Saturday, February 24, 2007

CIS Fingerprinting

I went to my nearest California Application Support Center to have my fingerprints done for CIS. Fortunately, it was very near, only about five miles away.

The building was downtown in a rather scungy section, a few blocks from the financial district, and was a simple brick structure with heavy bars, chains and locks on the windows and doors. It looked locked, but wasn't. I went in and right by the door was a clerk who looked at the paper I received in the mail yesterday and my driver's license, gave me a one page form to fill out and a ticket with a number on it.

The rest of the room was pretty bare, with a linoleum floor filled with rows of plastic chairs with metal legs. There was a TV in front showing competitive diving. It may have been a tape of the 2004 Olympics. Against one wall was a computer fingerprinting station that looked to be in disrepair. The chairs were full of immigrants from all over. I heard a lot of Spanish, Chinese, other Asian languages, and some European and Middle Eastern languages. There were individuals, but mostly families with a few kids each. Many clutched passports of various colors.

The clerk who was at the door when I walked in was replaced by a guard and now sat at another plain table against another wall that had a door leading from it. When my number came up, which is did fairly quickly, I handed him the form, which he checked against my driver's license then stamped. He then handed me back my form, driver's license and the same number ticket and sent me through the door, down the hall and upstairs to the second floor.

Upstairs was a very plain room, dark, long and narrow, with rows of the same chairs, wanted posters on the walls and another TV showing the end of some kind of Mr. Bean movie. There was also a large poster warning us not to take pictures or use cell phones, and about six other things that, had we done them, would cause our immediate forceful bannishment from the premises.

Half the room was divided into cubicles. The cubicles nearest me had two cameras for taking passport type photos and beyond them were the fingerprinting computers. Along one wall, opposite the cubicles, was a row of about seven chairs. Periodically, a woman would appear and call a number. That individual or family group would then occupy the chairs. If some were empty, another number was called. As the first chairs vacated, we were instructed to scooch down the row so another number could be called to occupy our chairs. I about started to moo or bay or make cattle noises.

When it was my turn, a tall man in a long dark blue woolly overcoat took my number ticket, form and driver's license and started to fingerprint me. Now, this is quite intimate. One is standing nearly body to body with the technician while he holds your hand and fingers and manipulates them on the platform. My guy even used some kind of spray, perhaps plain water, on a cloth, to moisten/clean my finger tips if the first try blurred.

Finally, he spoke. He asked which country I was adopting from. I sort of breathed a sigh of relief and we started a rather stilted conversation. After a moment I asked why CIS couldn't just look up my fingerprints from last month and he replied that by making people come in, it cut down of the number of people trying to impersonate others or steal identities.

Then I was finished and sent on my way with a friendly, "Your fingerprints look good; you shouldn't have any trouble."

It all took exactly thirty minutes as the clerk at the door told me when I first entered the building, accepted my form and asked.

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