Saturday, April 17, 2010

US Embassy Review: It's a YES!

We traveled to London on Thursday night (April 15) for our interview on Friday morning. I had everything  timed just right on Thursday, as the kids went to school as usual, but we had to get baths and dinner  taken care of before we got our taxi at 6:30 to the station. We arrived in London just after 9pm. It was  a five minute walk to the hotel (Kings Cross Travelodge). We checked in and got ready for bed right away.  We had to be up at 6 the next morning, so we wanted to get a good night's sleep. The hotel was nothing  special (you have to use your key card to get to the elevator, to make the elevator work, to get to the  hall your room is on... and they don't work great sometimes we had to put the card in 5+ times to get the  door unlocked) but it is relatively cheap and it was clean, if sparse.

Friday morning we were up and on our way at 7:20. We had to take two trains and walk aways to get to the  Embassy, and were there for 8:20. It took about 20 minutes to get through the two check points and  through security to get into the Embassy. We got our number I910 and found a seat. It was just before  9am. The room is very large, with high ceilings and one entire wall is windows facing out over Grosvenor  Square. But with the sun streaming in it was very unpleasant and hot. There were 11 windows (like bank  teller windows) in our room and 13 more around the corner. Numbers were being called constantly, but they  were N numbers (non-immigrant) and we were I (immigrant). When we first got seated they called I901. It  was two hours before they got to us. We went to the window and handed over their passports and US photos  we'd had taken. Then we sat down. 20 minutes or so later he called us back and sent me to pay for the  visas. While I was gone, he fingerprinted Nid and Briony, but Cale didn't have to have his done because  of his age. Then he asked for the documents, one at a time and very organized. The gentleman was very  nice and easy to understand, which was amazing because he was speaking through glass and the numbers were  being announced through a speaker right over our heads. He gave us Nid's x-ray and their medical reports  in an envelope and we sat back down. It was about 11am then.

We were keeping an eye on the I numbers that were getting called up again. At about 11:40 we were called  back to a window in the other room for our interview. This guy was American and was still shuffling  through papers, so apologized a few times for making us wait. He had all of our original documents ready  for me to take back. He fingerprinted Nid and Briony to confirm their identity and then made them hold up  their right hands and swear that the information on the forms and anything they told him today was the  truth. That done, he asked Nid where we were moving to. He told us he was from North Carolina. He asked  how long I had been in England, and I told him about 14 months. He explained about domicile, and how I  did not have to be living in the US to take my family there, but I had to prove that I still had ties  there. I was so anxious for him to stop talking because I had an entire folder full of documents proving  my US domicile. When he was done explaining why I needed to show him I had domicile, I said I have a  lease and slid a letter that I had prepared under the glass. He looked at it and said, it says here you  have a voter registration card? I said yes, do you need the copy or the original? He said the copy was  fine, so I slid it along with our emailed lease under the glass. He looked at them, slid them back and  said great. I had nearly 20 things proving my domicile and intention to move back, but that was all he  wanted. He said everything is done here, you'll need to pay the courier on your way out, and you'll  receive your passports and visas within a week. Then he finished with "Welcome to Virginia. Welcome to  the US.")

I paid at the courier desk, and we were leaving the Embassy right at noon. It was all very surreal. Even  though I'd read dozens of reviews on the immigration forums that I frequent, I still was surprised by the  process. The waiting was killer (and the chairs were horrid, uncomfortable contraptions) but when it was  over, it was hard to believe it was over. I've been so focused on this moment since October/November, and  now it's done. The work isn't over of course. I still have to manage the move and the shipping company  and weeding through our belongings, but the question of can we is gone. We can. We will. Very shortly.

Everyone we talked to was very nice, from the people checking our documents in the que to the document  guy and interviewer. We really couldn't have had a better day (unless we'd had less of a wait time, but  we didn't get there as early as I had planned, and we were prepared with snacks and books).

Because we had to be prepared to stay at the Embassy for hours and hours, we had booked two nights at our  hotel. We went back to the hotel to relax for an hour or so, and then we took the Tube to Westminster to  show the kids Big Ben, Westminster and the London Eye. We went to a gift shop that Nid and I had been to  in November and I got Caitlin a gift that I didn't get then and have been regretting since. After that we  thought about going to Buckingham Palace, but the Tube was getting really busy and there were lines  closed because of a "person under train." It shouldn't have been comedic, but it was because they just  kept playing it over and over on the intercom system. I know why they were doing it, to put blame on the  person, alleviating their responsibility for running behind schedule, but still...

We decided to go back and get some dinner, as by then it was after 4pm. We ate at the Burger King right  next to St. Pancras, where we'd eaten when we went to London for the medicals back in January. After that  we went back to the hotel and started showers/getting ready for bed. We watch a couple of hours of really  bad tv and turned in at 9.

This morning we caught the 10:15 train (First Class) and were home by noon. Lunch and laundry and  everything is back to normal, with the exception of the enormous pile of emails to go through.


david said...

Thanks Jenny for the detailed update. Sounds like other than the wait, everything went well. I'm so glad for you guys and can't wait to see you all in the States! :)

Post a Comment

Please leave a comment here :)