Days 88, 95, 101: Getting a Driver’s License – 3 Strikes

January 9, 2015: Strike 1

It always feels like one step forward two steps back and a whole lot of anxiety. I feel like I should just always carry around copies of the stacks of documents proving that Efrem has the right to do things and be places. The general population is incredibly ignorant of what a K1-visa holder means—even people who should know to some capacity. SO I stay looking up every statute and every footnote and keep the links and print-outs on hand when someone inevitably says he can’t do one thing or another so I can whip out their own policies and say—“but it says here…”

Case in point, today, Efrem decided he was ready to take the written exam for the drivers license. We even had delayed it from before because I had to make sure all the insurance information was ready and that I knew what his rights were. I dug through the extremely user-unfriendly LA department of public safety and the office of motor vehicles website to find out what the process was for non-permanent residents with a K1 status. It says exactly which document need to be in hand and so on. So he went with everything while I was at work, and the woman at the counter just flatly told him he couldn’t get his license. I sent him the link and told him to go back in there with the statute open that has a footnote for the K1 visa holder that says “ once married to a US citizen MUST provide the passport, marriage license certificate and Notice Of Action I-797 for change of status to be issued a DL/ID”

My anxiety is on high. It’s the little things that get under your skin that just make you want to throw all your papers off the desk and shout “fuck it!” and go home and lay on the couch.

I called him back. He was on his way home. The woman at the counter, even more enraged that he had the nerve to come back and ask her again with proof of the statute, still told him no—that he needed to go to immigration and get his documents stamped. In other words, she didn’t believe they were valid, even though they were sent straight from USCIS. BTW, you can’t just stroll into the regional immigration offices for stuff like that.; asking them to engage in processes that aren’t actual processes.


When we got home, we had another letter from USCIS, this one was a notice of appointment. He has his biometrics appointment scheduled in about 10 days! Good news out of a disappointing day…his application for adjustment of status is moving forward. Next step is the interview!

January 16, 2015: Strike 2

The statutes for K1 visa holders aren’t exactly written clearly. There’s one section about eligibility when you’re in the application for AOS status (which also is confusing), then a long list of what temporary aliens need in order to be eligible for a driver’s license. It starts off talking about needing 180 days left on the I94 or the Employment authorization document (EAD) then it goes into the specifics of a bunch of visa types, including K1. It says no authorization for K1, but then has the addendum, that once married you need the marriage certificate, passport, and I-797 notice of action for AOS. For the other visa status is specifically states I94, but not on the K1.

So Efrem went back, with my parents this time, to the DMV, armed with the statute on their tablets, but he got rejected again because he didn’t have 180 days left on his I94. It expires on May 31. For him to have had 180 days, he would’ve had to get a drivers license by December 2 but he got here on October 14, didn’t have a SSN until late October, and we didn’t get married until Dec. 1. It literally makes zero sense, to the point where I think that that part doesn’t actually apply to married K1 visa holders (hence why it isn’t specifically listed as part of documentation needed whereas a bunch of other visa types specifically list I94 or EAD as proof of eligibility). But because everything is written without any clarity in no logical order of understanding when some things apply and what situations nullify the necessity of which documents, they just keep saying no.

So…basically he can’t get a Louisiana drivers license until he has his green card interview, which who the hell knows when that will be. Guess we’re just gonna keep driving on his SA drivers license since they don’t seem at all to care whether or not he knows the LA rules of the road (which he does) or if he has LA identification (since he also can’t get a LA state ID). -____-

January 22, 2015: Strike 3, You’re out!

Okay, so I’ll concede. On a second read, not of our whacked out LA statute website, but of the Visa Journey website, which is basically my godsend, he actually IS ineligible for a driver’s license until he has either an Employment Authorization (EAD) or his green card. But that information is not what’s written in the articles of the LA statutes pertaining to immigrants, where one line of text directly contradicts the line that came before. The endless frustration comes from the fact that the folks Efrem keeps encountering at the DMV begin every interaction with extreme hostility and yet don’t actually know what the laws state, haven’t read them, and can’t interpret them, which leaves their reasons for denying him (while valid) based on nothing but lies, disdain for him as an immigrant, and getting a kick out of wielding power over someone else in the absence of their own.

He went back a third time, he got halfway through the process and was stopped again and told he was ineligible. He calmly showed confronted the woman with what the actual written statute said, reading straight off of a printed copy of what’s online. She froze. Rather than taking the time to explain that, ‘oh, this is written ambiguously and really the only acceptable proof is this and that document…’ she instead calls over her supervisor, they whisper a bit, and then they both get up, go to her office and close the door. They stay there for about 5 minutes, they come back, and say something along the lines of ‘we just spoke to immigration and they say you’re not eligible for a driver’s license. You have an I-797C and you need a plain I-797. Come back when you have that.’

-__-  Bold faced lie.

First of all, they need to let me know what direct dial extension they have to get through to immigration and get a question answered in 5 minutes. But really, they don’t have to bother, because there isn’t one. You can’t call USCIS that quickly, let alone even get an answer on a state-related law because they would have ZERO information about that. You can’t even call the local field offices directly (otherwise everybody and their mother would be calling all the time about case updates). And again, even if you could get through, they wouldn’t be answering questions about this topic, let alone that quickly. Second of all, the documentation they said he needed wasn’t what actually he needed.

Not a good look.