Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Visa Vis

There are two assumptions that people often make about our situation:

1. Immigrating to the USA only takes a few months, and;
2. My husband and I get to see each other on a regular basis.

Unfortunately neither are true.

First of all, as I've already explained, the spouse immigration visa is a two step process. Before I can apply for a visa, Mr has to petition for me to be able to apply for it. Realistically the whole process takes 10-12 months. But we both make the situation work, and usually approach the visa process with a calm zen-like patience and 'vis'. It helps that we are fully aware of the process and all its minutiae: I have read stories from couples who have submitted forms with no supporting evidence, only to find out eventually that their application has been denied and they have wasted $420 and several months of separation. I have also read stories of those who have started the petition process with no idea of how the rest of it works, or indeed how long it takes. Before Mr and I planned our wedding in any detail we made a sincere decision about the way we'd go about it. You need to read the recipe before you attempt to bake a cake.

Mr's original preference was to apply for the fiance(e) visa, because it would have united us sooner rather the spouse visa would, which has us endure most of the long data-less wait individually. The fiance(e) visa involves a similar process to ours, although I think it can take longer because couples are not married when they begin the petition. Once the visa is approved, and the 'alien' arrives in the USA, the couple must marry within the USA and within a certain time limit, and then let the government know so that residency status can be affirmed. Many couples opt for this because it means that they can start their married lives together straight away. It was my decision not to.

Instead we got married and then applied for the spouse visa. The plus points are that my grandparents and the rest of my family could attend our wedding, we have split the cost of the wedding and visa to allow us to save up for both, and I can save up for my first few months of life in the USA. I will also be eligible to work from the moment I arrive on US soil (as a fiancee I would not have been).

But it does mean that we remain separated during the first year of our marriage, and by the time we will be living together again we will have been apart for almost three years (writing and realising this does make me rue my decision a little). And after all that we definitely plan to throw a super-fantastic BBQ/anniversary/homecoming party once I arrive in the USA. Two parties are always better than one, and especially when they involve a well-baked cake!

Secondly, while we have been apart we have managed to see each other about three times a year. Going on a date costs £400 in air-fares at present, not to mention 7-21 days of annual leave each time, so we are limited by both time and money. But we make it count - we've been to DC, NY, Malta, dancing lessons, jeep riding, swimming in blue lagoons, visiting deco hotels and local bars all over the world for pub fare and varying quality of service, and of course many trips to airport hotels, trysts in airport arrivals (and teary goodbyes in airport departures).

People often remark how romantic it sounds, but after 14 hours of travelling through grey terminal buildings and sitting jammed in coach for a sleepless nine hour flight and being questioned by a skeptical immigration officer about numerous passport stamps then stumbling to Mr's arms after having freshened up earlier with wetwipes and eyeliner in the plane's rudimentary plastic toilet cubicle, one's image of romance is certainly rendered more real than the phoney depictions of rose petals and candlelit poetry, or whatever.

Plenty of people have asked when we'll see each other next after our wedding soiree and honeymoon two months ago, and the answer is Christmas. Mr's coming back for more bacon-topped turkey, cracker jokes and mince pies, and we're both super-excited that we'll be able to see each other during the visa journey. We had both been concerned that it wouldn't be possible to see each other at all with 'visa pending', which would have required an even stronger kind of 'vis'.

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