Saturday, 30 July 2011

Time Apart


From and including: Wednesday, 3 August 2011
To, but not including : Thursday, 29 September 2011
It is 57 days from the start date to the end date, but not including the end date
Or 1 month, 26 days excluding the end date

Alternative time units

57 days can be converted to one of these units:
  • 4,924,800 seconds
  • 82,080 minutes
  • 1368 hours
  • 8 weeks (rounded down)



BAH.



(Thanks to this website for allowing me to do this.)

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Less than a week...

...until Ben goes back to Charlotte. ARGH. Brain has, unfortunately in this instance, used its forward-planning tendency to project all the way to 5AM next Wednesday (the time he will have to check in at Birmingham airport) and is starting to feel rather glum. Bah.

On the plus side, the medical results are seemingly fine (they said I would hear from them yesterday if there were any issues) and have been sent to the US Embassy today and all the documents detailed in my post about the next stages of the K1 process on the UK side (aptly - for this situation, too - named 'Waiting is a killer') have been done and should now have entered the system, as we sent them last Wednesday (20th July). We can hopefully check that all is processing as normal come Monday and then it's more waiting to hear about the interview date.

For your viewing pleasure (and to try to make myself smile about how much has been done, and thus how much less there is to worry about, even with Ben's imminent departure), here is the final set of documents we sent to the Embassy:

"Paperwork reduction act"
And here is a list of part of what made that up - the part where they asked us to prove the existence of our relationship and engagement:


Dear Sir/Madam,

Please find enclosed the completed forms DS-230, DS-156 (two copies), DS-156K and DS-157 (two copies) with relevant supporting documentation.

The DS-156K is accompanied by the following supporting documentation for proof of engagement:
  • 1)       Booking form and receipt for NC public ceremony venue : The Lakes, Kannapolis, NC. Date has since been amended until December 3rd 2011 to allow more planning time, although we plan to be legally married as soon as possible after I arrive in the USA.
  • 2)       Photographs from my stay with Benjamin Joseph Lloyd (fiancĂ©) in December 2010, including photos with Ben’s family and of the engagement ring.
  • 3)       Printed copy of my reservation to fly to NC in December 2010.
  • 4)       Photocopied documents showing presence in Charlotte, NC in December 2010 when Benjamin Joseph Lloyd and I got engaged. Includes my boarding pass from NYC to Charlotte, LHR to DUB return boarding pass stub, receipt from hotel in Asheville, cinema ticket and holiday gift tag from Jim McGuire, a photographer in Charlotte, NC who I hope to train with on an unpaid internship basis and who I met whilst with Ben in December.
  • 5)       ‘Congratulations on your engagement’ card from my cousin..
  • 6)       Photocopy of letter from Benjamin Joseph Lloyd to me with postmarked envelope containing letter; October 2010.
  • 7)       Photos of us at our engagement party, held at Egypt Mill on June 4th, 2011. Ben is staying with me in the UK for the summer (returns 3rd August 2011).
  • 8)       Photos from Ben’s stay in the UK; May-August 2011
  • 9)       Photos from our official engagement photo shoot with Courtenay Hitchcock (Dorset Wedding Photographer) in Sturminster Newton, Dorset on July 13th 2011.
  • 10)   Courtenay Hitchcock’s blog post about our engagement shoot (can also be found at http://www.courtenaysblog.com/2011/07/14/big-kids-in-the-park-eshoot-with-eve-ben/ )
  • 11)   ‘WhatsApp’ text message chat between Eve Rogerson and Benjamin Joseph Lloyd March 2011-May 2011.


I do hope they had a good read. grin

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Nuts and bolts - the K1 medical

10:10 today (25th July) was the appointment time for my K1 visa medical appointment in London. 05:30 was the time at which I got up to get ready for said appointment. 01:30 was about the time at which I finally fell to sleep and 03:00, 04:15 and 04:55 were three of the times that I woke up having dreamt about either being late for the medical or just wondering about it. I have no idea why my mind was apparently so preoccupied by it, having been fully briefed about what to expect, made travel plans that gave us hours each side of the appointment time for any technical hitches with the rail service and not being the sort of person who is made nervous by doctors, dentists and so on. But it would seem that I was rather concerned about the whole thing.

