Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Comprehensive Immigration Reform - Part 5; Our Reason for Giving Thanks

Duang Worshiping At Her Upstairs Alcove Shrine - I know some of what she has been praying for.
 As I prepare for Thanksgiving tomorrow, here in Thailand, we have another reason to be thankful.  Yesterday we received an email notification of Duang's scheduled appointment at the US Embassy in Bangkok for her application for a Immigrant Visa to the USA.  Teaching Duang more about the meaning of Thanksgiving tomorrow will be that much easier with this shared blessing.

I am still bewildered by the status or definition of "Comprehensive Immigration Reform" in the United States.  With the conclusion of the mid-term elections in America, this news story appears to have disappeared from the media.  I suspect that the problems and issues remain as they were before.  The situation now that the elections are over with is that there is no impetus or perceived need for politicians to identify with the issue, be specific in their definition of the terms, or to imply that they have proposals let alone solutions for immigration related issues.

Back on September 29th, we had mailed a 3/4 inch thick packet of documents to the US Embassy in Bangkok as part of the current process for immigrating to the United States.  Submittal of the documents completed our portion of Packet #3 of the established procedure.  After the US Embassy had reviewed, investigated , and approved our submittal, we would be notified to proceed with Packet #4 along with notification for an interview appointment in Bangkok.  My research had indicated that it takes about 10 weeks after submitting Packet #3 to the Embassy to obtain an interview appointment provided there were no complications or rejection.  I figured that we were going to be notified soon, but I was still very pleased that my faith and belief were justified with the notification 8 weeks after transmitting the packet.

It has been a while since we sent the documents.  During this entire process, I have yet to obtain or have the name of any person working on this process given to me.  I suppose that the need for anonymity is for security reasons however it does make the process very impersonal.  There is no person that you can call with your questions or to determine the status of your case.  It sets up, in my opinion a rather adversarial atmosphere.  I do not prefer that type of atmosphere and after experiencing many interactions with government authorities here in Thailand, I am not accustomed to that sort of an attitude.  Here in Thailand, government employees that I have encountered, all wore a name tag.  If the process of applying for Immigrant Visa is to be impersonal, I can deal with it.  If the process is not as clear, I will have to deal with that also.

Duang's scheduled appointment is roughly a month from now.  At the time of her appointment, Duang will need to submit a sealed envelope containing 6 pages of documents related to her health examination as well as a chest x-ray.  As part of the Immigration Visa process, each applicant has to undergo a medical examination.  The medical examination can only be performed at specific locations and performed by specific doctors.  For applicants in Thailand, people can only be examined in either Bangkok or Chiang Mai.  In Chang Mai, there is a choice of two hospitals and three doctors.  In Bangkok, there is a selection of a hospital and a nursing home.  There are six approved examiners in Bangkok.

Chiang Mai is an 8 hour drive from our home in Udonthani.  Bangkok is a one-hour flight, 8-1/2 hour bus trip, or 6 hour drive from our home.  I considered going to Chiang Mai for the examination and combine the trip with a mini-vacation to photograph the local Hill Tribes.  I decided against it.  Given my previous experiences dealing with the bureaucracy, I believe that it would be best to go to a location in Bangkok - the US Embassy's neighborhood.  I do not want to give cause for any questioning, concerns, or confusion to delay the processing.  One of the selections in Bangkok is Bumrungrad Hospital; an international hospital which is recognized as the best hospital in Thailand.  Bumrungrad Hospital is the destination for many people who come to Thailand for Medical Tourism.  In keeping with my desire to keep our application simple and familiar to the US Embassy staff in Bangkok. I selected Bumrungrad since it is extremely close to the US Embassy.

The fee for the examination at Bumrungrad is 2,450 Baht ($81.66 USD) as opposed to 2,910 Baht ($97 USD) at the nursing home location in Bangkok and 2,000 Baht ($66.67 USD) at the Chaing Mai locations.

In addition to the medical examination, the applicant for an Immigrant Visa must provide confirmation from the medical examiner that the applicant have met US vaccination requirements.  In reviewing the listed required vaccinations, I realized that new immigrants are better protected than most Americans.  Some of the required vaccinations that surprised me were:  Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Human Papillomavirus (HPV), Influenza, Influenza Type b (Hib), Rotovirus, and Zoster (Chicken Pox).  Duang may not have to have all these vaccinations; it is up to the determination of the medical examiner.  I suspect that she will not need a Rotovirus vaccination which is given to infants to protect them from some of the causes of diarrhea.  I am also of the opinion that she does not need a HPV vaccine.  At the hospital here they approached Duang about getting the HPV vaccine but after researching it on the Internet I decided it was not justified.  The HPV vaccine it more suitable for young girls.  The vaccine provides protection from possible cancers possibly caused by the HPV.  However for older women or young women who have already been exposed to HPV, the vaccine has no benefit. The cost of any required vaccinations is in addition to the 2,450 Baht examination fee.

Duang At The Long Boat Races
Having decided to have Duang's medical examination done in Bangkok, I decided rather than try to accomplish the examination and interview in a single trip to Bangkok, we would make a separate trip to Bangkok just for the medical examination.  Although it is theoretically possible to accomplish both the exam and interview in two business days, I have learned over the years that it is best to plan on difficulties and then be surprised when things turn out smoothly.  I would hate to experience complications for an important as well as emotional process by not having all the documents that Duang needs for her interview due to some unanticipated complication with the medical exam.  "Complication"?  I suspect that she will need a vaccine or two.  It is possible that the vaccine might not be available at the time of her exam.  This would prevent her doctor from giving her an "All Clear" determination prior to her interview if it were the next day or two after her hospital visit.  My preference is for her to arrive at her interview with an "All Clear" determination by the Doctor.

We called Bumrungard Hospital yesterday and made an appointment without any difficulty for next week.  I asked about how long they anticipated the medical examination would take because I wanted to determine if an additional overnight stay would be required.  In the course of the conversation, the hospital representative stated that the examination would take a couple of hours in the morning and the doctor would complete the forms when the test results were available in the afternoon.  I asked if the documents could be mailed to us at our home in Udonthani.  I was not prepared for her response.  She informed me that due to "Personal Privacy" concerns in Thailand, the medical records have to be picked up in person by Duang.  Interesting and I guess it does provide a certain higher level of privacy than I am accustomed to.  Taking this into my calculations, we will spend an additional night in Bangkok to ensure that she will be able to pick up her records even if there is any "hiccup" on the day of her examination.  Since so many people spend a great deal of money to get to and stay in Bangkok for a vacation, we can't complain.  I know that we will find something to keep us amused and entertained if we do mange to have a day to burn in the city.

Duang's scheduled interview next month commences at 7:00 A.M. so we will fly down the day before.  If the decision is made to grant her an Immigrant Visa, the "visa will normally be available for pick up at the Consular Section waiting room in two business days"  Based upon this information we will fly down but will return by bus someday.  Since our return will be during the day, I don't mind traveling by bus.

Although politicians and public figures in America have not clarified or defined what they mean when they state that there is a need for comprehensive immigration reform or that they support comprehensive immigration reform, Duang and I have our path forward.  The current process is complicated, challenging, and requires patience as well as money to follow but it appears that the end for us is in sight.

One of the things that we will be thankful for tomorrow will be the approval of Duang's application up to this point as well as the opportunity for her to immigrate to America legally.

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