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October 20, 2005

US Immigration

First Immigration Officer (in booth)

Officer: Have you ever been to the USA before.

Me: Yes, I used to live here.

Officer: What was your status?

Me: I was a permanent resident.

Officer: Is that arabic? [pointing to my t-shirt].

Me: No, it's Sanskrit.

Officer: What does it say?

Me: It says: Aum, Sanskrit, in Sanskrit.

Officer: [not comprehending] IS IT ARABIC.

Me: No, it's Sanskrit.

Officer: [irritated] When did you give up your Green Card?

Me: [I give a date in 2005].

Officer: 2005 [seems interested in this].

Officer: Where is your old passport [my new passport was issued a couple of weeks ago].

Me: I don't have it with me.

Officer: [Irritated].

Me: I have a form that I filed, relinquishing my status [looks for it in briefcase — steps to the left slightly to put file folder on counter].

Officer: What are you doing? Don't stand behind me [aggressively].

Me: [Heart pumping, hands shaking] Sorry [moves one half-pace to right — finds form and hands it to him].

Officer: Are you here on business?

Me: Yes. Half the time on business and half on vacation.

Officer: Did the consulate tell you that you didn't need a visa to enter the USA?

Me: No, but my understanding was that I could enter on a visa waiver.

Officer: Do you still hold identification?

Me: What do you mean?

Officer: Do you have a US driver's license, social security number?

Me: Yes, I have a California Driver's license and a social security number [I wish now that I had told him that I’d just filed my 2004 US tax return]

Officer: Go to second stage [points in general direction, then calls over another officer and starts conferring with him].

Me: [starts walking in direction he pointed, then looks back wondering if his colleague will guide me].

Officer: [hostile] Go to stage 2.

Me: Looks up at signs and finds stage 2.

Second Immigration Officer (in back room)

Officer: Yes.

Me: I was sent here by the other guy.

Officer: You're not on the computer [looks at me, needing help].

Me: He sent me in here and then started talking with another guy, maybe the other guy was going to talk with you.

Officer: Ok, I'll go and check, please take a seat.

Me: [sits and waits].

Officer: [comes back, says to colleage something about "gave it up" in an incredulous tone] How long are you here for?

Me: [I tell him a date in the summer].

Officer: Are you here on business?

Me: Half of the time business, half the time ...

Officer: Business then [as he stamps passport and writes WT in the passport stamp and WB on the departure record stamp — departure record stamped until: [sometime in Fall 2005]]. Make sure to hand this is [pointing to the departure record] when you check in for you return flight.

Me: Sure.

Officer: [Sends me away]

Third Immigration / Customs Officer (after collecting bag)

Me: [Hands in customs form to male officer].

Officer: [male officer goes to wave me on, female office stays stop and takes me to search bags] Is this your first trip to the USA?

Me: No, I used to live here.

Officer: H1-B, student visa?

Me: Green Card, I gave it up.

Officer: Why did you do that? [I start to speak] because you don’t live here any more.

Me: Yes.

Officer: What do you do for work?

Me: I design computer chips.

Officer: And who employs you?

Me: I work for [my employer] in the UK.

Officer: Is that the same company you worked for here?

Me: I work for the UK subsidiary of the company I used to work for when I was in the USA.

Officer: What do you do there, are you a manager or something?

Me: I used to be a manager when I was in the USA but now I am not. I just design chips.

Officer: Do you have a business card?

Me: [I hand her my card].

Officer: You're an architect, heh? Do you design buildings? [my card says "Senior Architect"].

Me: No, I architect computer chips.

Officer: I just wondered because some people do all kinds of things, some things on the side.

Me: Oh. I just architect and design computer chips.

Officer: I want to check that large bag [I pass it to her]. Please can you unlock it. Is that arabic?

Me: No, it's an ancient Indian language called Sanskrit, the oldest known language.

Officer: What does it say?

Me: It says: "Aum, Sanskrit" on the front [I turn around] and on the back [pointing at my back] it says "totally awesome".

Officer: Did you pack your bag yourself?

Me: No, my wife packed it.

Officer: Thank goodness for wives.

Me: I was so busy with getting ready for my trip that my wife helped me by packing, it was really good that she could help me.

Officer: What's this?

Me: That's a waterproof case for my camera, I'm going on a river trip.

Officer: Where are you going?

Me: [I tell her about places I'm going in Oregon].

Officer: Oregon as well? [sounds interested / suspicious / something].

Me: Yes. It's a really nice event in Oregon.

Officer: Have you been before?

Me: Yes, I went with my family last year, this year we all wanted to go again, but my wife did not want to deal with the flight.

Officer: So you plan to come back regularly?

Me: Yes, if possible, every year.

Officer: [looking in my passport] A jew?

Me: Excuse me?

Officer: Are you jewish?

Me: Huh? Did you ask me if I was Jewish?

Officer: Yes, here is your passport, it says ... oh no I thought it said Israel [pointing to emergency contact information for Isabelle].

Officer: [as I re-lock my bag] Do you like your job?

Me: Yes, I do like it. I like it a lot actually.

Officer: [she lets me go].


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