So, before I go into a full on description about the process of the medical examination, I will reassure anyone who is planning on applying for the same travel visa to the States that my brain really was excessive in its concerns: it was not only a simple process but the staff made it pleasant, not too lengthy (despite waits between each type of check) and were extremely helpful and supportive.

Knightsbridge Doctors
On arriving at the Knightsbridge Doctors, which is situated just off Marylebone High Street (a pleasant surprise for me as it allowed me to make another geographical connection in my country-girl's-mental-map-of-London), you are welcomed in to the "flat" (see picture for the interesting definition of a flat - the more appropriate "mansion" reference in their address should be used, really!), asked to hand over your identity documents and medical record, and given a questionnaire very similar to the one you were already asked to fill in before you came to the appointment.  This turns out to be the official set of questions that the US Embassy require you to answer and will be the actual document that gets sent to them along with the results from the examination. Once you've filled that in, it's a case of waiting to be called.

The official guidance suggests that the first thing you do on arriving at the practice is to show your appointment letter and passport photo. This doesn't seem to be what actually happens though, as they check through your documents when you're actually with the doctor, as well as getting you to sign your passport photo in front of them to verify that it is a likeness of you. Of course, this may be to avoid seeing a billion ugly mugs like this before lunch time every day:

I look a little dead inside. Must be all the form-filling.


Honestly, it's like they want you to look bloody miserable (no smiling, hair back, show your ears like some kind of photo booth elf). But as I said, this bit actually seems to be dealt with when you're in with the doctor, so the general idea on arrival is to get checked in, hand your documents to reception, fill in the new questionnaire and get that back swiftly so you can stay near the top of the queue.

According to the US Embassy and Knightsbridge Doctors websites, the medical will be a pretty prescriptive procedure that will go along the following lines:


All sounds pretty standard, other than the specificity of the blood test. Presumably they test for other things too, though it's not mentioned explicitly. You also need to bring your vaccination records so that they can be signed off, and it may be that you will need jabs done during the appointment in order to make sure you are up-to-date in time for the visa interview.

The way it worked out for me was that I was waiting for around half an hour after my appointment time until I was seen. First, I was shown into the X-ray room by a very Jolly Radiographer Man who told me I needed to be naked from the waist up (no jewellery, either) and put on the hospital robe in the changing corner securely to "avoid a Janet Jackson". Hee hee hee. A quick note on a lesson learned here: wear a top and jeans/skirt rather than a dress for the medical, otherwise you end up having your dress hanging around your waist after the X-ray and during the next stage. Classy! Once I was ready, JRM just chatted away while aligning my body against the plate, took the shot and then showed me the result on his computer screen. My lungs looked pretty... empty. Which is good! The X-ray is to check for signs of TB, so obviously a clear X-ray is what you're after, rather than something like this.

Following the X-ray, JRM showed me to another waiting room, this time smaller and with several other ladies showing off sparkly things on their left hands. Another one of the girls had made the same wardrobe error as me, so we had a bit of a giggle about that and got chatting about the K1 process, the medical and wedding planning. It was lovely! And of course helped to pass the time.

The next part of the appointment was seeing the doctor. This was a pretty simple affair: a quick chat, going through your questionnaire and medical records, a physical exam (ENT and lymph nodes/breasts) and a blood test. That was it, and the doctor I saw was chatty, interested in my plans, funny and sweet. She asked me if I was a bit nervous, as my heart rate was up, and I explained that I wasn't a big fan of blood tests, so the fact I knew that one was imminent was making me a little anxious. I think it was my first experience of blood tests that put me off; I don't mind about needles, injections are fine and actually the last blood test I had before the medical was surprisingly quick and easy. But I hate the sensation of the blood leaving your arm, coupled with the inevitable difficulty that everyone seems to have with finding my veins (I think they hide). Why am I waffling on about this? Well, it illustrates how kind the doctor was. She took ages massaging the veins while I had on a tourniquet, to bring them right up, so that when she did the blood test, I hardly felt a thing. Hopefully won't be so scared next time!

