Tag Archives: immigration

Time.

In 12 hours we’ll be on a plane, bound for San Francisco.

It’s been over a week since my last update, and in that time, we’ve covered a lot of ground. If I had £1 for every task completed, document signed and goodbye uttered in that period, I’d have enough cash to pay for the professional hair regrowth and colour treatment I so desperately need.

I won’t bore you with all the details. Because unless you’re my mother, you don’t really want them. Instead, I’ll just add a gallery of images and leave you to figure it out.

Tomorrow is exactly 24 weeks – 168 days – since I first discussed the relocation opportunity with my boss. Countless people have played their part in the journey we’ve been on ever since. Tax advisers, immigration attorneys, relocation specialists, shipment packers, recruitment consultants…

But an honourable mention goes to Simon.

I met Simon last month. He was the guy with the words “Love Love” tattooed across his knuckles, and a haircut befitting the wildest of rock stars. Except he wasn’t a rock star. He was a depressive cashier at the US Embassy, who – when I asked him the meaning of his tattoo – told me it reminded him of something, before falling silent and crying. He cried to himself right there in front of me, behind a glass window! Poor bugger. I was only being polite by asking. I actually thought it looked crap.

So now I call time on our pre-move journey. Tomorrow we leave Barnet, and head to the Bay.

See you on the other side.

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Moving the posts.

Two days until our non-departure, and there’s still no sign of our visa. 

We’ve reported it missing to the Police, placed ads on the side of milk cartons, and even developed a Twitter handle to get the word out. You can follow it at #givememyeffingvisa

I’m constantly thinking about the whereabouts of my visa, so much so, I’m starting to see things. Just the other morning I could have sworn I saw it doing the walk of shame along Barnet High Street. 

Remember that ad with Usain Bolt – the one where he runs around effortlessly and it ends with the tagline: “Life flows better with VISA”? False advertising, that. If I were to bump into Usain anytime soon, I’d give him a piece of my mind. Except I can’t. Because he’s in Jamaica and the Embassy has our bloody passports. 

In a burst of productivity I phoned the Embassy’s call centre and told a sob story to get the guy to reveal classified information, but he didn’t budge. Obama must have warned him about me. 

So I’ve spent the past few days scouring the US Embassy website for vital clues and information – anything to make us believe our visa delay is actually for reasons more solid than a dodgy printer. Over the weekend the official message on their site was basically: “we’re having trouble”. Yesterday it was updated to the effect of “yep, still having trouble”. But just this morning, this cryptic message appeared:

As of noon yesterday, 22 posts have been reconnected, representing about half of the global nonimmigrant visa volume. We will continue to bring additional posts online until connectivity with all posts is restored.

At last, golden information, about posts!

Now, if only they’d thought to shed some light on WHAT IN GOD’S NAME A POST IS, perhaps the message would have actually served a purpose. Are we talking goalposts, bed posts, or Facebook posts? 

And when they say “about half”, they really mean “less than half”. Because if it was half, or more than half, they would say so. The sentence isn’t quite so strong if you say “we’ve fixed less than half of the problem”. 

But wait. The message continues, and this time I see a glimmer of hope:

There is a large backlog of cases to clear, but we have already made good progress. We are prioritizing urgent medical and other humanitarian cases.

Things are looking up. 

I’m taking my brood overseas to bring British culture to the American people. To educate the US population about Steak & Kidney pie, Cilla Black and Eastenders. To demonstrate how an overcast day is reason alone to stick on a bikini and hit the park with a picnic. And to help them understand what it feels like to rally behind a sporting nation that nearly always fails. 

I’m pretty confident that classifies as a humanitarian effort. Right?

Limbo.

Stop the clock.

The US Embassy would like to make the following announcement:

We are currently unable to print most nonimmigrant visas approved after June 8, 2015. If you attended a visa interview on or after June 9 and were advised that your visa was approved, we are currently unable to print that visa.

So what does this mean?

Well, despite the US having the world’s largest economy, and Americans spending $1.5 billion each year on teeth whitening products alone, they don’t have a printer that works. And until they do, we’re here for an indefinite period. I believe the kids would typically end this paragraph with “FML”.

All in all, things are just a little awkward.

Take yesterday for example, my supposed last day at work, when I was presented with a gift from everyone in the office. I then cleared my desk, said my goodbyes, and some of us went to the pub down the road to toast my onward journey. Next week, I’ll be back in the office again.

And then there’s tomorrow night, when our friends and family descend on a bar in the local area for our leaving party. Except we’re not leaving.

And, for those of you who read my previous posts, it also means that I’ve been needlessly hugging that homeless guy up the street.

Our flights have been released, corporate housing contract cancelled. All we can do is wait.

So if you need to reach us in the coming weeks, you’ll mostly find us in a darkened room, listening to American folk tracks and crying into a cheeseburger.

Long live the American dream.

Countdown. 

10 days to go.

