Who´s familiar with this Little Britain sketch? You cross your fingers and hope this is only fiction and that in real life civil servants are nice and helpful people. Well not with the Social Security Administration (SSA) here in Atlanta. My adventures with them have been surreal! So for those who complain about Portuguese civil servants, trust me they are truly nice compared to the ones over here.
I'm sorry this is such a long post but if you have the patience keep reading!
NOTE: Pedro received his SS card 2 weeks after our arrival. I'm still waiting for mine.
SOCIAL SECURITY, THE PROCESS:
1. The day after our arrival in Atlanta we went to a local SSA office to fill out the application for a Social Security Number. This was my first application.
NOTE: the documents riquired are: passport with I-94 (Alien number) and because I have an L2 Visa, a copy of my marrigae certificate, which is written in portuguese (this will be interesting latter on!).
2. In my first application they got my address wrong. So after waiting 2-3 weeks I went back, only to be told that they didn't know where the application was and how I applied so quickly for a SS number (because you have to wait at least 2 weeks before applying). To sum it up I had to fill out a second application.
3. I waited one month after which I returned to the SSA office. The nice man here told me that I had been attributed a SS number and wondered why I didn't receive a letter of notification. After a couple of minutes of searching his computer, he tells me he doesn't understand what was going on with my application and goes talk to his manager. He returns and tells me that something was wrong with the verification with Homeland Security (because I'm an "alien" the process goes through Homeland Security). Anyways, I would need to fill out my third application!
4. If you managed to read it up to this point, this is when it gets nasty. After one month I finally receive a letter saying that they weren't able to give me a number because Homeland Security was unable to verify my "legal alien status" but this did not mean I was ineligible for a SS card. The letter also stated that if I wanted someone at SSA could review my application.
5. So I went to the SSA office once again to better understand what was going on. I had the most surreal treatment! The lady basically says: NO! No to all my questions. Refusing to review my application because she needed my marriage certificate (which I didn't have on me that day because they have 3 copies of it on file!) She says, and I quote "I am the one that works here!"; "I can't do nothing!"; "I can't search for your application!". I kept telling her that my application is on file, look for it! She says NO. Simply no. Come back tomorrow!
6. I was furious! I exited the building, waited a couple of minutes, talked to Pedro on the phone and went back into the building, got another number and waited for my turn. This time I was attended by another "nice lady" that sat right beside the bitch that had served me just 15 minutes before. I asked her the same questions: can you review my application? can you tell me what was wrong? Not as bitchy as the first one, but without ever being nice, she gets up, goes to a file cabinet and gets out my application, reviews it and says: Homeland Security stamped your passport wrong with my first entry, instead of stamping L2 visa, they stamped L1 visa. Since I went to Toronto I got the proper L2 visa stamp but they still hadn't updated my status in the system. I would have to do a fourth application!
7. The next day I go back to SSA office, with my passport and Portuguese marriage certificate (that had been accepted the other 3 times). I'm served by the same "nice" lady that had accepted my second application. She looks at my marriage certificate and hands it back to me saying she "can't read it"! I couldn't believe it! When I tried to explain, she interrupts me and says "DON'T TALK!"! Can you believe it! Don't talk! I laughed and ignored her and said that a couple of months ago I was sitting in the same chair and she accepted that same document, so she would have to accept! She literally snarls, gets up and goes check other applications with foreign documents. To her surprise and my pleasure, it's SSA responsibility to accept and translate foreign documents because there is no federal law that says English is the official language in the US! She snarls the whole way through the application and I sit there and smile in her face.
8. Now I'm waiting for my SS card to come. If it'll ever come. And when it does, I will write a personal letter to the general manager of SSA in Georgia and to the office manager in Atlanta complaining about unprofessional behavior and explaining why courtesy and kindness should be universal principles in civil servants. They often forget that their paycheck comes from the people they serve.
This post will serve as a draft.
Thanks for reading.