If you read the 'What to expect...' above, you might be wondering what happened to the following:


The doctor had already told me to get dressed, so I was a bit confused as to why that bit wasn't done while I was in my dress-around-my-waist state. I asked her (obviously explaining that I wasn't complaining about the lack of it, but that I was sure the guidance had said there would be a gynaecological exam) whether that was no longer part of the medical. She explained that it was only done to check that a person claiming to be female is, in fact, female (and she trusted me that I was a lady with the full XX credentials to prove it). What?! I figured it would be some kind of external skin check for STIs, but no, apparently it's to make sure girls do have girly bits. Is this a big problem when emigrating to the US? Might be something to look into...

So, back to the original waiting room now, to await the last screening: vaccinations.


The wait wasn't too long, and soon I was going through the records with the vaccination nurse, who told me that I would need to update my Tet/Dip/Pol jab, as the last one I had was 12 years ago (when I left school) and so was past its 10 year lifespan. This was the only one I was missing though, and they will do the jabs at the practice for roughly the same price that a regular GP will charge you. Unfortunately this particular jab is known for having side effects for 48 hours afterwards, mainly 'flu-like, so that will be something to look forward to!

A requisite sit down after the jab later and I was shown through to reception to sign off "the only really painful part of this whole process - the bill" (I told you they were fun!). The medical fee is £210, plus any extras that you might have had, such as my £26 vaccination.

You might feel a slight pinch.

So, that's the medical all done! Just one more step to go in the UK side of this process: the interview. The doctors will send your medical results to the US Embassy within four working days (and will notify you of any problems within three, should there be any). Then it's just a case of waiting to hear from the Embassy for an interview date, which they will notify you of by post. Fingers crossed it's not too long now.

M&M World, London
After the medical, we had planned to return home at around 2PM. However, due to a bit of a transport-related disaster (missed our train by about 60 seconds and, due to the astronomic prices that the rail service charge, were unable to get another one home until 7PM earliest. Damn!) we ended up in London for the whole day. After the obvious tantrum about the disruption and having to pay for new tickets, we decided we'd go for a wander. We went to Leicester Square, where we were scared by the fact there is now 'M&M World'. That's right, an entire building (FOUR floors!) dedicated to the chocolate. It was a bit disconcerting, especially as you could buy sculptures of M&Ms skiing, an M&M electric guitar and even a decorated M&M jacket... kind of worrying.
Prosecco, salad and reading. 
I had no idea they were so popular, and in such a weird way! In the end, we made our way to a little cafe on Wardour Street and settled in with reading materials, a bottle of Prosecco to celebrate the whole bloody thing being over, and a complimentary salad courtesy of the nice man who worked there. We then met our friend Vicky for a pub catch up before heading back to Gloucestershire to collapse after an 18 hour day.

The journey back was not without some fun, though, and possibly explains why National Rail tickets prices are so extortionate - they're in need of funds. Once we'd done the long leg of the journey, we got on to our connecting train back home which was, of course, a two-carriage number. This doesn't usually worry me as it's standard for this part of the trip, only a short journey and, although it's funny to see such a tiny train, it does the job just fine. However, this time was a bit of an exception. Once we'd got up to speed, the guard came around to collect tickets. He noticed that it was rather breezy in the carriage so went to shut the window. Which promptly fell out, on to the passenger below. Luckily, he ducked and it was not only deflected, it also didn't smash. But it didn't half give him a shock, not to mention everyone a bit of a laugh at the state of our trains, once we checked the guy wasn't hurt. Adding to the general hilarity was the photo I got just after the event (accidentally capturing the man it happened to, but that kind of adds to the photo),

Lovely fresh air!
and the train driver's announcement as we pulled into the first station on our journey: "Ladies and gentlemen, the first stop on this bucket of bolts is Kemble; Kemble is the next stop." Oh, Britain, I will miss you.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Engagement shoot

Yes, as you no doubt know, Ben and I have done things in a bit of a backwards way - it sort of suits us, right?! So it shouldn't come as a surprise that, after our engagement party and honeymoon, and before the wedding proper, we went for our "e-shoot" with the magically talented and lovely (in real life as well as online) Courtenay Hitchcock, the Dorset Wedding Photographer. We visited him at his studio in Sturminster Newton and ended up doing the shoot at the playground at the back of the building - perfect! So, two big kids commenced being ridiculously over-excited, in matching pink-themed dress (Eve) and socks (Ben) for extra fun. Below are a couple of the shots taken:



All image rights reserved: © Courtenay Photographic. 

