Monday, 28 May 2012

Paper Anniversary

It's our first anniversary!

First anniversary is paper, and that's exactly what we received. The MBE (mystery brown envelope) arrived in the morning.

As you can see they really don't want anything to happen to it. I'd be tempted to see what's inside if I didn't already know. It's our well-travelled bundle of paperwork: Scotland, Chicago, California, New Hampshire, London, Scotland…and eventually PA.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Interview at the Embassy

I was a bit casual about turning up and getting my visa interview at the embassy done. We'd frontloaded our application and been meticulous about sending originals and two copies of each document to the NVC. I've been to the US embassy before for a visa. I kept thinking 'it's just a formality'.

Then, the night before, I got worried that I would need to take copies of everything with me, or that they would point out some anomaly in the paperwork. I was staying with my gran just outside of London so I could hop on the train into the city about 6am and get there on time. I barely slept.

Appointment at 8am, I reached Bond St underground at 7:59am. I wandered down to the embassy a little late and saw a sizeable but quick-moving queue (I knew this was okay because appointment times aren't really exact, they're just staggered entry times for visa applicants). I showed my appointment letter and passport, confirmed I had no electricals on me, and was in by 8:30am. There were plenty of people who ignored or didn't know about the no electricals rule. They were directed to the pharmacy round the corner that does a nice side business in storing mobile phones for three quid a go. I heard some folks whingeing "would be handy if they told us this before we turned up" - hmm, they really do! 

Got my I-number (that's "i" for "immigrant), went to the 1970s airport style waiting room (the pictures on the wall are comedy) and got some passport photos from the booth. My appointment letter said they had them already but, well I was worried and didn't want to leave anything to chance. I didn't need to bother.

I was called to a window and a woman brought out my file. There was all of our paperwork. Everything we'd submitted since last June, in order, with notations at each question. Just how many people have read those forms in the past year? How long did they sit untouched? It was kind of funny to see our well-travelled papers again.

I waited for ages to be called again, and while I was far more relaxed, I couldn't concentrate on reading or knitting. I just sat and relaxed a bit while watching all the N-numbers and the odd Is, Es and Ds get called (I guess D is diplomatic, but E?). I watched the people attached to the numbers and tried to guess the stories that their own paper bundles would tell. Non-immigrants had blue pieces of paper, immigrants had pink. A well-dressed man with his partner looked like the kind to get a diplomatic passport (jealous!). A family with a small child. Plenty of young adults probably heading to Camp America this summer.

Eventually I was called back up to see a friendly guy. He asked a few questions, including "why the USA and not the UK?" and "when is your anniversary?" - it's next week. And no, we don't get to spend it together.

After only a couple of minutes, he said "I have no problem approving this visa."

I was out by about 10:40am.

I did get shouted at as I was leaving the Embassy because I was wandering along looking at the flags (there are fifty state flags and I was looking for my future home state!) and got told to turn back to the exit! Oops. 

I grabbed an iced coffee and headed back to my gran's. The whole thing was entirely anti-climatic.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Visa Medical

"I just paid £300 to have a woman stab me with needles and look at my boobs. I reckon it would have been cheaper to go to Soho."*

A couple of weeks ago I got an email from another TV company offering me more work back down in London. Again, I've loved the challenge, and it's also given me the opportunity to spend extra weekends with my grandparents and other family members down here.

Yesterday I had my visa medical. This is a necessity that I had planned to do ages ago, but ended up leaving until the last minute. There's only one medical practice in the UK that can carry these out and it's in central London. They make sure you're up to date with certain vaccinations (and dole them out at a price if not), take a chest X-Ray, and perform various other tests. This included checking out my boobs "for signs of surgery".

The ordeal only took  45 minutes, but I realized that it serves an important function in the whole vetting process, beyond ensuring that I'm not contagious with TB or Varicella (that's chickenpox to you and me!).

45 minutes is the longest time any 'official' will spend with me during the visa journey. Their forms include questions asking if I look well-fed and honest, and they asked me seemingly unrelated questions that I've already answered on paper, like had I ever been arrested in another country? They also asked about the choice we had made about moving to the US.

As the lady stuck a needle into my arm and I nearly fainted, she joked, "You know it'd be easier if he came here right?" I had to laugh and agree with her. Mr and I both knew that, but we also made a firm decision to try life out in the USA.

Next week is my embassy appointment, and I already know to expect it to be a lot less invasive than the medical.

*Joke kind of stolen from a friend of mine.