Durga Puja in the Bay Area, 2014

Durga Puja is just around the corner. Here is an update on the list of Durga Pujas that are going to be celebrated in the Bay Area this year.

  1. Sanskriti – September 27th and 28th at Centerville Junior High School, Fremont.
  2. Prabasi – October 4th and 5th at Chabot College, Hayward.
  3. Pashchimi – September 29th – October 3rd at Fiesta Hall at the Santa Clara Fairgrounds, 344 Tully Rd, San Jose.
  4. Fremont Temple Durga Puja – September 29th – October 3rd at 1146 W El Camino Real, Sunnyvale, CA.
  5. Livermore Hindu Temple – September 24th – October 4th at Livermore Hindu Temple.
  6. BayBasi – September 27th and 28th at Bowditch Middle School, Foster City

See u at one of the Pujas 🙂 !

Cheers,
Thyaga

Advertisements

Green Card application for Parents (Consular Processing)

Recently I went through the process of Green Card application for Parents via Consular Processing in India. To say that the process was easy and without complications would be a complete understatement. It is not that the process is not well defined – but what is not clear (at least that is what i felt even with a wealth of Internet research available) is what happens after one stage is completed – what should we expect, what should my parents expect, what documents does the next stage need etc. Of course, if one had a guiding guardian along the way, then definitely many of the hurdles / roadblocks that we ran into could have been avoided – or at the very least, we could have started work on them in parallel and not wait in sequence for the stage when the documents would be needed. In this Blog Post, I hope that I can be a guiding light for you if ever you go down the path of sponsoring your parents’ Green Card via Consular Processing. Also – keep in mind that many of the experiences mentioned in this post may be unique to my case (though i doubt that very much) – so that is my disclaimer. Read on …

Step 1: Why do I need to sponsor parents’ Green Card?

This is the million dollar question before you start off the processing. For example, what additional benefit to a visitor’s visa are you going to get for your parents if you get them a Green Card. For me this was the compelling reason:

  • I am the only child for my parents – as of now, i am not sure where i would finally settle down – either in USA or in India. But if it is in USA, i want the flexibility of having my parents live with me for however long that they want. In visitor’s visa, as many of you know, you can only live in the USA for 6 months at a stretch

Step 2: Consular Processing versus Adjust of Status processing

There are 2 different ways of going about the Green Card processing for your parents:

  •  Consular Processing -In this method, the applicants (parents) will be in India while the processing is on. Once the application is approved, they will need to head over to the Mumbai consulate for final interview.
  • Adjust of Status – In this method, the applicants (parents) will be in USA while the processing is on. Once the application is approved, they will need to head over to change their status from a Visitor Visa to a Green Card. Honestly, i didn’t feel too confident about this approach though i know many who went down this approach. Since I don’t have much experience regarding this process, I shall not comment on it. Rest of the post covers details about Consular processing.

Step 3: I-130 (Start Date: 01/17/2012)

  • This is the 1st step of Green Card processing where you need to file in details about your parents (one for each parent) and then mail them separately. This stage is processed by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services. Typically this stage takes around 4 months to complete. Once this is completed, you will receive a notification about it and also that the next stage will now be handled by the National Visa Center (NVC)

Step 4: I-130 approval and NVC

  • Once the application has reached the NVC, couple of things need to happen:
  1. The National Visa Center will send you the DS-3032 (Change of Address and Agent) form – one for each parent – that will require your parents to authorize you to be their “agent” for the whole process. Please note that this will require your parents signature. So, i faxed the document to my parents – who signed it and then sent it by courier post back to me. After that I mailed it to the NVC.
  2. You will then need to complete and send I-864 (Affadavit of Support) form – one for each parent – this pretty much tells the US Govt. that you will be the sponsor of your parents stay and day-2-day needs here. For this, you will need to send in the regular proof of documents – bank statements, pay stub, mortgage etc. Prior to the processing of this form, you will need to pay the NVC for processing. You can pay this online via Bank Transfer (it is fairly straight-forward)

