Sunday, February 20, 2011

Red Tape Blues – My experience of the K-1 Fiance Visa process

Making the leap

One of the toughest things about moving to another country is the bureaucracy that you have to deal with.  Abby and I knew that we’d have to jump through hoops to get me over to the USA, but we didn’t quite appreciate how time-consuming, expensive and downright frustrating  my experience of the K-1 fiance visa process would turn out to be!

The process began a year ago after we both decided that enough was enough and that it was finally time for one of us to make the leap and emigrate.  Abby and I had been seeing each other for three years by then and although webcams and cross-Atlantic trips are useful and great fun, eventually pretty much all long distance relationships require that one or both members of a couple move so that they can be physically together on an everyday basis.  After some discussion, it was decided that I would the one to move, Abby has the complication of having a thirteen year old child, whereas I am childless, plus I fancied the adventure of a major life change.  So we downloaded the K1 visa application forms and begin the visa application process.

Abby and I in 2007 - My First Trip to Florida!

Filling out the forms

There are 22 different types of US visas for people wanting to go to there.  I opted for the K1 fiance visa.  Work and study visas are more common and easier to get, but the K1 fiance visa was appropriate for me because as well as allowing me to marry Abby in the US, it is also an immigrant visa – that means that once I’ve gone through the entire process (including an Adjustment of Status in the US) I can live in the US indefinitely.  With a work visa, I could get into the US okay (provided I’d sorted out a job there) but then I could only stay if I continued to do that specific job, if I lost it, or wanted another job, I’d have to leave the country and then apply for another visa!

Most of the questions on the visa application forms were pretty much what I expected.  They were repetitive and a little intrusive, but I appreciated that the US Government was bound to be careful about who they let into their country.  A couple of the questions did make me smile, however.  The first was one that enquired whether I had experience of bomb-making, chemical warfare, or nuclear technology?  The jester in me was tempted to joke on the form that I had built a couple of nuclear bombs in my spare time when I was at college, but I managed to restrain myself.  The second was one asking me what the name of my “tribe” was?  Us country folk from the wilds of northern England are used to being labelled “sheep-shaggers”, but we did manage to progress beyond our tribal stage some time ago!  I therefore stated, rather emphatically, that I was without a tribe (which provided my embassy interviewer with some amusement later!)

Once all the forms were in, Abby and I waited for 2 months while they were checked over in the US.  When that was done they sent all the forms to the American Embassy in London (I’m a Brit, remember!)  Then we waited around for another 6 months before the embassy sent me a letter inviting me to book a k1 fiance visa medical exam.

The Medical

The penultimate stage of the process involved me taking a K1 Fiance Visa medical examThis meant me booking a day off work, making the 200 mile train journey down to London, finding my way to the expensive district where the medical practise is base, sitting around in their waiting room for ages, paying them £200 for a 15 minute examination and a chest x-ray, then going back home on the train that evening so that I could be at work the next morning.  (By the way, 200 miles is a long way for English people, I know it’s just a mini jaunt in the USA! Hehe!)

The medical went well, anyway.  I discovered that I didn’t have tuberculosis, my blood pressure was normal, and my private parts were all in good order!

The American Embassy

I can’t tell you how excited I was when I got my letter from the American Embassy inviting me for a K1 fiance visa interview.  This signalled that I was into the final straight!  My idea of the embassy was somewhat romantic, however.  In my mind’s eye, it was a rather grand place, a hangout for sophisticated diplomats, where I would be summoned into a plush office and grilled by a pair of smart men in dark suits…

The US Embassy, London (source: Veedar

The reality was rather different, of course.  The building looked somewhat grim and grey from the outside, with only the famous eagle attached to the front to give it any gravitas.  On top of that, it was surrounded by anti car bomb defences and mean-looking cops with semi-automatics, (understandable, I suppose, given that the building is probably pretty high on Al Qaeda’s hitlist, but still intimidating!)  Once I’d served my 30 minutes in the queue outside, I discovered that the inside was no better.  The experience reminded me of sitting in a rather run down and soulless British social security office.  You get your ticket with the number on it and you wait and wait and wait…

When I did finally get my visa interview it was at a stand-up hatch, not in a private room, and the person who dealt with me looked more like an office worker, than a dapper CIA agent.  My papers were gone through, then I went back to my seat for another long wait.  Eventually, I handed over a few hundred more quid (I'd lost count by then!) and they told me that my papers would be despatched to me by post.

Does it never end?

So I am now in the US and happily married.  But unfortunately my entanglement with red tape is not over yet.  I have to apply for an Adjustment of Status next.  At the time of writing I am waiting for a phone call I made to a doctor’s office to be returned.  I need to get my vaccination records, which were put together at my medical in London, validated by a doctor here in Florida.  There are more forms to fill out, more documentary evidence to collect, more time and money to spend.  Wish me luck!

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  1. I will follow this with interest Paul,

    I will put a link on my Wordpress site so that I can access it easily.

    My best to you both


  2. You applied for the right visa, are now married, writing often, and ready for the next hurdle. I'm glad. Am looking forward to your trip to NY, whenever it is, and when I'm in Florida next, I'll let you know. My folks have a house down there.

  3. Thanks for thecomment and link, David. Google told me that I had a visitor from your poetry website! :-)

    Yes, we'd love to see you Angus, either here or up in New York!

  4. Gosh, a lot of paperwork. I've never left South Africa for even a holiday. Was amused by what you were thinking of filling in on some parts of the form - reminds me of when I was filling in forms to enroll my sons at a school here, and there was a question about what is your first mode of transport, and what is the second (as in what make and model is your car etc). Well my husband (now divorced) and I had just one car at the time, and I was a little upset that the form/school thought everyone had more than one vehicle, so, for second mode of transport, I filled in "bicycle."

  5. For us in Sri Lanka, 200 miles is entire length North to South. And it is a long way....