Friday, May 29, 2015

mission failure

My 11:20AM appointment began as soon as I walked up to Window 302 on the third floor of the US Embassy in Gwanghwamun. It ended about five minutes after I got to the window—which didn't surprise me at all. As bad as Korean bureaucracy might be, Uncle Sam's is far bigger and far more fetid, and as I suspected, I was given the runaround. In my case, the runaround meant the classic "To receive Document X, you first need to bring us Document Y." Figures, right? Balls.

Specifically, what happened was that I asked the staffer, a lightly bearded, short-cropped thirtysomething, whether it would be possible to obtain my mother's naturalization documents. No, he said: because Mom had been naturalized back in the late Sixties or early Seventies, her documents haven't been digitized yet, so they're not remotely retrievable and printable, and he wouldn't have such records in the Seoul office. Most likely, a copy of her documents resides at the USCIS facility in Missouri.

There was another hurdle, though: to obtain Mom's documents, I have to prove not only that I'm related to Mom (via birth certificate, etc.), but also that Mom actually died. In other words, I need her death certificate before Uncle Sam will deign to get off his ass and help. I don't think either I or my brothers are in possession of that; it's mostly likely in my father's hands, and I'm not (we're not) on speaking terms with him. So I suppose the alternative is to call Walter Reed Medical Center, where Mom passed away, and see whether it's possible to track down the documentation that way.

In terms of procedure, the USCIS staffer told me I'd need to put in a "foya" request (FOIA, Freedom of Information Act). This can be done at least partially online; I apparently need to Google "USCIS FOIA" to find the application page. That's easy enough, but the staffer emphasized that there'd be no point in hitting the website if I didn't have Mom's death certificate. So: first things first, I guess. The mission gains another wrinkle.

One step forward, two steps back. The good news is that none of this surprises me. In the meantime, I'm going to visit Goyang City's immigration office to make absolutely sure about what documents are necessary to apply for an F-4 visa. By going that route, I may discover something new and interesting about which documents I actually need to track down.



John (I'm not a robot) said...

Ah, sadly I'm not surprised. Regarding the death certificate, you should be able to get that at the county office of vital statistics. At least that's how it works in South Carolina. I doubt the hospital would have a copy. Anyway, check with Arlington County first for that.

Kevin Kim said...

Thanks, but why Arlington? Mom lived in Fairfax County most of her life, and she died at Walter Reed, which is in Bethesda, Maryland.

Also, which county? The one she lived in or the one she died in?

The Maximum Leader said...

Mom's death certificate would have been issued by Walter Reed & signed by the attending physician. Because it is a federal institution, I don't know if the certificate would be assigned to locality or if it would go to some federal depository. Generally you can look up death certificates at the clerk of the court's office in the locality in which the death occurred.

Kevin Kim said...

Thanks, Mike. Good to know.

John (I'm not a robot) said...

Yeah, normally it would be the county in which the death occurred or alternatively the county of residence. Wherever it is at it shouldn't be a big hurdle to obtain...