takes several steps and I also need to allow some time for possible fails and retakes.  I passed my UK driving test first time after just ten lessons but that was in the days before driving theory tests.  I’m not so confident this time around, especially since my brain is addled with knowledge of another country’s rules and regulations.

The first stage in this particular process is obtaining a learner’s permit and in order to get my mitts on one of those there are several things I need to do.  One of those was undergoing a medical, which I did a couple of weeks ago; the other thing I have to do is present a whole series of documents that prove my identity and status.  The green card was one such piece of documentation but I also need proofs of address.  Since my husband moved out to the US in advance of the rest of us, obviously everything is in his name.  I am only named on the lease.  So this morning we decided to get my name added to the electricity bill, since a utility bill is a recognised proof of address for the purpose of obtaining a learner’s permit.

My husband spoke on the phone first and explained that he wanted my name added to the account and that he was authorising such a change.  The phone then had to be handed to me, which is reasonable enough.  I provided my information.  It was all going swimmingly and smoothly.  Then I had to give my social security number.  I have only had an SSN for a few weeks and do not have a memory for numbers so I had not committed it to memory but I found it within a matter of minutes so we could proceed.  I was then asked to clarify how my name was recorded on the SSN.  We have a double-barreled surname.  We use a hyphen; my surname on the SSN card was hyphenless.  Instead of a hyphen there was a space.  This was not good enough verification apparently.  Our surname is unusual.  In fact it is so rare that only the six members of the Pict family have this surname.  But the fact that the hyphen was missing from my SSN registration meant the electricity company wanted additional evidence of my identity.  Labyrinthine bureaucracy again.

I was asked for the details of my driver’s licence.  I tried not to utter an irked guffaw down the phone as I patiently explained that I had only been in the US for two and a half months and had not yet obtained a US driver’s license.  So now, in order to be added to the bill, I have to present two forms of photo identification at their offices in Philadelphia.  Thankfully they will accept my UK driver’s licence as one of these, the other being my passport.  Jumping through stupid hoops again.  What was the point in my husband authorising my name being added to the bill if his authority meant nothing in the absence of a hyphen?  And why did the Social Security Department take it upon themselves to drop the hyphen from our surname?  My husband’s SSN has the surname with the hyphen so it’s not that the printing machine cannot produce them.  Someone has apparently taken it upon themselves to abduct the hyphen for no particular reason.  Just a whim.  And it doesn’t bother me at all on a personal level except that now I am going to have this mismatch between how my surname appears on everything else and how it appears on the ruddy SSN and the Green Card.  Of course there is also the serpent eating its own tail hassle of always being asked for the driver’s licence as my photo ID every single time I try to progress a step further in my quest to obtain said US driving licence.

Company checklists don’t allow for exceptions, divergence from the norm or apparently lost hyphens.  That’s today’s vent.

Green Cards

You don’t have to have had any involvement with US immigration to know that possession of a green card is your portal to legal residency in America.  Even if you have not picked it up from proper general knowledge then the hideous movie with Gerard Depardieu will  have taught you that.  As we took the Direct Consular Filing route through immigration, we applied for the Green Cards and Social Security Numbers in one fell swoop and were given a three month outside estimate for their arrival.  Until then my life has been in stasis as there are various things I have been unable to progress without both documents.

So my green card finally arrived in today’s mail.  That should be cause for celebration.  Unfortunately the positive of receiving my green card was undermined by the fact it was accompanied by green cards for three of my sons.  Three.  Not four.

As happened with the SSN, my 10 year old has been missed out.

It is now becoming apparent that our oldest son’s immigration paperwork has been lost in the mix somewhere as it is too much of a coincidence that he has been missed out twice.  When my husband went to the Social Security Office in Philadelphia (because we have no closer office and every time I phoned I was put through endless push button menus just to be unceremoniously hung up on each and every time) they had no record of our 10 year old having been processed for an SSN.  Thankfully he had gone with all the relevant immigration paperwork and supporting documentation so they agreed to process and issue an SSN for him.  Just an annoying glitch, we thought.  A one-off anomaly.  But, no, it is now evident that that was just part of a larger glitch.  Despite the intensive bureaucracy of USCIS, somewhere along the line our oldest son’s immigration packet has been misplaced, misfiled or just plain lost.

So now I am going to get to spend a day speaking to numerous USCIS personnel until I get put through to one who can actually assist me and see if we can get to the bottom of why he has been missed out.

But not today.

I am too stressed out for other reasons do deal with that whole shebang calmly today.

And once we get all of this green card mess sorted out, we will be able to apply for US passports for each of our four sons.  I can’t wait to see what glitches we encounter then.