For now, at least. Today I had to get my biometrics done for my work permit. Yes, on Easter Saturday. America doesn't seem to regard Easter as a statutory holiday, much to my dismay, so Good Friday was a normal work-day.
All the websites I had consulted when preparing for my work permit emphasized that a trip to Immigration Services would be long and stressful. Go and line up at 5am, advised the Stanford University website. Make sure you get an appointment if you wait in line all day but still don't get seen, advised another. Make sure you take more documents than are officially required, suggested another.
So, I was dutifully up this morning around 11 making copies of things like certificates and passports and writing letters about how I wanted to use the money that I would get from working to go skiing or sight-seeing most weekends, which is true mostly, cos that's what we've been doing.
I also badgered Brendan into leaving an entire hour and a half early to get to my 2pm appointment, just in case the line was long.
When we got there (and worked out where it was - next to Ebay. The hint is, look for the little Mexican kids running around an industrial area - kidding!), I was surprised. It was almost empty.
A man in uniform at the door took my passport and notice of appointment, told me to fill out a form, and to take it to someone else.
The room was painted a stark, hospital white, with fluorescent lighting. The walls were slightly scuffed in places. Signs printed onto A4 paper sternly warned, "NO Cellphones! NO cameras! NO recording devices!" People sat glumly in rows facing a wall at the end of the long room, towards a TV. Brendan told me the TV was broken, and showed mostly static. A huge sign warned, "Do NOT touch the TV!"
There was a small issue with the first two people, who wanted to examine my hands to make sure they were OK for fingerprints. Unfortunately I sliced the top of my finger with a knife the other day, so it was slightly cut on the side still. So they weren't sure if they could do the fingerprints or not.
The second person looked at my form, gave me a number, and I went around the corner to another, smaller waiting room. This one had small signs on the wall with rows of seats, so you sat in your column depending on why you were there. My little blue plastic card said EAD 34. I plopped myself down on a chair, and waited.
The smaller waiting room was a bit nicer - people felt less glum. A small girl, about 2 years old, with a head of dark curls, ran around and everyone watched her and smiled. I wondered if I should go back for my ipod.
In the end, after only about 15 minutes, my number was called. I walked into the open-plan area and had my photo, signature and right fingerprint taken only. And then I left. All done in 25 minutes. I was most impressed. Maybe they do the 10-fingerprint for immigrants only.