Step 5: DS-230

Once the I-864 processing is completed, the NVC will send you a notification to indicate the processing for the DS-230 (Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration) form. This is probably the most important stage of the Green Card processing – this requires you to submit quite a few documents to the NVC. Most notable are the following especially since we had a tough time getting them:

  1. ORIGINAL Birth Certificates for parents – This is really difficult to get because the Original Birth Certificate is only issued from the birth place and my parents (and i am sure many of your parents also) had left their village / town ~ 40 years ago. So, in absence of an Original Birth Certificate, you will need to provide a Non Availability of Birth Certificate (NABC) along with an Affadavit from their closest relative indicating that they are indeed who they are and also that their date of birth is accurate. This took us close to 2 months to get. So, I would recommend to start this process ASAP in the whole Green Card process.
  2. Police Clearance Certificate – There are 2 types of Police Clearance Certificates that are issued – one from the Passport Office – for this you will need to schedule an appointment with the Passport Office to get a Police Clearance Certificate. There will be some officials who will come to your home for inspection, have some “chai-paaney” and then will your parents will get the Police Clearance Certificate within 10 days. The second type of Police Certificate is issued by your local Police Station – this took us a bit of time because it had to be approved by the local police department, then their head office and finally by the SP of Police. This also took us close to 3 weeks to get. Again, similar to the Birth Certificates, please start on acquiring these certificates very early in the Green Card process
  3. Your original Marriage Certificate (if married)
  4. 2 * 2 (inches) passport photos for your parents – tell them to get at least 10 copies handy. You will need them right from Step 1 to the interview
  5. Parents Passport – photo copy

Keep in mind that you don’t really have to submit all this documentation at the time of filing the application – the “missing” documents can be brought along for the final interview.

Along with this documentation, you will need to pay the required NVC fees for the processing. After this is processed successfully, you will then notified of the Interview date in a letter – this approval process for DS-230 takes ~4 weeks.

Step 6: Readying for Interview

Your interview date will usually be around a month away from the day you get your letter. For example, we received the Interview letter around the 1st week of October and the interview was on November 1st in the Mumbai Consulate.

Before you go to the interview, you will need to take care of the following:

  •  Medical Test from an approved place – since my parents stayed in Kolkata, my parents got their Medical Tests done from Apollo Gleneagles. Once the tests are done, your parents will receive a sealed envelope which should be taken to Mumbai on November 1st.
  • Parents should carry some proof of relationship with you – my parents took some snaps taken with me, my marriage invitation card, my marriage photos etc.

Step 7: Consular Interview

On the day of the interview, your parents will need to enter the consulate sans a mobile phone – this is important because Mumbai consulate does not allow you to take your mobile phone inside and they do not have any facility where you can hand over the mobile phones. Luckily, my parents’ friends were there to help with this and so, they avoided any last minute panic.

Once inside (usually by 7:30 am), my parents handed over the Interview letter and sealed medical envelope. Also, they were asked for a preferred language for interview and they selected Tamil – which was really convenient. Also, their interview happened at the same time in front of a US officer. The interview lasted for around 15 minutes where the officer asked them about proof of relationship. Also, the officer did not ask for the “missing” original Birth Certificates (even though the NVC folks in US indicated that we needed them).

Step 8: Post Interview – USA Arrival

After 3-4 days, the passport along with the Immigration Visa will be sent to a local pick up center from where your parents can pick up. Along with the passport, your parents will also need to pick up a sealed envelope that needs to be handed over the Immigration Officer are the US Port of Entry. My parents arrived in USA on 11/15/2012 on their immigration visa

Step 9: Green Card Arrival

My parents Green Card arrived at my home around December 15th.

Conclusion:

So, in all, it took my parents around 11 months for the end-2-end process to get the Green Card in hand. Of course, as I mentioned before, a lot of this could have been accelerated had we got a lot of documents in hand prior to starting each subsequent stage. I believe if we had been better prepared, we could have completed this in 8-9 months time. Nevertheless, I am glad that my parents have their Green Card after going through all this.

