Monday, April 22, 2013

Gladley Expatriates - Guest Post

Believe it or not, this week - this week in which we're finalizing most of our wedding plans - the one thing we're not thinking about is our visa situation.  There's too much else going on!  Yesterday we saw our florist at a wedding fair in London and the boys (ahem, men) had their fittings, today we're meeting with our caterers in Suffolk, tomorrow we'll be visiting our venue again... it's quite a full trip, and we've got material for at least the next few weeks of Wedding Wednesdays.  But, in the back of my mind, I do remember that while this part of wedding planning is fun and games, there is some real bureaucratic work ahead both before and after we get married, when we apply for my fiancĂ©e and Jon's spousal visas.

So in that spirit, I'm delighted that Gillian from the Glad Blog offered to write a post for us about her experiences marrying a boy from across the pond and then moving over to be with him.  She actually did it the other way around from us; she's Scottish, they met at university when her now-husband went over there to study, and she moved to the States after their wedding.  But she and her blog have been an incredible resource for me, and I'm beyond grateful for the time she spent emailing with me when I was freaking out about the not-fun bits of being in a long-distance engagement.  Also, we had tons o' fun wandering around Philadelphia for an afternoon recently!  (Also part deux, there's a sqiushy face that pops up occasionally on her blog, and you know how I feel about squishy faces.)  Thank you for stopping by Betsy Transatlantically, friend - and thank you for sharing your wisdom!


Conditional Resident 1 – Marrying and moving from the UK to the USA on a US Spouse Visa

Hello Transatlantic fans! I'm Gillian and I blog about life as a Brit in Philadelphia. I moved from the UK to the USA last year after marrying an American chap and getting a Green Card.

But that's just the short version of the story. In reality it took three very long steps, a lot of money, plenty of patience, and a little bit of heartache. But we made it, and we're just one of thousands of couples who go through the Green Card process while living in different continents, just like Betsy and Jon. Here's our story about the US Spouse Visa.

Step 1
My husband, Mark, and I met at grad school in Scotland. After we graduated we moved back to our respective hometowns. I visited Pennsylvania for Christmas where Mark proposed and I said yes, and then I returned to the UK.

We spent some time planning where to have our wedding (Scotland) and where to live together as a married couple (USA). We made the decision that I'd move over after the wedding, which would mean applying for a US Spouse Visa (a CR1 or IR1 visa, depending if you've been married two years or less).

We did it this way because we both had good graduate jobs in our home countries, plus I was keen on a Scottish wedding (Kilts! Ceilidh dancing!). There were also two other benefits:

1. We were able to split the cost of the wedding and the visa over a longer period.
2. I had full authorization to work in the USA from the moment I arrived, which is not the case with the Fiance Visa.

However, this complicated matters in two ways:

1. We were a long-distance couple for a whole year longer than if we had applied for the Fiance Visa and married in the USA.
2. Mark had to get a special Marriage Visit Visa just to enter the UK for our wedding.

In short: If you really like kilts and don't mind waiting around, this process is for you.

Step 2
After we got married we pulled together our petition for my US Spouse Visa, formally known as an Immigrant Petition for an Alien Relative. This isn't a visa application, it's just a request to be allowed to apply for the visa. The Alien Relative? Yeah, that's me, Nanu Nanu.

This step involved sending a big fat package to Chicago full of:

− Life histories for both of us, and our parents;
− Proof that we were married, and that it was legit (this included notarized affidavits, photos, invoices, travel stubs and Facebook posts; you name it, we probably sent it).

This was packaged into a really dull autobiography, and it bounced around the USA while we waited…for five months.

Step 3
After five months of twiddling our thumbs in different continents, I was approved to apply for the Spouse Visa. If you thought Step 2 was personal, this stage required me to:

− send off more personal information;
− have a thorough police record check;
− get a bunch of vaccinations and an x-ray;
− pay a lot of money to have a stranger look at my boobs, and;
− have an interview at the US Embassy in London.

It also required my husband to accept total financial responsibility for me. Luckily for him I don't buy a lot of shoes.

On the exact date of our first wedding anniversary, our paper anniversary, I received my papers to enter the USA. It was the best anniversary gift ever, and I moved just a couple of weeks later.


But that's not all…
Although I have a Green Card and Permanent Resident status in the USA, it's not over yet. We were married for less than two years when I moved over, so next year we have to prove to the US Government that we're still living in marital union. That means more paperwork, and more money. Until then, I'm a Conditional Permanent Resident (CR1).

The cool thing though is that from as soon as 2015 I can apply for US citizenship. If I do, there's a chance I'll be able to vote in the 2016 elections. I'll also be able to buy all the shoes I want without sending my husband into a panic!

If you're going for the US Spouse Visa
Plan ahead, save up, and be prepared to become a pro at waiting! This has just been a quick summary of the process and there's a lot to it.

If you learn the visa instructions in advance, have all of your own paperwork in order, and don't have a criminal record or other “red flags” then it is possible to DIY it without a lawyer. I also definitely recommend joining Visa Journey for advice, timelines and support.

However you go about it, it's an expensive pain in the butt, especially if you're in different countries like we were. But let me tell you, after all the forms, frustration and flying – it's totally worth it.

all photos from gladley

8 comments:

  1. Georgia ChristakisApril 22, 2013 at 8:06 AM

    this is so useful! thanks for sharing!

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  2. eesh, so much waiting! I would not have the patience for that. Glad it's all worked out though :) I'm going to check out your blog now!

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  3. Gillian talked me off several ledges - she knows all!

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  4. these two are definitely examples for me through this process :)

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  5. Thanks Jackie!

    Yeah…it sucked. But it can be done, and we're coming up for our 2nd anniversary and our 1st year officially together. And that feels just a little bit awesome. Betsy and Jon will pull through and will be an ace international powercouple!

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  6. D'aaaw thank you. I have so much respect for bloggers who blog throughout their LDR. I did it intermittently because it was tough, I find it much easier to talk about in retrospect. You're an inspiration to others doing the whole darned process.

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  7. this "conditional" process is SO strange to me! when I got into UCL for my MA I got a conditional offer and someone had to explain it to me...

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