PANDEMIC IMMIGRATION STORIES: A DAY IN THE US CONSULATE IN NAPLES

Layers of construction barriers hid the main entrance from view, so we veered off towards the seaside in hopes of spotting another point of access. Aside from enjoying the sights and sounds of Neapolitan fishermen in a local harbor, no luck.

Circumnavigating the consulate and slipping into the pedestrian way immediately before the construction seemed to be the only reasonable way of entering for our immigration interview. At the mouth of the walkway was an armed military guard. We exchanged stranger glances of acknowledgment with him from a social and scared distance, shrugged, and returned to our guesthouse.

Staking out the US Consulate General the day before our long-awaited visa interview proved to be one of many strokes of good fortune that have guided us through all 11 steps of the family visa process. We are careful not to confuse fortune with fatalism, as predestination shall not save you from immigration purgatory as much as preparation might.

Like a videogame or an exercise of willpower, leveling up was a measure not of your innate worthiness, but of a critical combination of reading the fine print, interpreting the fine print, and then actually going through all the motions and believing in the system.

Perhaps the immigration process does measure worthiness — a redefined version that rewards the one who reads, and does not dismiss the instructions.

And the last test was aptly set against the backdrop of Naples itself. Other consulates handle lesser affairs: you would like to move for work reasons? Go to Milan. But you think you will immigrate? We’ll meet you in Naples first.

On the global scale, COVID-19 temporarily slowed visa processing and brought a world of uncertainty of when/where/if. On the US side, an underfunding of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) workforce has further slowed processing times, as well as a series of restricted visa categories one more confusing than its predecessor.

By Bianca Sue Brown for italics Magazine
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