Monday, 18 October 2010

Getting To America - Part 3

Oops, my general laziness means that chronological order of things has gone a little bit astray. If you are a new reader then you it would probably make sense to pick up the first two parts of this pulse-pounding monologue;


if you can stand it.

So to catch up I was attempting to get a visa to travel to the US for a stag do. This process had been somewhat complicated by two facts:
  1. I have to get a visa in the first place
  2. I have left this to the last minute
I have landed in Belfast to visit the US Embassy for my interview, I have surrendered my mobile phone to a taxi driver because you cannot take any electrical items into this Embassy. I was curious as to how pacemakers would be dealt with by this rule but did not want to push my luck. I imagine the taxi driver who kindly stored my phone until my return would have been less enamoured with the idea of open heart surgery. Or maybe he would, there would some dubious looking stains on the seat of the cab. Never mind, move on.

So I arrived at Embassy, and after being subjected to a security check more rigorous than the average airport was ushered into what can only be described as a doctor's waiting room. There were some cubicles, some windows and some people, who like me, had all broken the law at some point in their lives. I spent a good deal of time speculating as to the nature of their crimes, but thought it a little too rude to ask.

After a paperwork check to ensure all was present and correct I was eventually ushered to a booth for the interview. This was an experience not dissimilar to being ushered into a booth at a DHSS office when applying for some sort of benefit, the only difference being that the figure behind the glass presented a rather different demeanour. In the DHSS case you get a bored low level public service worker who has been abused and spat at at least four times today. In the US Embassy case you get a hulking ex-military looking type who has DEFINITELY not been spat at or abused during his shift. I assumed my most angelic face.

The conversation went as follows:

Hulking Ex-Military (HEM): Show me your paperwork.
Me: Shuffles paperwork under the counter.
HEM: Explain your offences.
Me: Well, (big pause), I distributed an extremely small quantity of not very potent drugs to a very small demographic. (So different from my sales pitch, but that was long in the past).
HEM: You appear to be convicted of quite a lot of offences at the same time?
Me: Well (big pause), I am a little confused by this. How many times can you be convicted of distributing a Class B drug on the same day (nervous laugh). All the counts were concurrent.
HEM: How long did you spend in prison?
Me: (Enjoying myself for a second) Sentenced to year and released after six months on good behaviour (beaming smile).
HEM: The second offence?
Me: Ahem, just a small thing, would have been a caution had it not been for my previous record.
HEM: How small?
Me: Really small.
HEM: Define...
Me: (Pinching motion with fingers)
HEM: OK, in light of the fact that your initial offence is serious, but also took place a long time ago...
Me: (Not interrupting but thinking this will be all over and a Visa will be attained), (beatific smile).
HEM: I am happy to refer this case to Washington, who will after due diligence, probably issue a visa.
Me: (WTF ?!?) OK, and, erm, how long will this process take?
HEM: This will take approximately two weeks.
Me: OK, thank you. ("Due diligence", "probably": WTF again???).

So I leave, pondering the process of access to America, if you have been a little naughty, and hoping the process will run smoothly. Will Mr B. Obama be too busy too sign? Arghh!

Some notes about criminal offences and their acceptability for disclosure:

In the UK if you are applying for a job you will be asked if you have any unspent convictions:

In short, a "spent" conviction is any conviction that attracted less than 2.5 years jail time. These will be spent in 10 years. Good news for me when I am applying for a job.

If you are applying for permission to visit the US and many other countries as well then a different and rather more draconian set of rules apply. Basically all offences are categorised as A, B, or C

A includes crimes such as: Attacking a human with a rocket propelled grenade launcher, messing around with small children, attempting a military coup, assassinating a president etc.
B includes crimes such as: Defrauding an individual, identity theft etc.
C includes speeding crimes, dancing on your next door neighbours daffodils.

Each offence buckets dictates how long your offences will have to last before they are spent. A: never, B: sometime soon, C: well that all depends if the daffodils are prize winning.

Mutiple choice question: guess which category I fell into...

If you guessed A you are correct, my small contribution to the chemical entertainments industry is classified at the same level as murders, rapists and people convicted of an attempted coup d'etat.

I would say funny old world, except it isn't. Never mind, dear reader I will get there in the end, or will I?

No comments:

Post a Comment