Just realised that these two are in black and white, so rather hard to pick up on the pink theme! If you want to see all the photos (and even buy some, should you so wish!), then the place to do so is on Courtenay's website here, and if you want to read Courtenay's take on the whole experience (!) of our e-shoot, his blog is a great read - not just for the entry about us!

Waiting is a killer

Having a bit of a 'mare in my head right now, due to the very happy news of my official letter being sent by the US to Myrtle (my old house which, fortunately, is now owned by a dear friend of mine, so she has been keeping me in the loop in terms of mail) which has resulted in realising (for definite) that the medical will most likely be during the week commencing 25th July, meaning that the interview will be scheduled 5-7 weeks from the date of the medical. So, not only does that mean further time apart from Ben, but that could in theory mean that it won't be until mid-September until I get my visa, so travelling to the US after that is, well, inevitable, and also results in putting out people who had made plans around the original (rather optimistic) estimate. I also need to cancel flights and rearrange a few other bits. Ugh. I've been feeling rather overwhelmed by the whole thing - despite Ben and family being wonderful about it - and somehow like I've got a lot to worry about. I think I just need a bit of time and distraction, to get some perspective, but this amount of uncertainty (even if the end result, however long it takes, has about 95% likelihood of being positive according to USCIS statistics) is really starting to unnerve me. Again. I wish I knew how to cope with it better - I feel like a child.

It could go faster, all being well with the medical and the embassy working fast (we plan on getting all relevant documentation sent on Monday, when I will also book the medical, so that's within 3 working days of receiving the letter - not bad), plus I already have the certificates, proof of vaccinations, criminal record check and so on all ready to be presented, along with proof of our relationship. Ben has applied for all of his tax returns, which I need to present at the interview as part of the affidavit of support and I've also applied for a second birth certificate, as one of the most frustrating things about this whole process is the fact that they (the wizards) seem to need the same document in two places at the same time. Eesh. Add to that the delightful parting of us and money (Ben has already paid $400 dollars for the initial petition, I will pay £210 for the medical, $350 for the interview and, when I arrive in the States, we have to pay $1070 after we marry in order to change my residential status) and you have a rather mental Eve on your hands.

In order to cope, I have (of course) made a list of the process to come. It's the last bit this side of the pond, so I am trying not to explode with how much we still have to do. Have a look below...


STAGE 1 - Forms

FORMS:
DS-230 Part 1
DS-156 x 2
DS-157 x 2
DS-156K


a) Post all forms ASAP to US Embassy in London

b) Call embassy and pay $350 

STAGE 2 - Assemble documents and book medical

a) Compile documents required to bring to interview (originals plus ONE PHOTOCOPY of each):

Birth certificate
Passport
Police certificate 
3 colour photographs 
I-864 (affidavit of support)

b) Book medical

c) When these documents have been assembled, send Notification of Applicant(s) Readiness, Form 2001 and mail it to the Immigrant Visa Unit together with a covering letter containing your email address, if applicable, date of your wedding and date of the medical examination. 


Stage 3 - WAITING AGAIN!

a) Wait for medical appointment.


Bring the following to medical exam:
Passport
Driving license
Passport type photo
Medical questionnaire
Vaccination records

b) Wait for interview date!



In the meantime, I need to cancel/rebook flights, ensure that I inform Excess Baggage (the international removals company I am using) of changes to my travel plans, pick up my wedding dress, sell my car and, possibly, get a part-time, flexible, temporary job to cover the extra weeks that I am in the UK, just in case I need an income. Yep, this is all totally possible.

This article did cheer me up thought. Bless Cracked.


EDIT: I have just spent the last half hour swearing at my computer due to the ridiculously unpredictable nature of Blogger's HTML/word processing format. So, this was not quite the stress-relieving exercise that I was hoping for. I give up.