October 15, 2002

I guess I was rather cryptic yesterday when I said that I was refused entry to the US and so I had better go in to full details – especially since things are kind of up in the air at the moment and so I won’t be starting any development work till I sort out where I am going and all that. So bear with the dreary tales of my day-to-day life till normal transmission resumes with details of ongoing development work :p

Anyway, it all began with me going to the US embassy here in Sri Lanka and applying for a visa to enter the US. I had a greencard but that had expired in May and as far as I knew, I was out of status and needed a visa. But the consular officer at the embassy told me that I was still in status since I it hadn’t been a year since I last left the US and that I could re-enter the US even though I had an expired greencard. I showed him my greencard and asked him if he was sure and he said that I certainly would be pulled out at my port of entry in to the US by the INS but that they would hold a quick inquiry and decide my case and that while there as a slight chance that I would be deported, that most probably I would be let into the country. Of course, he preluded all of this with “I can’t give you any legal advice but …” :p I was further told that the only way I would get a visa would be if I were to hand over my greencard voluntarily.

Since I can still remember all the hassles and procedures and checks and stuff that had to be gone through to get the greencard, I decided to hold on to it if possible and so I decided to forego the visa and enter the US based on the consular officers assurance. I should have reconsidered my decision when I contacted several US immigration lawyers via e-mail and all of them told me that as far as they knew, there was no law such as the one described to me by the consular officer but by that time all I wanted to do was get to the US and I disregarded these warnings completely – yes, idiotic but what can I say, I never claimed to be in the genius category :p

When I tried to get my ticket (which was one-way …) Continental airlines raised a fuss because it was one-way and my greencard had expired. I called the embassy and they wanted Continental to call them, they did and then they issued my ticket and said that I was a “special case”. Then came the day of my journey and I got as far as Zurich on Sri Lankan (the national air line) and then had to transfer to Continental. I got my boarding pass fine and then had to go through security – they immediately pounced on the fact that my greencard had expired. I told them what the US embassy had told me but they were adamant that I could not travel with an expired greencard. Since I still wouldn’t give up, they called their INS contact in the US and he said that I would not be allowed into the country either – I wanted to talk to him myself and tried to tell him what the US embassy had told me since I at least wanted to get to my port of entry (which was Newark …) and talk to a US INS officer since I was sure they’d see some way out but it was like talking to a brick wall. The INS guy simply ignored me and said nothing doing.

So that was that! I was in Zurich and Continental (who had issued me a ticket even though my greencard had expired …) was now not letting me enter the US because if I was deported, they’d have to pay a fine of $ 3000. I was furious since they should have thought of this at the time they’d issued me the ticket and I wanted them to call everybody from Continental in Sri Lanka to the US embassy in Sri Lanka but of course it was a Sunday and nobody was there. Since I had no visa for Switzerland, I had the option of staying in the airport the whole day and trying to contact somebody the next day or coming back to Sri Lanka and trying to sort out matters here in Sri Lanka. I opted for the latter. Since it was Columbus Day yesterday, the US embassy here was closed and so I need to talk to them today. The saga continues …

Posted by Fahim at 6:24 am  |  1 Comment