Last night I went with some friends to clueQuest, a live escape game in London. We were thrown together in a room, and given 60 minutes to uncover clues, solve puzzles, and generally run around like a bunch of crazies shouting obscenities until we found our way out.

We’re all dads of kids under 5, so we find ourselves shouting an awful lot. The most frequent things I holler at my two are usually “No, your sister’s head is not a tambourine” and “For the love of god, stop licking your shoes”.

With that in mind, it made a refreshing change to instead shout and scream about how little time we had left, and then shove as many four-letter words we could think of, before and after the phrase.

But it didn’t start like that. We entered the room in a relaxed frame of mind, excited about what lay ahead. Then the clock starting ticking and all hell broke loose. We left the room exhausted, clutching clumps of each other’s hair in our hands.

It’s a lot like what we’ve been through in the last 6 months.

The process was gentle enough to begin with; a general chit chat with my boss about opportunity and lifestyle. Then, before we knew it, we were hit with an onslaught of tax, immigration, education, healthcare and household obstacles to overcome. And now, with 10 days to go, we’re staggering to the finish line.

When you land at San Francisco International Airport, you soon find yourself in the immigration hall, usually in an epic queue. Which is always exactly what you want, straight after a 10-hour flight. So by the time we get to the desks at the front, we’ll be on the floor dribbling, dragging our weary bodies towards them. I can just imagine how excited those Immigration Officers will be, when they welcome us to the USA:

“Crap. The embassy in London screwed us over again.”

Yes they did, America. And now here we are – with our sarcasm, posh accents, and a Vitamin D deficiency.

And we pledge our allegiance to changing only one of those traits while we’re here.

What the L. 

Approved!

8 sets of passport photos, 6 document copies, 4 expensive application fees, 2 late-night online applications, and 1 embassy appointment later, our VISA has been approved. The US journey starts here. 

America may be the home of the brave, but land of the free it ain’t. One hour inside the embassy cost me $800. 

It’s a good job I did all that prep for the VISA interview. I read up on the process, swotted up on the company’s history, memorised the attorney’s description of my job role, even brushed my teeth. I was psyched. 

But it lasted all of 5 minutes, and consisted of gruelling questions, like “Can you confirm your full name please?”, and, “Will you pay the issuance fee in cash or by card?”. Seriously. Parting with the money was probably the hardest part. 

Daisy and Ava deployed their biggest fight of the morning right after the interview began, which may explain why the interview was so short. 

Highlights of the experience came courtesy of two employees. The lady on the coffee stand, who answered in broken English “the coffee is brown and tastes great” when I asked her for directions to the toilets. Can’t blame her for the sales pitch, I suppose. And then there was the weirdo on the reception desk, whose job was to check we had the right papers and issue a number for the queue. Which he did, while stroking the forms suggestively, biting his bottom lip and using his lisp in the most seductive way imaginable. 

Net summary: we have an L visa, valid for up to 7 years. 

By that time, I expect Daisy to be a child TV star, Ava a young developer with an academic scholarship paid for by Google, Alex a soccer mom with a face full of Botox, and me the driver of a vintage Cadillac. Possibly with implants in my backside, too. 

That is the American dream, right? 

17. 

Update on the visa process – my immigration attorney has said I can now book an appointment at the Consulate in London.

I just checked the site and the average wait time for an appointment is 17 calendar days, which is a lot sooner than I thought. I had to check twice to make sure I didn’t miss a 0 at the end. I guess the US needs to balance its quota and bring in more people with dodgy teeth.

Before I can make the appointment, there’s just the small matter of completing a form the length of the internet. And then doing it again another 3 times for Alex and the girls. Oh, and to progress past the first page, I have to state my address in the US. Which I don’t have, because I need to get a visa first.

God only knows what they’ll ask for on the subsequent pages – a sample of Alex’s eyelash? Leftovers from the kids’ lunch? A video diary of my toilet habits?

If I ever make it past page one, I’ll let you know.

Domino.

A couple of weeks ago the immigration lawyers initiated the visa application process. I had to fill in a questionnaire which was pretty straight forward, only pausing briefly on this one teaser: 

Do you intend to, or have you ever engaged in terrorist activity or practised genocide on home soil or abroad?

Now, if I did have such plans, I’m pretty sure the last people I’d confide in would be the authorities. But rest assured, I have no such intention. I make no promises for the kids though. At the age of 4, Ava has already mastered the dark art of blackmail, while Daisy has a penchant for explosive tantrums in the most public places. 

Everything rests on the visa. I’m told I’ll have the paperwork within 2 weeks, which will enable me to make an appointment with the U.S. Consulate, who then give me the visa after a few days. 

A guy at work had to wait 6 weeks for his visa appointment. But he’s smarter than me and he has a great beard, so I suspect they fast tracked his application. I’m not convinced the U.S. is rushing to bring in a Brit with a receding hairline, bad teeth and mediocre sporting aptitude. 

When we get the visa, the dominoes start to fall; we book the flights, confirm our accommodation, reserve our rental car, line up school visits…

But for now, I’ll just grow a beard and wait.