The Past Is Like A Foreign Country

There’s a famous quote by LP Hartley that you have probably heard of; “the past is like a foreign country, they do things differently there”. As someone living in a foreign country where they definitely do things differently does this mean that I am living in the past? Continue reading “The Past Is Like A Foreign Country”

Exploring Boston

It’s a Friday, I’m sitting outside in the shade of a 19th century fort overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and it’s fair to say I’m content at the moment. Boston has some really nice parks and public spaces and It’s been good to explore them. I’m even getting used to public transit and learning my way around. The fact that the fort is only open for tours at the weekend is irrelevant. It’s sunny and I’m by the sea.

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The view I have as I write

I got lost this morning, very lost. I wandered into a dodgy looking area alongside a five lane highway and my phone decided to lose its internet connection. Nobody walks on the pavement (sidewalk) outside city centres and main streets in America so there wasn’t a soul to ask for directions. Drivers looked at me like I was mad and angry dog’s barked from their gardens. 30 minutes later and having mercifully not been bitten, robbed or run over (drivers don’t like stopping in Boston) I found the station I’d been looking for. The spirit of adventure!

Although I’m enjoying this period of exploring the city and getting to know my new home, I’m hoping my social security number gets posted soon so I can start applying for jobs. I’m also discovering that problems back in England are hard to fix with a big time difference and poor customer service. Expat problems I guess! If I’ve not had any luck by Monday I’ll begin naming and shaming…

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The boat my wife and I had our wedding reception on just sailed past!

It’s so nice to be finally living with my wife after over a year of waiting but I haven’t forgotten how painful it was for both of us. I see other couples we’ve met along the way still waiting and my frustration at the system resurfaces. Did you know that if a US citizen marries a foreign spouse and decides to follow the process legally they still get fucked over by the system? Plus political representatives don’t care. I won’t forget Obama!

Ranting over for now, have a good weekend everyone.

The Final Countdown

It’s a beautiful sunny day today and I’m allowing myself a little time to relax in the park as I write this latest entry. Time to relax is important… It’s just two days until my interview at the US Embassy in London! It’s been a little bit stressful checking and double checking to make sure that all my preperations for the interview have been complete. I have a vast folder with half of the contents of the New Forest in it ready to take (the US Visa process isn’t tree friendly) so hopefully I have everything.I’ve been able to spare a little time for sunbathing this week so no doubt i’ll be sporting a vivid red forehead at the interview. I’m not complaining though, a nice sunny week here is rare enough that It’s worth makng the most of.

Apparently the most often forgotten document at the Embassy is the Passport, which is a little bit stupid when you consider that it’s the most important one! Still I guess in the stress of getting ready anything can be left behind. The interview consists of two parts, handing in of my documents at the beginning and then an informal interview with one of the embassy staff. I have to join a big queue and get through security just to enter the building.I’ll probably be asked questions about my wife and what I intend to do in the US. London is apparently a very easy embassy to go through, spare a thought for those people from high risk fraud countries like Nigeria as it’s a lot harder for spouses of US citizens to prove the relationship is genuine there.

At the informal interview the consular officer will tell me at the end whether I’ve been approved or not. They’ll then send my visa and passport in a secure packet by courier about a week after the interview. Once that is in my possession I’m free to go and live with my wife! My interview is at 9AM so I plan to do some sightseeing in London and get a train back to Devon at night. This is a really huge day  for my future and I am rather nervous about it so wish me luck, I’ll probably post here on the train home about how it went!

Growing Optimism

We are back from Maine now and we both have a growing sense of optimism about our visa timeline. We have now paid the last fee and submitted the last package to the National Visa Centre, so when they have worked on that we will get a “case complete” and they will send our file to London. Then all that remains is my medical and interview, we really are getting there! The package we just submitted contained my police certificate, birth certificate,  marriage certificate and a photocopy of my passport so I guess the US government will know everything they need to know about me.

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Goodbye to winter wonderland Maine!

Today we revisited the site of our wedding in Boston. The weather was over 30ºC cooler than on our wedding day and the park looked very different without leaves and flowers but it was very nostalgic to be back. It seems strange that we’ve already been married over nine months! We had our wedding reception on a boat and they’ve given us a voucher for a free meal and cruise of the harbour for our anniversary so we have yet more nostalgia to come. I really really hope that I get my visa in time for the anniversary but it’ll be very tight. It’s sad that getting a spousal visa will have taken around a year, and I really hope other families in the future will have less of a wait.

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The view from the park where we married in Boston

I’m at the stage now where I’m starting to think of Boston as a new home. It is a foreign city but I’m glad that I speak English and that I should fit in just fine here. I know that I’ll have to take a driving test again and learn to drive on the wrong side of the road and I’m ready for that. I’m not ready to stop dropping the letter u from words or saying words like tomato incorrectly! I can’t believe that a place exists where a donut chain has three stores within a 5 minute walk but I’m willing to take advantage of it. I just hope that I remember to increase my exercise to compensate!

