The Waiting Room

Where do you keep your salt?

How did you meet?

What were the names of the bridesmaids at your wedding?

What side of the bed does your husband sleep on?

What color panties is your wife wearing today?

We had been prepped.  Friends who’d gone through the process before us told us all the mundane and intimate questions they’d been asked by a government official assigned with the task of determining if their love was true or an immigration scam.  Even though we had nothing to hide, we were anxious.  So much was riding on this one-shot interview.  We couldn’t afford to be sloppy.  It could ruin our life as we knew it.  

So we studied our house.  We quizzed each other on biographical facts.  Where did I go to high school?  When’s my birthday?  What were the names of my childhood pets?  We reviewed our dating history, our wedding, our honeymoon, our married life.  We got our stories straight.  

A friend told us how the agent tried to rile him by suggesting his wife was a prostitute since they waited seven years after getting married to apply for her green card.  So Billy steeled himself for anything he thought they might try to use against us.  I had a master’s degree while he chose not to attend college.  At the advice of our lawyer, we had listed Billy as unemployed on his application, while my income was shown as supporting us both.

Now the day had arrived.  A bright white room lit with fluorescent lights.  Rows of folding chairs all occupied by mixed-citizenship couples.  I looked around the room while most people stared at the news program on the TV and others read.  Stacks of papers balanced on laps.  Bags boasting the names of wedding photographers pushed under chairs.  

I, too, held a bag full of documents required to prove our love.  Joint bank account statements.  A water bill in his name.  A gas bill in mine.  Both showing the same mailing address.  Joint credit card statements.  Pages and pages completed by our lawyer.  My tax returns from the past two years, proving I make enough money that if I “take Billy on” he won’t receive any social services.  An additional required letter from my employer confirming my continued employment and annual income.   

Our wedding album.  Photos from when we were dating, including a scrapbook I made for Billy.  Photos from life since we got married – our honeymoon, my sister’s wedding with Billy in the family photos, camping trips with friends.  It was all there, but in reality was nothing that Photoshop and a good printer couldn’t fabricate, I guess.  So we waited.

After an hour, I whispered to Billy that I wanted to ask other couples to see their wedding albums.  He, of course, looked at me like I was crazy.  Seriously.  We’re all here with nothing to do, and everyone has their album under their chair.  Let me see 'em!

He was too nervous to allow me to talk to anyone.  We were also concocting our own conspiracy theories that they may have cameras in the room to watch our behavior.  So he put his arm around me.  Then, we thought that might seem like we were trying too hard, so he put his hand back down.  How does a “real” husband act?  I don’t know.  It was too tricky to try to figure out. 

So I amused myself by surveying the room. A European woman with her half-American kids sitting next to her. A 40-year old white man and a 22-year old Asian girl. Mixed-race couples. Same-race couples.

The only thing I know about each is that one has a social security number and the other one doesn’t. Doesn’t mean that spouse wasn’t raised in the US. Doesn’t mean that citizen was. They could be cultural copies, but one was born here and the other wasn’t.

If you want to catch up on the full story of how we met and our immigration experience, click here. Click to keep reading the next post, The Interview of a Lifetime. To stay up to date on all posts from A Life with Subtitles, please subscribe via RSS or email. Both options can be found in the sidebar. Thanks for reading!


  1. I can't wait to read about how the interview went!

  2. I'm so anxious...
    I love that you wanted to look at the others' photo albums though! What a great community building icebreaker:) Who doesn't love showing that stuff off?

  3. Thanks, Kristen. And thanks for the back-up, Holly. I totally thought that was a good idea. I should've just gone for it! :)


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