“Welcome to america of America.”

That’s the very first thing you learn while you discover out your inexperienced card utility was accredited. These long-awaited phrases are printed on fancier-than-usual paper, an enchancment on the same old copy machine printed paper that the federal government sends to periodically remind you that you just, like hundreds of thousands of different individuals, are caught in the identical gradual bureaucratic system.

First you cry — then you definately cry quite a bit. And then you definately have a good time. However then you need to wait one other week or so for the precise credit score card-sized card — sure, it’s inexperienced — to show up within the mail earlier than it actually kicks in.

It took two years to get my inexperienced card, in any other case generally known as U.S. everlasting residency. That’s a drop within the ocean to the hundreds of thousands who endure twice, and even 3 times as lengthy. After six years as a Brit in New York, I may as soon as once more go away the nation and arrive with out worrying as a lot {that a} grumpy border officer may not let me again in as a result of they don’t like journalists.

The fact is, U.S. authorities can reject me — and some other overseas nationwide — from getting into the U.S. for nearly any cause. As we noticed with President Trump’s ban on overseas nationals from seven Muslim-majority nations — since dominated unconstitutional — the extremely vetted standing of holding a inexperienced card doesn’t even assist a lot. You will have virtually no rights and the questioning might be brutally invasive — as I, too, have skilled earlier than, together with the stare-downs and silent psychological warfare they use to mentally shake you down.

I used to be curious what they knew about me. With my inexperienced card in a single hand and empowered by my newfound sense of immigration safety, I filed a Freedom of Info request with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Companies to acquire the entire recordsdata the federal government had collected on me with the intention to course of my utility.

Seven months later, disappointment.

USCIS despatched me a disk with 561 pages of paperwork and a canopy letter telling me many of the fascinating bits had been redacted, citing exemptions equivalent to data referring to officers and authorities workers, investigatory materials compiled for legislation enforcement functions, and strategies utilized by the federal government to determine an applicant’s case.

However I did get virtually a decade’s price of pictures taken by border officers getting into america.

Seven years of pictures taken on the U.S. border. (Supply: Homeland Safety/FOIA)

What’s fascinating about these encounters is that you would be able to see me getting exponentially fatter through the years whereas my sense of favor declines at about the identical price.

Every picture comes with a file from a web-based system referred to as the Buyer Profile Administration Service (CPMS), which shops all of the pictures of overseas nationals visiting or returning to the U.S. from a digital camera at port of entries.

Immigration officers and border officers use the Id Verification Instrument (IVT) to visually verify my id and evaluate my data on the border and my interview, in addition to checking for any “derogatory” info which may flag an issue in my case.

The federal government’s IDENT system, which immigration workers and border officers use to visually confirm an applicant’s id together with any probably barring points, like a felony file. (Supply: FOIA)

Everybody’s file will differ, and my inexperienced card case was considerably easy and simple in comparison with others.

Some 90 p.c of my file are issues my lawyer submitted — my utility, my passport and present visa, my financial institution statements and tax returns, my medical examination, and my total set of supporting proof — equivalent to my articles, citations, and letters of advice. The ultimate 10 p.c had been precise responsive authorities paperwork, and a few random recordsdata like photocopied folders.

And there was plenty of duplication.

From the selection recordsdata we’re publishing, the inexperienced card course of seems extremely procedural and provided little to nothing by way of choice making by immigration officers. Lots of the government-generated paperwork was principally box-ticking, equivalent to verifying the authenticity of paperwork alongside the chain of custody. A single typo can derail a whole case.

The federal government makes use of a number of Homeland Safety programs to verify my immigration data towards USCIS’ Central Index System, and verifying my fingerprints towards my present data saved in its IDENT system to make sure it’s actually me on the interview.

USCIS’ Central Index System, a repository of knowledge held by the federal government as purposes undergo the immigration course of. (Supply: FOIA)

Throughout my adjustment-of-status interview with an immigration officer, my “disposition” was recorded however redacted. (Spoiler alert: it was in all probability “sweaty and nervous.”)

A file crammed out by an immigration officer at an adjustment of standing interview, which inexperienced card candidates are topic to. (Supply: FOIA)

Following the interview, the immigration officer checks to be sure that the interview procedures are correctly carried out. Homeland Safety additionally pulls in information from the FBI to verify to see if my title is on a watchlist, but in addition to verify my id as the true individual making use of for the inexperienced card.

And, ultimately, two years of labor and ready got here all the way down to was a single checked field following my interview. “Accepted.”

The ultimate adjudication of an applicant’s inexperienced card. (Supply: FOIA)

It’s no secret that you would be able to FOIA in your inexperienced card file. Some are pressured to file to acquire their case recordsdata with the intention to attraction their denied purposes.

Runa Sandvik, a senior director of knowledge safety at The New York Instances, obtained her border pictures from Homeland Safety some years in the past. These days, it’s simply as simple to request your recordsdata. Fill out one type and e-mail it to the USCIS.

For me, subsequent cease is citizenship. Simply 5 extra years to go.

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