Friday, August 17, 2007

It's all about the process... green cards

Far be it from me to critize any government office. Lord knows that without forms and proper documentation no one could CYA or, better, do anything to help the citizens.

For anyone who has applied for a green card, he or she can tell you stories of various levels of aggravation and complication. It's a trying process. It takes a long time. It's also necessary on some level because without it there wouldn't be any valid way of making sure each visa recipient was indeed worthy of holding it. There are a lot of dodgy lawyers out there who probably make a ton off of the bureaucracy or at least most people's fear of dealing with a government bureaucracy. There are a ton of good immigration lawyers who make a stressful process less-so for their clients. We went with the latter kind of law office. And even then, there are a number of forms that aren't particularly well-designed and create problems just as much as they allow progress.

What I'm writing about is the design of the process. Since it really is 'all about the process' the process could be better designed. Of course when you are going to improve a form, you must consider the related forms, process, people, offices, resources, money, time, effort, political motives, personal needs, stakeholders, leaders, managers, staff, etc. A form is often the end result of a long 'family' -- and therefore the physical representation of the quality or state of that 'family', or the design of that 'family.' And by design I don't mean what it looks like. I'm talking about big D design, sustainable design. Making plans, consideration and excuting and follow up on those plans, strategies to make sure that people, planet, profit are all well considered AND visually appealing, of course.

The example I'm going to share is my husband's greencard. We were elated when after being married for just over a year, he received a letter stating he was approved. So the other night, when it arrived, he was very excited, relieved and hopeful upon opening the letter. Of course, this was all confirmed he checked his name (often mis-spelled) and then dashed when he saw they messed up his birth date.

They didn't just switch the date or put the wrong day in, they turned a now 28-year-old married man, whose photo is on the card, into a one year old. They had his birth date as the end of July, last July. He was born in mid-August, and not last year.

Of course the likely excuse is that they have a TON of visa backlog and with varying political pressure to hold off and then to push ahead, people inside of a hectic process with not-quite-good-enough forms are doing what they can. Again the forms and process are a reflection of each's designed 'family'. So the family is going through some tough times.

What's more, and to be expected, is that there is a form he needs to fill out. And of course there is documentation he needs to provide to prove that the mistake is theirs not his. So all parties recognize a 28-year-old married man is not a year old. Let's do another form. The form is going to be filled out by the aforementioned lawyer's office because the amount of time and aggravation one can spend with Homeland Security is potentially astonishing.

As many have said before, often the design of the process can reward those who do not abide by its rules. Because this is just one of many examples, large and small, of how you are not rewarded by following the process. I can assure you on all of his forms that the birth date is correct. I can bet that what happens at the end of this is that it was just a simple human mistake (again a piece of the process behind the larger design) and it will be fixed.

I just wonder how long it'll take and how much longer he has to wait to be able to work for any employer he wants, just like I can. It's one of the benefits of having a green card vs. an H1b visa. H1b you are beholden to the sponsor/employer and they to you (in a sense), green card you get the freedom to move around. H1b visas are great and I am grateful for them. They are, as the greencard is, part of a larger poorly designed process that has an extreme amount of pressure to improve and, likely, a lot of dysfunctional 'family members' that impede evolutionary change in its design.

The balance is between necessary CYA and accountability, and levels of frustration on all sides. Perhaps this was worse in the past. I often wonder as a new version of a form comes out if it improves what it wanted to improve and didn't make a bigger mess where one didn't exist before.

N.B. Sustainability for me means good design-- in the big D design sense. It can be simply broken down into the 3Ps: People, Planet, Profit (or whatever order you like to put them in). Essentially it's sustainability in the longevity of success (in as many ways as can be measured). I don't find immigration in the US a sustainable process. I do believe it will be improved because I'm a "Pollyanna" and if I don't have that potentially false hope, it'll be too aggravating and disappointing to realize just how much my representative government -- as a whole -- doesn't care about those who give them the power.

No comments: