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Last weekend James and I traveled to Des Moines, Iowa to visit my sister and her fiance. We enjoyed our time with them and seeing where they live and work and go to church. On Saturday we made the 45 minute drive to Pella, the town where I grew up. I lived there from age 6 to 16 although it’s now been nearly 15 years since we moved away.

Going back to Pella is always a rather surreal experience. I’ve been back 6 or 7 times since we moved; the last time was 4 or 5 years ago. So many things have changed, and yet there is always plenty that remains exactly the same. The latest additions since I was last there are the Vermeer windmill at the Historical Village and the Molengracht plaza. (We got to have lunch with dear friends who live in one of the condos above the Molengracht. Beautiful place!) Various parts of Pella – especially the two schools that I attended – are still frequent settings of my dreams, something that made going back and seeing the actual locations yet more surreal.

Another factor this time exacerbating the surreality even further was the Harley-Davidson convention that had taken over much of downtown. It seemed that Sturgis up and moved to Pella. Weird.

In any case, it was great fun showing James around the town where I spent most of my childhood and adolescence. And of course getting to indulge in the joy that is Jaarsma Bakery. Ah those Dutch letters

There is a lot of confusing information out there about whether or not someone who is in the U.S. on a fiance visa can get a Social Security Number. The bottom line is that you can.

James blogs about his adventures getting an SSN here.

…the more confusing they are!

As the USCIS keeps changing the process for securing employment authorization and getting permanent residency, we weren’t quite sure what to expect when we mailed in James’ applications on June 16. When we sent in our fiance visa application on December 17, 2003, we had a notice of receipt within five days. Twenty-three days after mailing the I-485: Application To Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status and the I-765: Application for Employment Authorization we still hadn’t gotten anything notifying us that our application had been received. What’s more the checks we had sent with the applications – $315 and $175 respectively – hadn’t shown up in our account.

Needless to say, we were rather relieved when we arrived home Saturday evening from a trip to Chicago to discover two envelopes in the mail from the USCIS (actually, I think the stationery they print everything on still says “Department of Justice” and “Immigration and Naturalization Services”): one receipt for the I-485 and one for the I-765. We think the hold-up was the new procedure which requires the Detroit field office (to which we mailed our applications) to forward everything on to the National Benefits Center rather than processing the applications themselves. Anyway, we now have a case number which we can use to track the status of our applications.

According to the USCIS website, the employment authorization process is currently taking 30-90 days and the permanent residency process is taking 120-180 days. While we wish those numbers were smaller, it’s still less time than we were told it could take.

Of course, everything could change again within the next sixth months. Or tomorrow, for that matter. With bureaucracy you just never know.