The Dance of the Seven Arse-Coverings

This page written prior to 21 March, 2001.

HP (now Agilent) uses a legal firm called "Fragomen Del Rey Bernsen and Loewy" (FDBL) or Fragomen for short. In October 1999 I finally managed to convince the FDBL person with whom I was dealing that they did indeed have all the required papers to file my OR (Outstanding Researcher) application for permanent residency. I remember the particular series of exchanges because I was shirty at having changed legals yet again, and had to take this guy through the stages of explaining how the O1 paperwork was a superset of the stuff he needed to file the OR, and Fragomen had already managed to get me an offer of an O1. I know the date because I file all my email, and some of the exchange was by email.

As described in a previous soapbox, I won a place in the "diversity" green card lottery. We only entered in response to a letter sent out to all HP employees, saying that we should try as it might save the company some of the cost of importing us. We were notified of the DV win in mid 2000.

Now the DV paperwork is naturally predicated on the assumption that one is applying from overseas, as is usually the case. An early sentence in the offer letter clearly states that if you are already in the USA, you should contact the INS rather than proceeding as instructed in the remainder of the large set of documents. The INS help line is not very helpful, but they suggested that one only needed to file an I-485 "change of status" form, and one's residence application would go on the DV basis. This makes sense, and the INS may be slow and bureaucratic, but they there is generally logic in their workings, and this---a DV win on a current if temporary resident---has to be a no-brainer. Nevertheless, we turned the matter over to Fragomen... after all, they are supposed to know what they are doing in this game. Bzzzt.

Fragomen, under the guidance of someone new, had us fill in forms, go through medical examinations, etc., all in time to file by October 2000. They called a week or so into October to ask about some forms Kay needed to sign, but after I gave them the FedEx tracking number, they discovered the forms on someone's desk, and said that all would now be well.

Come the 9th of February 2001, we get a call from (yet another person at) Fragomen, saying that our interview has been scheduled for March 21 in Sydney. There followed a series of incredulous exchanges---flying the whole family to Sydney where we would have to repeat the medical merry-go-round did not seem like a saving tactic for Agilent---through which we established that this was indeed virtually unchangeable. To add insult to injury, we have had a mad panic to get a new mass of paperwork, and when we finally got to see the letter Fragomen received it was dated January 19th!

There were a couple of conference calls. These turned out to involve the head of the SF office of FDBL, the head paralegal, and the lawyer now handling our case. By this time I was taking careful note of all exchanges, copying minutes to plenty of Agilent people. It looked very like FDBL was doing a powerful job of covering their asses. They claimed that it was never their advice or intention to try and transfer the interview to the USA. They have never satisfactorily explained why we were sent for a medical here (that could never be useful because it would be out of date for the OR and inadmissable for a DV), nor what was filed in October 2000. In the second call they proudly announced that the OR had been filed in "early 2001". I pointed out that they had the papers in October 1999, and named the person I was dealing with at the time. The top lady said "we will check into that"... no news yet, honey. They were also strangely keen that we succeed in the DV interview, and vague about when the OR would happen. I postulate privately that they had left it dangerously late, and need the DV success to get them off the hook.

During the conference calls, they also said they would apply for an extension to my H1-B. It seems it runs out in April. In fact, it will run out just after I get back to SR in April, just before the extension (assuming it is approved) comes into effect. Something better work, Kay will be in Aus, and I'll not come back from ISCAS in Sydney in May without Kay!

So here I am, about to do the interview (at the uncivilised hour of 8AM in the city) in the hope that all the paperwork will come together at the right moment. Even the INS is skeptical of the timing.

I am now inclined to think that Fragomen did nothing. They filed nothing in October 1999, they filed nothing in October 2000. The lawyer, or string of paralegals, entrusted with the case screwed up. They only got woken up from their stupor in January. Maybe it was when the INS reminded them that my H1B was about to run out. Perhaps it was not the INS, but the lady now controlling the case, the first to give the impression that she knows what she is doing. She was handed the file opened it up or she got the interview notice letter. You can just imagine her getting all the honchos together to sort out a story. I now hear that Agilent ceased to use the Irvine office of FDBL because they were unhappy with the level of service... this may be the SF office trying to rescue the cash cow. They are certainly intent on not getting nailed to the wall, which is precisely what should happen, what will happen if Agilent can only act Agile.

In the mean time all four of us now troop to Sydney. Kay will go walkabout with Merinda and Teddy for a few weeks while I return, then come home with me (and with Danny) in May, after ISCAS. Kay does well out of this, methinks.

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