There was however a bit of a Catch-22 situation involved in getting a job and a work visa for New Zealand. You couldn’t get a work visa unless you had a job offer, and you couldn’t get a job unless you had a work visa. Not exactly but close enough so that the whole procedure required a delicate balancing act of applying for a job while being up and ready to get a work visa at the same time.
One of the requirements for applying for work visas was to obtain FBI background checks here in the United States and include them with our applications. This required that our fingerprints be taken and sent with a form to a FBI facility somewhere in West Virginia. The funny thing was that we would go down to the police station and have our fingerprints rolled out onto a card, and then we would be given the card and we would send it to the FBI ourselves with the form and a check for $25. It seemed to me that if we really were bad guys, it wouldn’t be terribly hard to forge things and just send in someone else’s fingerprints. Oh, well.
The waiting room of the local police station was crowded with a motley group of desperate-looking individuals: no doubt pedophiles, burglars, murderers, rapists, serial killers (you haven’t found all the bodies yet!). We were told to sign in, sit and wait in the well-worn, plastic chairs that were scattered haphazard around the waiting area. After a few minutes, Rebecca approached the woman at the front desk.
“There must be some mistake, “ Rebecca smiled, “I’m here just to get my fingerprints taken. I’m not being arrested or anything.”
“Wait right there,” the woman repeated pointing to the chairs back amongst the killers and beginning to look a bit peeved. She was one of those women who always look peeved but she looked more peeved.
I had my fingerprints taken first. The fingerprint technician, that’s what they call them, was a middle-aged man with a large gut and bad breath. I didn’t dare say anything less my background check be flagged for insolence.
Then it was Rebecca’s turn to be taken back. By having Rebecca turn sideways facing the ink pad, and by positioning himself to her side, he allowed himself to reach across her body his arm perilously close to rubbing across her breasts each time he pressed a finger onto the inkpad. And this was in a police station.
“Perhaps we should change positions here and run your fingerprints and see what shows up,” Rebecca suggested.
“Excuse me?” the fingerprint technician protested heaving his gut to one side to adjust his position slightly.
We were both also required to get complete physicals. Along with chest X-rays and routine blood work we were also tested for AIDS, syphilis, tuberculosis and the whole ABC family of hepatitis. And we weren’t allowed to be on dialysis, or have any severe chronic health problems that would challenge the health care system there. Then we had to answer a series of questions verifying that we had never belonged to terrorist or revolutionary organizations or been kicked out of other countries. If they didn’t want you in their country, we don’t want you in ours! We also had to list all of our family members—brothers, sisters, parents, children—no matter how distant and strained some of the relationships had become.
A final step involved going down to the local Walgreens where a clerk rolled down a white photographic background in front of the hair dye and shampoo products and snapped passport-type photos of us. No dark glasses. No hats. No smiling. Both shoulders had to be completely visible. They didn’t want to let someone missing an arm to be allowed in their country, and not know about it until they got there.
Finally, after signing the backs of the somber-looking passport photos of ourselves, we stacked our ready-to-go applications on the dining room table. With all that completed, we were now ready for Rebecca to apply for jobs.