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Boston... soon to be home 🙂

I have five days left in Boston which which will mainly involve catching up with my wifes family and getting as much time as possible with my wife.  More exploring of Boston to get to know the city more is also in order. I paid my first visit to Harvard today with my excellent guide. Flying back to England is going to be really painful but at least we have the knowledge that it’s the last time we have to say goodbye before we can start living together. I really can’t wait for the summer.

Return to Winter

New England is freezing, no doubt about that. When I left England it was spring and 17ºC. In Boston today it’s snowing and currently -8º. Spring arrives a little later on this side of the Atlantic. Everyone I’ve spoken to is fed up with winter and can’t wait for spring. For anyone raised in the mild southwest of England, -8  at lunchtime is very cold indeed. I’m going to pop to the shops soon wearing 86 layers, making my normally slim frame resemble the Michelin man.  If you never hear from me again then I’m probably frozen to the ground in a Boston suburban street like someone frozen by the evil queen in Narnia. Tomorrow is meant to be a lot warmer so I’m looking forward to that.

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March, New England style

I have a confession to make. Yesterday,  while my wife was at work I decided to explore Boston a bit after I’d had lunch with  her. It wasn’t as cold as today and I found myself heading towards Fenway Park. I ended up paying $16 for a tour of the venerable old stadium which was rather interesting.  The thought of me watching a baseball game and enjoying it is disturbing but it was interesting seeing the history and the great views from the ground.  Fenway Park was opened in 1912 (who said this blog wasn’t educational) and is owned by the owners of Liverpool FC and they’ve spent money doing it up like they plan to do to Anfield. I’ve decided that when I live here I’m going to go to one game, just to satisfy my curiosity.  The tour left several big questions unanswered such as “Why is it called the World Series when only Americans play it?” and “Why do people pay big money to watch what is essentially the rounders British kids play at school?” Should I ever find the answers I shall enlighten you all.

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View from the top of Fenway Park

Boston is an easy city to explore on foot, the only irritation being the disdain shown to pedestrians at crossings. Sometimes after you press the button it takes over two minutes for the four lanes of traffic to slow to a reluctant stop. Of course being a Brit I instinctively look the wrong way when crossing a road too. I wandered up to upmarket Newbury Street and checked out some of the foreign stores, including a suprising number of British High Street stores. Lush and Hotel Chocolat were apparent along with a number of British fashion stores. Naturally Hotel Chocolat was the only one I visited and the girl working there seemed very nice when she’d heard my accent. I think one of my future posts will be about the joys of having a British accent in America. It was a good day, I’m definitely warming to Boston with every visit.

I waited for my wife to finish work then got the train home with her. Public transport in Boston is centred around it’s subway system. The “T” has several lines which intersect and it’s quite reasonable in price but it’s no London Underground. The trains are ageing and not very regular off peak. You get the usual cast of strange characters that only exist on public transport anywhere in the world. I do like the way that the weekly ticket can also be used on buses and that buses from stations are actually timed to leave after a train arrives for a quick connection though. It’s great that I’ll be moving to a city with some kind of public transport as many US cities are not as fortunate as Boston. Maybe I’ll grow used to the strange smells and stainless steel seats in time.

This weekend sees my birthday, and my wife is taking me to a mystery destination.  She still refuses to enlighten me about this visit but I’d hazard a guess that we are going north. I’m definitely intrigued and excited and I’ll let you know where it was when I get back!

Visiting the USA

I’m writing this on the plane to Boston, the flight was delayed by an hour due to a problem with the left engine which is always what you want to hear before take off!  It’s a  nearly full flight with all of the usual perks such as limited personal space and dubious smells emanating from my fellow travellers. I thought I would use this mid air post to enlighten you all about the joys of entering the USA as a visitor while married to a US citizen.

I’m allowed to stay in the US for up to 90 days with the Visa Waiver Program. As the husband of  a US citizen (USC) it is possible that the CBP officers will subject me to extra scrutiny at passport control because they feel I may stay illegally with my wife after my 90 days expire. Obviously I’m doing things the right way with the visa I’ve applied for but I’ve heard of foreign partners of a USC being refused entry before.  To reduce this risk I carry proof of  my ties to the UK including return tickets, my ticket home from Heathrow, my rental contract and payslips to prove I’ll leave the US. I also carry a copy of my spousal visa (I-130) application. As you can tell half of my luggage allowance is basically bloody paperwork!

