If you are interested in our weekend experience of the visa then click on the more button that follows
We set off for London at about 9.30 having had to pick up the garage from the repair centre after someone drove into the side of it a week previously. Then it was off down to London. As we were driving down the M40, the mobile rang and the estate agents wanted to know if we would be around at the weekend to show the house to a prospective buyer! We’ve had the house on the market since October and not had anyone show any interest – until the night before my visa interview! Although we had previously said that we didn’t want to have any people come around until early in January, we hastily agreed to have them come around on Monday. Apparently the people have already sold their house, want to move quickly as they are living in rented accomodation and are keen to look at our house so a quick phone call to the helsby cleaners to persuade Mum, Dad and my sister to come and help tidy and clean and we were back on the road again.
We were fortunate to stay in the London Corus Hotel. which is situated right opposite Hyde Park. I think Kristen used laterooms to make the booking. We arrived at about 1.30, I dropped Kristen off to checkin whilst I unloaded the bags and then drove the car to the carpark. At £22 a day it is not cheap to park in London! However, parking at the Paddington Station carpark was cheaper than parking in the masterpark carpark (even with the 10% discount the hotel gave us). After finding my way back to the hotel, Kristen collapsed into the bed as she was suffering heavily from a cold and I went caching around hyde park and kensington gardens. I had a great 3 hours walk around the park and found 9 caches, and failed to find 3 others. At the very last one I did at night, I even met another geocacher so that made a nice end to the afternoon.
Back at the hotel, Kristen was too exhausted to go out so I went foraging for food and brought back 2 pizza’s, we played cards and then went to bed early…..only to wake up really early due to the excitement! 6.45 we set off towards Marble Arch and then to the doctors. When we arrived at the Dr’s (via breakfast at McD’s) there were already about 8 people in the queue in front of us and we had to wait about 15-20 minutes in the rain. Neither of us had an umbrella so it wasn’t a pleasant experience.
At 8am we were herded into a really posh drawing room, given folders to put our medical questionnaire and photo in and then had to wait. Kristen was chucked out as there wasn’t even room for everyone (about 25 people I reckon were there for the morning sitting) so she went back to McD’s whilst I waited. I got chatting to a couple of other people there, one of whom is also emigrating to Ohio but to Cincinatti. After about an hour I got called to go downstairs for my bloodtest – but first I had to fork out the first £135 of the day. After another 20 mins or so I got jabbed in the arm, told I needed the MMR vaccine and something called Td – which was going to cost £55 in total. Then about 6 of us guys were called through into some stalls (now I know how horses feel when they look out of their horsebox – as I’m sure we looked very similar as we poked our head over the swingdoors to see what the doctor was saying). We then had to have a chest xray (wearing shoes,socks and a white smock(how fetching)) and then for the medical exam which consisted of blood pressure reading, a poke, prod and a “cough” 🙁
Then it was upstairs (oh yeah – we got dressed again) and two VERY quick jabs later it was off to the embassy. I was told that the jabs would have no side effects apart from the td would possibly give a sore arm (which it has done).
A walk in the rain to the embassy wasn’t much fun but it wasn’t too far – until we had to go around the block to the other side due to all the security arrangements that they now have in place. At each corner of the embassy is a policeman with a machinegun and also at halfway points along the embassy walls. Brick and fence barriers force you to do a long walk around the embassy AND you have to go through (not very thorough) security. As I am a non-immigrant application I didn’t have to queue – or so I had been told. When we got to the front of the building there were two lines – one for visa’s and one for immigrant services. Suprisingly we didn’t have to join the visa queue but the much shorter services one. After checking who we were on the list of visitors and checking that my face matched my passport we were eventually allowed in…..and then we met with Mr I Know. The security guard checked my passport and then called me Andrew Peterson. When I corrected him I got a “yes I know” response. He also asked if my pocket pc was a camera. I said no, and started to tell him it was a pocket pc and also got a “yes I know” – weird.
Anyway, we were waved through to the visa hall.
At this point you get allocated a number when you take a ticket. I was number 24 (10th in line) for non-immigrant visa’s. The immigrant visa’s were up to about 290 but they went through the line a lot quicker as there were about 7 or more operators checking the status, compared to 3 for us lot. We also had to buy a “courier visa package” to have the visa sent back. This costs £10 and it turns out that the work is basically done by CityLink. Anyway, after an hour of waiting we were eventually called to give our papers to a very friendly bloke behind the counter and after checking various forms we were then told to go to the cashier to pay the $355 visa processing fee and then back to sit down again and wait for the interview.
After about another hours wait we were finally called back to the interview window. By this time I had seen all my new found friends get their visa’s, shaken their hands and heard Kristen welcome them to the United States (as the visa women wasn’t doing this!). We were the last ones in our little group, but there were two more people behind us.
I was asked a couple of questions – how long had we been married (which I got right much to my relief) and then asked where we were going to live. At this point, Kristen answered and got politely told to ssssh and let me answer. However, the interviewer kept looking at Kristen whilst asking the questions so Kristen still kept trying to answer. Fortunately though we both gave the same answers. The other questions was where we were going to live and what job I was looking for and then I was told my medical results were clear, my original certificates were handed back and I was told that my visa would be with me on Monday.
We walked back to the hotel, I then headed off back to the carpark and managed to pay for my parking 23 hours and 59 minutes after parking the car – this was a big relief as it was going to be more expensive for over 24 hours. I picked up Kristen from the hotel and we started to drive back home VERY excited, happy and relieved…….
……and then we got to Warwick services, about 90 minutes outside london and got a phone call from the embassy asking me to ring them. After trying twice and getting an engaged tone, we got through on the 3rd time only to be told the guy had probably gone home. When we said that he left a message 5 mins ago, they checked and found him somewhere and then he said “ah…Mr Helsby…..do you have your medical records?” I replied “Eh? no…..I’ve not had them” “Are you sure? Can you check in the paperwork we handed back to you?” – “yes, let me check…..no definately not here” “oh……you sure?…..oh……..erm…..let me ring you back….” At this point Kristen was shooting me looks across the car and I was really hoping we didnt have to go back to London again and so a long 5 minutes went past as we continued driving up the motorway. Eventually he rang back and said that there was a problem with my medical records and they had been sent in a separate envelope which they hadn’t found until now (despite having been told at the interview that they had received my medical records and everything was ok). He also said that due to this delay my visa wouldn’t be with me until Tuesday. It was a good job we hadn’t booked a flight for the day after getting a visa!
Anyway, we got home and when I checked on the visa status tonight, it was picked up at 9pm on Friday night and is now awaiting delivery at my local delivery office so I should get it Monday morning – can’t wait!
Now all we need is for the buyer to put an offer in on Monday and everything will be sorted 🙂