Friday, August 18, 2006

Roland Hulme: Permanent Resident

This morning, a postman knocked on our door and handed me a package, containing my passport and US Visa, granting me unconditional permanent Residency of the United States.

Tina and I ran about for five minutes in a daze, wondering where to hide it. For the last five years, I've always carried my passport with me (in case I've needed to hop onto the Eurostar for a quick one at Harry's.) But now my passport is the most valuable thing we own, so we hid it.

We also noticed Tina had left the lid off the hamster cage, so the little fella has gone walkabouts.

It's just an amazing experience, to finally 'have it.' A little page in my passport that finally, after thirty three months, means that Tina and I can return to America.

We were fairly sure we'd got it on Wednesday, after our Visa interview, but didn't want to tempt fate by blogging about it before hand. But here it is.

Anyway. As I'm sure you'll be FASCINATED to know what the process is, let me tell you.

On Wednesday morning, Tina and I got up at 05h00 and drove to the station, where two return tickets to London set us back £94.50. After taking a few deep breathes, we took the train up to London and the subway to Bond Street, where we collected my medical results (and I'm in storming health, by the way. Doctor did point out originally that my liver wasn't too good, but that's entirely cured after a brief period of abstinence.)

Next, we set off towards Grovesner Square. I told Tina it was only a block or two away from the doctor's. Tina didn't believe me, so she asked a "policeman" (actually a traffic warden) where the embassy was. He said it was miles away. That inspired Tina to hail a cab and we then proceeded to pay five quid to be ferried precisely fifteen feet to the corner of Brook Street.

Next, we waited in line for about an hour to be let in by the enormous Embassy dude.

Embassy dude is famous. A rotund fella with a ZZ Top beard and mirrored shades, he is mentioned in just about any Expat or VISA forum on the internet. He was quite flattered when Tina told him (again, proving that Tina can endear herself to just about any human being by one flash of her smile...)

We got searched and let into the embassy. Then, like at the cheese counter of Sainsburys, we were handed a number (011) and told to wait.

And wait.

And wait.

About two hours later, we got called to one of the windows (exactly like at the post office) and a lovely Jamaican girl went through our paperwork with us. Fortunately, Tina's incredible, hamster like storage/filing ability meant that she had easy access to every piece of paper we have ever been handed in the last three and a half years.

"Police certificate?" Here we go.

"Birth certificate?" Here it is.

"Medical forms?" There we are.

"Receipt for bottle of coke you bought at Charles de Gaulle airport in October 2003?" Here we go.

The only thing we were missing was some form of proof that Natalie (Tina's sister) was an American citizen. We, beingnaivee, had assumed that the fact she was Tina's sister might have suggested she was an American citizen. Basic genetics aren't good enough for the federal government, though, so they entered her name into a computer.

Bang. Up came copies of her passport, driving licence and birth certificate.

Which was great for us, since it meant we had all the paperwork we needed. It was slightly scary, though, because it suggests that there is NOTHING the United States Government doesn't know about it's citizens.

Anyway. After that, we were asked a couple of questions by a tough looking chap who seemed to take a shine to Tina and obviously thought I was a bit of a schmuck, but he handed us the 'pink sheet' with the comment: "Your file, which looked like it was going to be horrifically complicated, actually turned out to be quite straightforward."

So there we go. Three and a half hours later, we were stepping out of the Embassy security area into Upper Brook Street with a look of dumb exhaustion on our faces.

After three years, it was over. Done.

Roland Hulme is now a permanent resident of the United States of America.

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