Sunday, October 4, 2015

Things that are Dumb

I am a pragmatic person. I like to do things in order and be as efficient as possible. When I have completed a task I prefer not to revisit it. That is why the potential of having to find a new house and move was bugging me so much. Finding a house had already been taken care of and now it was going to have to happen all over again? Didn't people understand that it was crossed it off the list? 

Fortunately, it seems like we are going to be able to stay in our house. We handled the situation in the way that we, as Americans, thought was best. We hired a lawyer.  Right after he got involved everything seemed to change and now it looks like we will be able to stay in this house with the same lease terms under the new owner/landlord. I won't truly believe it until the new lease has been signed (note, Mr. Deep insists we do not need to sign a new lease) but hopefully we dodged a bullet and moving remains off the things to do list.

The universe didn't want us to get too comfortable though because now the project that we have to do over is our visa applications. Yes, the entire visa application process that I wrote about in this post and this one has to be redone. The reason? Mr. Deep's office here in SA has changed it's name slightly and that requires us both to get new visas. 

And that is dumb.

If redoing the chest x-rays (we don't have TB) and the mounds of paperwork was not enough of a pain, it seems that I have a syndrome which makes my visa application even more challenging to complete.  I don't have readable fingerprints. An FBI background check is a requirement for the visa application and to get the background check you have to submit a set of inked fingerprints.

Every every time I get an inked set of fingerprints from the local police station and we submit them to the FBI they get rejected. We have submitted four separate sets of my fingerprints and they all have been rejected. Mr. Deep, who is apparently normal as far as fingerprints go, was approved on the first submission. Each of my rejection notices contain the following statement, 

"your fingerprints have been successfully received by the FBI, but are unable to be processed. There are a small percentage of individuals in which the fingerprint image quality is very low.   

An individual, by the nature of their work or age, may have very thin or worn ridges in the pattern area."

Work or age? Did I type so forcefully over the years at work that my fingerprints rubbed off? Or maybe it was dialing into all of those conference calls that did it? Did I do a lot of work where my hands were soaking in acid for hours on end and I just don't remember it? Did all of my nail biting somehow harm my finger tips? 

To the naked eye all appears normal
Which leads me to more things that are dumb. First, I have been in South Africa since shortly after my first FBI background check less than a year ago, so it would have been tough for me to commit a felony in the U.S. while living here. Second, it's dumb that we are still relying on ink fingerprinting (hey 1920 called and they want their technology back) when we have other methods such as electronic fingerprinting that could be used as common course of action. It's like when you go to vote and a 90 year old woman has to look in a book, IN A BOOK, to confirm if you are actually a registered voter. How have we not progressed past checking things in books and inking people's hands when we can send the Hubble or whatever that craft was called into space to send down photos of starlight that was generated 30 years ago? In proof-reading this post Mr. Deep says the starlight was generated more than 30 million years ago. OK, great, whatever that proves my point all the more.

Electronic scanning of fingerprints does exist. That is what I had to do the first time when we were still in the U.S., and my fingerprints were rejected and I first became aware of my print deficiency. At that time, a guy from an accredited company came to our house, hooked me up to a machine and scanned each fingerprint until it was legible and then submitted all of my prints to the FBI for approval.  Within 48 hours the background check was complete. So it can be done. But, the only companies that the FBI will accept scanned fingerprints from are located in the U.S. And that's - you guessed it - dumb! We did inquire to see if this prior set of scanned fingerprints could be used to conduct this latest background check but the fingerprint scans apparently are destroyed after they are submitted. 

So I have to make a trip to the U.S. on Monday. It's a 15 hour flight each way and I have to go by myself. It's going to cost Mr. Deep's company thousands of dollars in airfare and I do mean thousands because I'm going to sit in the very front of the plane if you know what I mean.  All this for a ten minute fingerprinting procedure. We are returning to the U.S. for Thanksgiving in less than two months but these fingerprints need to be done now. 

Of course it will be nice to be able to see my parents and a few of my friends. I should not complain about a free trip home (but I will anyway.) I wonder how many Starbucks coffees I sip down in the few days that I am back in the U.S.?  I can get a new iPhone while I am there since mine is old and looks like a brick. I can eat pizza by the slice every day and I can eat Mexican food. I can wander around Target aimlessly. When I talk people won't hear an accent. I will sound normal. When I order water can pronounce it wawdder instead of saying waw-teh. It will be fun.  But it's still dumb.


  1. Ha! You're preaching to the choir! But - if you hate dumb things, you cannot live in South Africa. Or, rather, under the auspices of South African bureaucracy. You know what I don't get? Why do you need an FBI background check in the first place? As you say, you now live in South Africa, what does the FBI have to do with it? It's just the South African government shafting things off to overseas, cause they KNOW the Americans will do a better job of it. They should just hire an American firm and outsource all the visa stuff to them. Oh, well, I guess they DID outsource visa applications to a private company now, though not American.. I can't believe you're having to fly home just for fingerprints. I mean, there are all these touchscreen computers, let alone iPhones. Don't tell me you couldn't press your finger on an iPhone app for electronic fingerprints. I know I know, fraud and all that, they need to verify it's really you etc etc. And then the fact that they destroy your prints afterwards for privacy reasons. I always felt like begging, BEGGING, please keep my prints on file so I don't have to do this shit all over again every time! I don't care if you have my fingerprints, you can put them into the gun background check database that doesn't really ever get updated for all I care!!!

    1. Yes, so silly. And then when I got to NY and went to the fingerprint scan place they told me that I had to have the results mailed to me and only me. They wouldn't mail them to my husband's company here in NY, or to my parents or to a friend. They also wouldn't mail them outside of the U.S. And I'm like "ok, but I don't live in the US." I came up with a solution but I think I could have told the woman "ok I'll be back after I rent an apartment" and she would have replied, "ok have a good day." Luckily I "passed" and got the email confirmation this morning. Ridiculous!

  2. Liza- my parents are living in Spain long term starting this year and my mom also doesn't have fingerprints! She had them redone dozens of times only for every copy to be rejected. They finally got the sheriff, state patrol and fbi to verify that they couldn't get her prints and the Spanish consulate agreed to proceed. You're not alone! Great story, though. :) -Isabel (former LLS employee from co)

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    2. Thank you for your comment Isabel! I am glad to hear that I am not alone with my defective prints but I am sorry your mom had to go through all of that red tape. I love that the sheriff had to get involved :)


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Hello and thank you for taking an interest in my blog. This blog tells the story of some big life changes. First, my husband and I have just moved to Geneva, Switzerland for a few months following a few years of living in Johannesburg, South Africa. The two places could not be more different. I'm excited to share our adventures, challenges and insights with you! My thoughts and opinions are my own.