Saturday, 24 December 2011

I sing for you, though you can't hear me

As I have a few hours to kill this Christmas Eve (insert name-related joke here), I thought I would write that full update post I've been referring to for at least the last three weeks. Ben is currently at work, and won't be back until after 11PM, which is a bit rubbish for the time of year, but it can't be helped. So, dear reader, you will bear the brunt of my festive wafflings.

So... first things first: immigration status update. After the list of documents and information requirements had been fulfilled, we were able to send off the AOS (Adjustment of Status) package to the Chicago, IL USCIS drop box at the beginning of this week. We've now had its delivery and receipt confirmed by the USPS and USCIS respectively, which means that my documents are now being processed to allow me to have a 2 year green card, as well as legally be allowed to work - and leave the country should I need to!

Confirmed by the mail, and confirmed by USCIS via text AND email.

This is, of course, a great relief. I wasn't quite so manic about getting it all sent off (eventually, anyway) compared to finishing off the UK-side of the process, as there's not actually a requisite time period during which the AOS must be submitted. It's just recommended to do it sooner, rather than later, for obvious reasons - things like your medical results will be considered invalid if you don't use them within a year of obtaining them, so you would have to pay for another medical (in time and dollars). It means that, after a biometrics appointment and possible interview early next year, I will not have to do anything paperwork-wise, except for an annual renewal of my work permit, for two whole years. After 12 months of form-filling, the prospect of this is just so wonderful! After that, I can apply for a 10 year green card, followed by naturalisation (citizenship) when I have lived here for three years. This would allow me to obtain a US passport, be considered a full US citizen, and therefore I would be able to vote too - very important, especially when we have kids.

Strictly speaking, now I think of it, this is not all in order, actually, as although we had done a lot of the paperwork, we didn't send it off until after the two other big-exciting-grown-up-things. No matter. One of those I've already written about: getting a car, and being allowed to drive. I now have the privilege (and nerve-wracking pleasure) of being able to get out and about, wherever I want and whenever I want. I feel much more human, just so much more normal! Silly though it sounds, it was the one thing that paralysed me and frustrated me, far more than getting a social security number, bank account, or having my immigration papers in order. The strangest thing is that I don't even enjoy driving that much! I think it is just that I have been so used to being able to choose whether or not to go somewhere, and not to have to rely on anyone to help me out with that (willing and lovely as everyone here has been about it), that having that ability revoked was far more irritating than I could ever have predicted. I guess a decade of that being normal made it very hard to adjust to it suddenly being taken away (not to mention the total lack of knowledge of local geography!). So, it gives me great pleasure to say that I am writing this from the Starbucks in Mallard Pointe, just off Tryon, having driven here all by myself. Given my penchant for double tall skinny vanilla lattes (yes, I'm one of those douchebags), this is doubly pleasing.


Of course, I can only drive on my UK license for so long. Technically speaking, I can drive for 12 months using a foreign driving license, but due to a variety of things (namely NC-specific insurance laws - grr!), I am allowed to drive a privately-owned vehicle for 30 days only, on temporary insurance, which is supposed to be the time period used to pass my NC driving test and obtain a state license. So, I am now preparing for my driving test! I have been told that it is not the horrific experience I remember as a 17 year old (and I didn't even have to do the hazard perception test then), not only because I am already a driver with 10 years' experience, but also because the US test is a bit easier, and apparently they are usually pretty kind to experienced, English-speaking, ex-pat drivers. That said, it's still a test, and I don't want to scrape through it, because it won't help my driving in the long term. So, I have been studying the NC DMV's Driver Handbook for the past few days, and learning the laws, signs, and requirements for driving around here. There are three parts to the test: a sign-recognition test (which also incorporates a sight test), a theory test, and a practical test. I'm feeling okay-ish about it all. I can learn theory without a problem, and it's a lovely thing to be able to put it into practice straight away. I currently have sign-Tourette's whilst driving, as there are two whole pages to learn, and you get asked to identify about 20 random ones before you're allowed to do the other parts of the test. Eek! I have also purchased practice tests that have review and full mock tests available - very helpful, and thus far, I haven't failed!

So far, so good. 
The second of the big-exciting-grown-up-things is something I'm not going to go into a whole lot of detail about right now, as I want to wait until it all goes through, so I don't get prematurely over-the-top about it and then have to backtrack. The short version is that Ben and I put an offer in on a house in Charlotte and, after some back-and-forth bartering, it was accepted! Realty works somewhat differently here to in the UK, and we've already signed paperwork (along with the seller) that marks the offer as legally accepted. We now have until the 10th to get the house inspected (surveyed, in UK-speak), and then we and the buyers are bound in to the sale. I will divulge more then, as I won't feel so much like I might jinx things, but I am - we are - SO very excited. It's our dream house! *crosses fingers* 

That pretty much concludes the update. We've had some fantastic meet-ups with friends recently; a Ninja Santa party at our apartment, girl-dates for me, trivia fun at the diner, and a burrito and cigar night, to name a few. It's been a lovely - not to mention exciting, and ridiculously crazy-busy! - month (marriage, car, house, in a MONTH?! Madness), and I hope I have more license- and house-related good news to report in 2012. Merry Christmas to everyone, anyone, who reads this! Have a wonderful holiday.

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