Durga Puja in the Bay Area, 2012

Durga Puja is just around the corner. Here is an update on the list of Durga Pujas that are going to be celebrated in the Bay Area this year.

  1. Sanskriti – October 13th and 14th at Centerville Junior High School Auditorium, Fremont.
  2. Prabasi – October 20th and 21st at Chabot College, Hayward.
  3. Pashchimi – October 20th – 24th at Newpark Mall, Newark.
  4. Livermore Hindu Temple – October 15th – 24th at Livermore Hindu Temple.
  5. BayBasi – October 20th and 21st at Bowditch Middle School, Foster City

See u at one of the Pujas 🙂 !

Cheers,
Thyaga

Listening to Mahalaya in 2012

Here is the link to listen to Mahalaya in 2010.

Wishing you a very Happy Durga Puja.

Regards,

Thyaga

Durga Puja in the Bay Area, 2011

Durga Puja is just around the corner. Here is an update on the list of Durga Pujas that are going to be celebrated in the Bay Area this year.

  1. Sanskriti – October 1st and 2nd at Centerville Junior High School Auditorium, Fremont.
  2. Prabasi – October 8th and 9th at Chabot College, Hayward.
  3. Pashchimi – October 2nd – 7th at 3676 Delaware Drive, Fremont.
  4. Livermore Hindu Temple – October 2nd – 7th at Livermore Hindu Temple.
  5. BayBasi – October 1st and 2nd at Bowditch Middle School, Foster City

See u at one of the Pujas 🙂 !

Cheers,
Thyaga

Tips on Changing Diapers

[I wrote this post a few months back when my 1.5 year old toddler was less than 1 year old – while cleaning up some files on my hard disk, i came across this – so, sharing it with you all]

Changing diapers is one of the most common, basic and frequent parenting task that one has to do. For a lot of obvious reasons, the onus (at least in the initial months) of that task falls on the dads – of course, once the initial euphoria fades out, the responsibility shifts back to the moms – but that is another topic :).

So,as a recent first-time parent, I put on my thinking cap and came up with a few tricks on how I could make the diaper change experience more fun for my infant daughter.

Here are some suggestions that you could try while changing diapers:
[Disclaimer – this may not work for your baby :)] :

(1). Keep a smile on your face – if you smile, the baby smiles back thinking that something fun is happening. This may be tough to do especially if you have to change heavily soiled diapers at 3 in the morning

(2). Sing a song while you change – this really helps to soothe the baby who is now oblivious to the fact that something is being changed underneath

(3). Whisper something in hushed tones – this keeps the baby engrossed and also helps to quieten a fussy baby

(4). Keep talking – about anything in general – what happened in the office, doctor’s clinic, how was the day etc – when you talk, the baby listens and hence, you can get your work done.

(5). If change of dress is needed, then play “where is ur hand” game while putting the new dress on – this is a favorite with my baby for sure.

Of course, all the above works if your baby is not sleepy or in general not in a fussy mood. In that case, all the above tricks will only irritate the baby more. In such a scenario, do the right thing – take out the old diaper, wipe and put on the new one – as quickly as you can. The tough part is that your baby would be crying when all that happens – but once done, normalcy should return.

I would be interested in knowing what other tricks other parents came up for diaper changes.

– Thyaga

Durga Puja in the Bay Area, 2010

Durga Puja is just around the corner. Here is an update on the list of Durga Pujas that are going to be celebrated in the Bay Area this year.

  1. Sanskriti – October 9th and 10th at Foothill College, Los Altos.
  2. Prabasi – October 16th and 17th – 27th at Chabot College, Hayward.
  3. Pashchimi – October 13th – 17th at India Community Center (ICC), Milpitas.
  4. Livermore Hindu Temple – October 12th – 16th at Livermore Hindu Temple.
  5. BayBasi – October 16th and 17th at Bowditch Middle School, Foster City

See u at one of the Pujas 🙂 !

Cheers,
Thyaga