photo by Emma, Jon's cousin
The tale of Jon's visa is long and sordid. Okay, sordid isn't the right word - stressful would be more accurate - and the process hasn't been prolonged so much as constantly stop-and-start. But we are very ready for it to be over or, at the very least, out of our hands!
Jon and I agreed about a year and a half ago that he would be the expatriate this time. There wasn't much we could do, logistically, after we made that decision because there was no point in filling out forms that might be irrelevant come time to submit, so, except for an exploratory meeting with an immigration lawyer in August 2012, we didn't actually focus on Jon's visa until spring 2013. The idea was to work on the application while planning our wedding; originally, we wanted to have everything ready to go before I flew to England for the wedding so that I could just slot in our marriage certificate on the day I got back to the States and send it off, but that wasn't realistic.
After weeks of frustration in which we tried to juggle far too many details, Jon and I realized that we couldn't finalize our wedding and his visa at the same time if we wanted our relationship to survive. However, I did meet with a fantastic new immigration lawyer over the summer just to make sure Jon and I understood what was involved in being prepared to submit his visa application. Given what our lawyer suggested, when we reassessed we decided we'd try to submit all of the forms and documents by the end of September - but it turns out that wasn't realistic either.
Officially, we're not required to submit tons of supporting materials, but we do have to provide evidence that our relationship is real and more is definitely safer than less. The lawyer gave us a list of everything we should include with our application - photos, cards, letters, emails, affidavits from friends and family members, Skype records, receipts from wedding vendors, the lease we both signed, etc - and we've spent the past two months gathering and preparing everything. When I gave our lawyer a binder full of the materials she'd advised we include, she sent it back to me with a two-page memo attached detailing where and how we needed to do more. The second binder came back with additional comments. I'm meeting with her tomorrow for final approval and - fingers crossed - will finally be able to submit the application on Friday.
(The Department of Homeland Security is actively offering many immigration services during the shutdown; USCIS is a fee-funded body, so it's still open. I wish I had the excuse of blaming the government for not having submitted Jon's visa before now, but alas!)
Once the application has been received, it should take 4-5 months before Jon's visa is granted, so we're looking at February or March for Jon's arrival in the States. I'm hoping that this here now is the most stressful part of the process - there are other things to be done between now and then, but it's mostly a lot of waiting! Think happy thoughts at us, please, dear readers. We're ready to start our marriage together for real!