So Joery and I have decided that rather than have me apply for a student visa for my return to Belgium, we’re going to apply for one based on cohabitation. A lot of the requirements for this visa (which is technically a family reunification visa) overlap with what I would need to do for a student visa (medical form, criminal background check, birth certificate, etc.) but there are some additional requirements. Since the visa is based on a relationship with a Belgian citizen, I not only have to show proof that we have a durable relationship, but I also have to fill out an “affidavit of celibacy”, swearing that I am not legally in a relationship with anyone else.
Apparently I don’t have to apply for this type of visa in the U.S., but I have to go to Belgium and apply for it once I’m back (at least, this is what I’ve gathered from the numerous e-mails I’ve sent the embassy requesting clarification). Regardless, I decided to get started collecting the documents I need right away, just so that I would have them when the time comes.
The first thing I decided to do was to get my fingerprints taken for the FBI criminal background check I need to complete. From what I remembered about doing this for my student visa, it’s pretty easy — you go to the police station, ask a technician to take your prints, pay them, mail the prints to the FBI, and 2-4 weeks later get your background check (which essentially is the print card with a stamp on it saying I’m not a criminal). At least, that’s how it went when I was living in Ithaca, NY.
In PA, it is a little different. First, I call the police station to see whether there is a specific time they do fingerprinting. They have two shifts, one from 9-11 and another in the afternoon (I think 2-3). Since it was a little after 10am when I called, I decide to head over and get it out of the way. I arrive at the police station and ask the receptionist where I go to get fingerprints taken. She asks if I have a fingerprint card. Of course, I do not. So she tells me that I have to go to the court house to pick up a fingerprint card and then come back to the police station in the afternoon (since it was already quarter of 11 at this point and there was no way I could get across town and back in 15 minutes). Great.
I hop in the car and head over to the court house. Once at the court house, I realize that the receptionist didn’t actually tell me where I need to pick up the fingerprint card. So I wander from office to office asking anyone if they knew where I could find it. Apparently, the fingerprint cards for criminals are all over the place, but the ones for average citizens are only in one specific office tucked into the corner of the third floor. Why they can’t just have all the cards at the police station is beyond me — it’s such a waste of time/energy to go to another building just to get the card. But I finally get it (though it looks different from the one I had two years ago and I think I’m going to hurt someone if it gets sent back) and head back home to wait until the second wave of fingerprinting starts at the police station.
When I get to the police station there’s already a woman waiting to get her prints taken. At this point in time, I still have a gross half-scabby wound on my finger from when I chopped it off. So I ask the receptionist if this will be a problem. She says I have to wait for the technician (my finger is actually looking pretty good now, though there most likely will be a scar. But at least it’s not gross anymore).
So I wait. After a few minutes three girls walk in, probably college students from the local university. They’re in sweats and flip-flops and each are carrying fingerprint cards. I’m inwardly smiling about my timing, since the technician still hasn’t arrived to talk to the first woman waiting. Two of the girls are pretty solemn, but the third keeps alternating between cracking jokes and complaining about a recent trip to Philadelphia where she missed her train and got stranded in the middle of nowhere. Or something.
The technician walks out and, to the five of us sitting there, asks: “ok, so who are the noncriminal fingerprints for?”
I raise my hand, along with the first woman. As the first woman follows the technician into the other room, one of the other girls looks over to me and, with kind of a pleading smile, “please don’t judge us.”
The third girl, the one who had been joking, looks at the technician walking away with disgust, saying, “why the hell did she have to say it like that?” Then she goes back to joking around, probably trying to make the best of a bad situation.
Finally, the last girl, who I hadn’t heard say a word the whole time they were in the waiting room, turns to her friend and snaps, “why don’t you shut up? They’re going to think we’re assholes because you. Are. Not. Taking. This. Seriously.”
We sat in awkward silence the rest of the time.
I’m still curious about what they did.
Oh, and the cut wasn’t really a problem, since it was the tip of my finger. It just hurt to scrub off all the ink afterwards.