“I might need to refuse you entry to the US,” said the mustached man sitting behind the counter. “What?” I answered, feeling a little bubble of panic rising from the pit of my stomach. He pointed at my form, at a blank spot not even half an inch wide.
“It’s not signed. The signature expired in September. You need a new signature otherwise the form isn’t valid. According to this form you aren’t a student anymore.”
He checked the computer system, and with a warning, he let me go.
Two days later I had to reenter the US. I knew this time that it would be a problem that my form was still unsigned, so I printed out a copy of my transcript and schedule to take with me.
The woman behind the counter had a dour expression on her face and barely glanced up at me when she yelled “NEXT!”
She flipped through my passport and forms, then said, “Why isn’t this signed?”
“I haven’t had the chance to make an appointment. I’ll get it signed as soon as I’m back.”
“How do I know you’re still in school? You could have graduated for all I know.”
I handed her the transcript. She looked at it and said, “This looks like you’ve already graduated.”
“No, it says grade pending-”
“I need to know you haven’t already graduated.”
I hand her my schedule. She checks the date, then said, “Ok. But make sure you get it signed. NEXT.”
Isn’t it funny how a scribble on a piece of paper determines whether I am a student? Not my schedule, or transcripts, or ID, or even the small collection of library books in my bag. Isn’t it funny that a system (poorly) designed to catch dangerous criminals and terrorists puts special attention on those who fall even slightly out of the norm? It is a system that disciplines, surveils, and punishes.
The first thing I’m going to do when I’m back in NY is to book an appointment with the International Student office.