A Really Big Move (Our journey from the UK to the USA)
As I write this, people in the UK are flocking to the voting polls. There is much speculation about who the government will be tomorrow, but I’m not going into that here. This blog is as far from a political column as you can get it, but on a day like today, who can avoid it? Unfortunately, as much as I would like to vote, the timing of my move to the USA has ruled it out. I can register as an overseas voter, but not until arrival in my new country, and the application has to be signed by a fellow overseas Brit. Added to the volcanic ash saga, there was no way the applications were going to arrive on time. Proxy voting was also ruled out, with no family living in our last registered constituency. I was disappointed that internet voting was not offered, considering that said constituency (Swindon) trailed internet voting a few years ago, but I haven’t seen it since.
So, as I mentioned, I’m now resident in the USA. Minneapolis, Minnesota to be precise. We have been here for exactly 4 weeks, and so far life is good. I find it hard to believe that I have not worked for 4 weeks – the longest for, like forever. Sometimes it seems like I’m on holiday. Some days it seems like I’m working harder than ever. With a move like this comes a lot of research, learning and form filling. I spent a lot of my work life trying to work out exactly what individual customers required of us, and this isn’t too different!
Beginning the Visa Application
The process to get out here was long winded, and at times painful. The world’s economic problems slowed things down, but just before Christmas 2009, we were given the news that they (my husband’s company) were finally going ahead with applying for the visas and getting us moved. As a manager and long-term employee of an American company, the application was for a non-immigrant L1-A visa for my husband, and a L2 for me as his spouse. The company has moved employees around before, so already had a blanket petition in place. The petition is just the initial stage – it outlines what the company is all about, and in an individual statement justifies the transfer of a non-USC into the American job market. This bundle is sent off to USCIS for approval, and sent back with a reference number. The reference number, along with the first of many payments, is needed when making an appointment with the US Embassy. It was obviously a quiet time, as we were able to get an appointment for the following week, and so on January 27th took an early train to London. The appointment was for 9.30am, and we had a few important jobs to do beforehand. The first was to get some acceptable photographs – US passport photos are square, opposed to the UK rectangular ones, and not so easy to come by. Gould Pharmacy near to the Embassy makes the most of this, and will do a set of photos on the spot. Additionally, they will store all the items that you are not allowed to take into the Embassy – mobile phones, electronic key fobs etc. Once the practicalities were dispensed with, the next job was fortification.
We’d deliberately got an early train to avoid rush hour, and it’s inflated fares. So, we were definitely ready for some breakfast. Before our trip, someone had pointed me in the direction of Truc Vert, a small restaurant practically next to the US Embassy (perhaps influencing the decision to put pancakes on the breakfast menu?). The prices are not inexpensive, but probably about average for the centre of London. Our choice for breakfast were simple, but delicious. Eddie went for the ‘Big Breakfast’, whilst I stuck to poached eggs with bacon on Toast. The toast alone was lovely, but the eggs were cooked perfectly.
With breakfast over, it was nearly 9am, so time to go and line up outside the Embassy. Armed with the approved petition, photographs, and various other forms that were required, we were ready to go in. An employee outside the building checked we had the right paperwork, and then we were directed through the security hut. From the security hut, we went around the building to the back entrance. At reception, we were given a ticket with a number in, and told to take a seat in the waiting area. As we were walking through the doors, our number was called out, completely throwing me. We were directed to a window, where we had to produce our paperwork. Everything was nicely organised, but bits of paper were quickly pulled out, put aside, disregarded or generally shuffled. Our fingerprints were taken. We were then instructed to sit and wait until our number was called again, when we would go through to the interview windows. This time, our wait was a little longer, around 1½-2 hours. I’d taken reading material, but found it difficult to concentrate. Eventually our number was up, and we were off again. Once more the paperwork was handed over, and Eddie was asked some questions, and our fingerprints were verified. I wasn’t asked anything at all. We were informed there and then that our application had been approved, and we would just have to wait for our passports to be returned with the Visa inside. The final steps were to go to another window and make a payment, and then to the courier desk to arrange and pay for the return of our passports. And then we were done! We left at midday, meaning we had plenty of time to get to lunch, which was booked for 2pm. It was quite a surreal experience sitting in Starbucks (we’d already started the American transition), and knowing that we would really, actually, for real, be moving to the US.
For anyone planning to visit the Embassy, this video is vaguely amusing. Despite what some of the comments say, we found that this is pretty much how it went.
In celebration of our impending move, we decided we should go somewhere ‘nice’ for lunch, so booked one of Gordon Ramsay’s places, York and Albany, where Angela Hartnett is Chef Patron. We opted for the Set Lunch, our second delicious meal of the day, and very reasonably priced. I fear we may have off-set the reasonably priced food with drinks bill, but after all, we were celebrating! To add to the excitement, we spotted Angela in the bar area after our meal, looking as if she was ready to rest after a busy lunch rush. And then, whilst we were being pushed delicious meats in the adjoining deli, Gordon himself walked in. Despite his larger than life, scary television persona, he turned out to be a very pleasant man. He was more than willing to chat, pose for photographs, and wished us well on our American venture. What a day!