This morning, I took a trip over to Korean Immigration—the local office near Goyang City—to find out whether the list of documents I need in order to obtain an F-4 visa is indeed correct. Turns out, mirabile dictu, that it is! Or so said the cute staffer that I dealt with. I have Young Chun to thank for his kind help in listing out all the documents needed for an F-4.
So the good news is that I really do have only one more set of documents to obtain—Mom's naturalization papers—and whether I obtain those papers in a timely manner is now completely up to USCIS, that ponderous US government agency that has taken over responsibilities from the former US Immigration and Naturalization Service.
I still haven't heard anything from USCIS regarding an official acknowledgment of receipt of my application. I got an unofficial email acknowledging receipt, but the clock doesn't start ticking until I get the official notice, along with a case number to allow me to track my paperwork's progress through the system.
By my calculations:
• approx. 3-5 weeks' processing time at USCIS
• approx. 3 days for USCIS to mail the docs to my brother David
• approx. 7-10 days for David to mail the docs to me
• exactly 3 weeks to apply for and receive an F-4 visa
That's a waiting period of 7.5 weeks to 10 weeks, which takes us into about mid-September. What I may have to do is move back, temporarily, to my relatives' building in Garak-dong, assuming they still have an empty apartment for me to move into (I'll gladly pay a month's rent to use the place). Moving out of my Goyang studio will automatically make me 3 million won richer, as I'll be getting my rental deposit back at the end of my contract. This isn't ideal, obviously: I had hoped to move straight from Goyang into my new, Golden Goose-provided housing. But as a stopgap measure, it's better than nothing, and it means I'll have money in September for things like a plane ticket, the hotel bill, and a hanbok for Sean's wedding.
Another thing to consider is that, after August 31, I'll be off contract. What's more, my alien-registration card's E-1 visa's validity will have expired in July, so by the beginning of September, I'll just be a tourist in Korea with no visa, no contract, nothing. I may have to go back to Immigration to ask for an extension on my alien-registration card. If I don't get the extension this month, this might be a problem when I apply for an F-4 next month.
Immigration also told me that there might be a problem if my mother's name, on my documents, is different from the one recorded on my Korean family register. I looked at my birth certificate, and her name is written as Suk Ja Kim, thank God. I can only hope that Mom's name is also Suk Ja Kim on her naturalization papers. If it's not, then there's yet more bureaucratic bullshit ahead of me. Will be keeping my fingers crossed for good news from my brother, whom I've asked to be on the lookout.
In the meantime, I had a pleasant morning. This feels like progress.