On my last visit to the USA the CBP  guy was professional and polite and when I explained I was married to a USC  he merely asked who was moving where so I explained about my visa application. He then stamped my passport and welcomed me to the USA. On my visit before that I was questioned for over 5 minutes and the same questions asked twice to see if I changed my story.  I’ve heard of people being questioned for a lot longer so i guess I’ve been lucky so far.  Every visit is different but it’s important to never lie and to be polite, these guys are only doing their jobs and having an attitude will only make your US entry harder.

Hopefully today will be the last time I need to enter the US on the Visa Waiver Program. The next time I visit  the US it should be as an immigrant with my documents ready to  be processed at the airport.  After that I’ll be a legal resident with a greencard and entering the country will be much easier. I hope this  post explained a little about visiting the US and  the processes at Passport control for those who are curious or nervous because they are visiting while dating a USC.  

Counting Down

Today has been a good day. I have one workday left followed by a free weekend then a flight to Boston on Monday for two weeks with my wife. Knowing that in four days we will be reunited lifts my spirits like nothing else. For those who are interested, in our current position we are hoping for a June interview at the London embassy. I say hoping because nothing can ever be certain with the US immigration system so I’m not going to get excited until we have that interview date! The interview is the final stage of the process and as soon as I receive my passport back in the post I’m free to go, so we are thinking of a June or July date for the move. Hopefully our current rate of progress continues but I’ll keep you all updated.

 

I’ve set myself some tasks to do while I’m in Boston to get ready for my move in the summer. These include getting to know my future home town better and mailing my immigrant visa packet to the NVC.  Moving to a foreign country to start a new life is probably the biggest change I’ll ever have in my life so I’m going to start looking for places that serve imported food- yes it is strange to see British food in the import section of supermarkets! I’m also going to be on the lookout for bars that show English sports and places that expats hang out. There’s nothing better than the food you grew up with and love and I think that’s why every large city has shops that cater for expats. I intend to fully embrace American food but life is just that much more civilised when you can have a cup of tea and a packet of bourbons, right?

 

One thing I’m nervous about is making new friends when I move, I’m going to be in a large city where I only know one person. I’m still debating the merits of joining an expat community (much easier to make friends when you have common ground) or going all out and trying to make US friends. One thing I am sure of is that I won’t be having any discussions about baseball, or drinking Budweiser. The thought of doing either appals me. I’d like to point out to my British friends that the reputation American beer has is not really fair. Yes Budweiser and Miller are like fizzy water with added calories but there are a huge amount of small craft brewers around which are similar to small British breweries. So Americans can produce alcohol that isn’t like drinking piss. I quite like Sam Adams Boston Lager which amusingly is in the import section of my local supermarket in England.

It’s time for me to finish my musings and begin packing, I’ll be back!

 

Moving Forwards

February has been a strange month this year, It’s short but it certainly hasn’t been sweet. However, just hours after my last post we found out that we’d been given a case number by the National Visa Centre (NVC) so we start to progress once more. The NVC is the second stage on the Visa Journey really, my wife has to send them her tax documents to prove that I’m not going to claim welfare once I arrive. There are fees to pay as well (of course). Then I have to send all my documents ( a copy of my passport, birth certificate, police certificate, marriage certificate). Pretty much everything that proves that I am me, in other words if the package got lost in the post any identity thief would be creaming themselves with glee. The steps undertaken at NVC are little steps and a bit like a drip feed but they are getting us closer to our case being sent to London so we are happy to be moving again.

We’ve spent a lot of time on a website called Visa Journey recently and it’s really becoming apparent that like us, a lot of couples are struggling with the waiting and the distance at the moment. The website is set up to help people with the complicated process of getting a US Visa so there are many people in the same situation as us. Perhaps it’s not knowing how long everything is going to take coupled with the short days and miserable weather of winter but everyone seems to be having a hard time. We haven’t struggled as a couple (there have been no arguments) but the wait feels like a millstone around our necks and dominates our thoughts. Talking with couples that are going through the same thing and letting off some steam with them is really helping us because we know that we are not alone. So thanks to our VJ friends if you are reading this. Some couples have been waiting longer and have not seen each other since their process began and we know that we are lucky to not be in that position.

 

March is set to be a good month as I’m flying to visit my lovely wife and she’s taking me to a mystery destination for my birthday. I honestly have no idea where it is but I’m hoping Vermont or New Hampshire. I’ll be happy with anywhere though because we will be together (just if it’s Detroit please warn me darling and I’ll order a stab proof vest). Last March we were visiting castles and cathedrals together in a freezing England and this trip is set to be just as special. I anticipate my next few posts will be accompanied by rising levels of excitement as the flight gets closer! I shall leave you with a photo that I took earlier that shows some of the flooding that I was talking about in my first few blog posts. 

 

 

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Flooding in Devon. The building in the background is the imposing Powderham Castle