Saturday, October 6, 2012

Technology or Bust!

According to the US Dept of State's website, India exported in excess of $35 billion in software during FY 2009. With so much technology being produced here, wouldn't it be nice if a little of it stayed within the country? Maybe we could consider a Pay at the Pump option at the gas station, or ::gulp:: vending machines?? Maybe not.
I had a not so lovely technology experience today, while trying to obtain my receipt number for my husbands US Visa. Back in August, I sent off his application to Chicago, along with a check, for the processing fees. The USCIS states on the application instruction form, that if you're sending a check, it will be treated as an E Check. That's cool. No worries. They also state that within 30 days of receiving your check, they will provide you with a receipt number via email, that you can use on their website to check the status of your application.
Today is day 44 since the check cleared the bank. I've not received any receipt number via email. I've tried repeatedly navigating through the IVR at the USCIS' customer service number, and have not been successful in reaching a human being, even though I'm calling during their staffed hours. Today I had a little more luck though. I did get through to someone, who told me that they couldn't find record of our application under my nor my husbands name, nor our DOBs. The kind customer service rep did, however say that if it wasn't an exact match in their system, the system wouldn't retrieve any results, and since my husband doesn't even know what his legal sur name is (we can save that for another post) this poor woman at USCIS had no hope of finding it in the system either. She stated that if I had the cleared check I sent for my application fee, that the receipt number would be printed on the back. Bingo! Or so I thought.
Well I don't have the check. I don't even have the check number (irresponsible, I know, but I write like 2 checks a year). I logged onto my bank's website and checked my account to see if there was any such option of viewing the check info. I couldn't figure it out, so I hopped onto their "Chat Live with a Representative" option. While the customer service rep was nice and polite, he couldn't figure out why I couldn't view my checks online so he recommended I contact the phone banking operators. I called once and got disconnected. The second time I connected with someone that walked me through a slightly different version of what "Chat Live" had suggested, but we still couldn't retrieve the scanned check image. When I told her it cleared as an E Check, she said that was the reason and that in those cases, the bank doesn't even receive the check back.
So, I have no image of this check to retrieve the receipt number that USCIS supposedly put on this check, and USCIS can't tell me what my receipt number is either. It's a complete technological breakdown. If USCIS had not used the fancy E Check technology, I'd have my receipt number. Or if their computer system wasn't so finicky... 
Something like this would have never happened in India. Here's why: In India, to complete ANYTHING it involves going to the actual place, standing in a make shift line (which is really just a mob of people all pushing to the front and shouting). After waiting for several hours in a non air conditioned sweaty, and now smelly room, you'll eventually get to talk to someone in charge, who will probably direct you to another line and another person, who will then probably direct you to yet another line and yet another person, who will probably direct you back to the first place you came from. Once you again explain what it is you're trying to accomplish, and they again try sending you to a different line, and you tell them, no, I went there, then they sent me there, then they sent me back to you, the person will generally take some form of pity, help you complete your request and on the spot give you a hand written receipt. This will be right before they log your visit into an over sized composition notebook, or visitors log, and send you on your way. Problem solved. You're visit has been logged and you have the hand written receipt to prove it. One would think that not being able to search electronically for things would be a hindrance, but I gotta tell ya, I've never been to a shop, office, anything, that couldn't sift through a stack of half a dozen or so composition notebooks, and flip right to the page of my last visit to find the transaction details. No software crashes, no threat of hardware malfunction. Everything's there, in black and white. Literally.
Technology can be such a wonderful thing, and I often find myself baffled that in India, where so much software is created, so little technology is used (I mean come on, I live in a city of 18480 people per sq kilometer and we still employ traffic police to serve as stop lights). Yet who's to say what is better or worse? It comes down to what is more functional. Today I used my fancy laptop, and my fancy VoIP program to call 8600 miles away to get ZERO information. Would you call that functional?

Update 10/10/2012 - After exchanging a few emails with the USCIS, they were able to find our application and did provide me with a receipt number. They also said they'd mail me a receipt copy. Something tells me that'll be the missing check.

No comments:

Post a Comment