Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Great Visa Adventure Part I

ad·ven·ture [ əd vénchər ]

(plural ad·ven·tures)
1. exciting experience: an exciting or extraordinary event or series of events
2. bold undertaking: an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or undertaking
3. involvement in bold undertakings: the participation or willingness to participate in things that involve uncertainty and risk

Adventures. I have been on many. I have lived in other countries, taken perilous taxi rides in foreign cities, sailed an ocean in a small canoe with no flotation devices, run cross-country my freshman year of high school and eaten pork bowel soup. The adventure I am embarked on now, however, is an adventure of my mind--and my will-power. I must say, getting married can be stressful at times, and there is a lot to do. There are constantly lengthening to-do lists and little dilemmas that arise (should we go with teflon or calphalon and what's the freaking difference?). It's fun though, and you know the end result will be pleasant and memorable. Heck, a wedding is probably the biggest party you'll ever throw (or your parents will ever throw). But add to the mix a foreign fiance and things start getting weird. Like I did not know when I agreed to marry Sam the hours of work that would be required to even get to live with him. What I am talking about is of course the visa process. Ask anyone who has ever gotten a visa for any reason, and they will probably tell you it's a pain in the back side. And even if its just for traveling you will always wonder, "What if I don't get approved and I've already spent $1200 to fly to Taipei?" So it's basically no fun at all. When I was finally able to get through to a human at Worldbridge, which is the company contracted by the UK Border Agency, I had the pleasure of having a very serious conversation with a person I could not understand. Eventually I was able determine the correct visa application for my situation after spelling out every single word I was saying; "H as in helicopter, E as in Emergency, L as in lunatic, P as in Paul."

The Settlement Visa. This is a visa for spouses, civil partners, unmarried partners, etc. Basically this is a visa for those who wish to join someone in the UK with whom they are in a relationship and want to permanently be in a relationship. OR, for people who want to make it appear that they want to permanently be in a relationship. As an application it's pretty straightforward. It's 17 pages of questions that must be answered such as "Have you ever, by any means or mediums, expressed views that justify or glorify terrorist violence or that may encourage others to terrorist acts or other serious criminal acts?" Well that's easy enough to answer. It's understandable this day and age that countries should take very seriously who they let in. Among other documents that I must submit are copy of a mortgage, proof of employment, letters from employers in the UK stating that I'm hirable (an interesting requirement seeing as how you cannot apply for jobs unless you have a visa. Hmmm.), copies of all of Sams financial documents, proof of his job, proof that he has not taken any government funding, proof that we have known each other for at least 2 years, proof that we have met, proof that we can support ourselves on our savings for at least 3 months, and proof that if we are not able we have someone with whom we can stay. I have also been advised to include personal documentation of our relationship such as copies of letter, emails, photos, and anything else I can possibly conceive that might help make my case. So far I have a 2 1/2 inch stack of papers ready to go, and I have not ticked off half the things I need to send in (this is going to be one pricey little priority mailer). I am lucky to have a fiance who really wants me to be able to live with him once we're married so he has been so helpful and encouraging. So I will apply in May and cross my fingers because its a one shot deal--at a rate of $750 pounds per application, and at a max processing time of 12 weeks I have just this one chance. I could very easily be living with my parents again after I become a Mrs. and waiting for a visa to be approved. Even though I have a good feeling that wont happen, I still have this little uncomfortable feeling in my stomach and in my mind almost constantly because WHAT IF???

So back to the definition of adventure at the top. I really do feel like this is an adventure--another notch in my risk-taking belt (but then when you think about what a risk getting married is anyway the whole visa thing really does pale in comparison). It is extraordinary that I am even moving to England, and am so happy to be doing so because it will be with Sam. I am uncertain about it because the last time I became a resident of another country a nice little Asian girl did all the paperwork for me and now I don't know what I'm doing at all. It is hazardous because people get denied for this visa every day that ends in "y". It is exciting because, hey, it just might work out! I'll keep you posted.

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