Usually with just about four weeks to go until the big day, most brides concern themselves with the important things, you know, like teeth whitening, tanning, and highlights — throwing in the occasional massage, facial and training sessions at the gym, just for fun. Ok, ok, I won’t dismiss their concerns so readily regarding the stress of ensuring a beautiful, fun and smooth ceremony and reception. However, those things are not even in the back of my mind at this point. C and I would be so lucky to just have those things to worry about!
Up until now, all of our blog entries have been about the tale (saga, really) of our relationship, big announcements, funny stories and lessons learned — however, the subhead of our blog reads, “navigating cultures, IMMIGRATION, and distance for love.” So, with that reminder in mind, here is our first post about navigating the tricky, tumultuous and sometimes bewildering waters of immigration. Get ready, cause we have officially set sail…
Kicking off Friday with an early call with our immigration attorney – thank god she’s awesome – was not quite what I had in mind to end the work week, but, I must admit, after the long call, I was quite optimistic that our Green Card process would be smoother than I originally thought! Phew! Sure there are a lot of hoops we have to jump through, documents to complete, papers we have to file, and photos we have to submit (yes, that’s right, photos) – but, even with all that, I ended the call feeling more confident than I have been in awhile that this process would be faster and smoother than planned!
Well, that’s the good news. And, the Green Card process is step 9. The frustrating, maddening, utterly stressful items involving steps 1-8 in order to get to step 9 are currently what C and I are facing. Let’s give you a taste, shall we? So, I leave for India on February 5 (in about three weeks). My current “Tourist Visa” is valid only until March 5, at which time, I will have to head back to the United States if I am not able to receive a different type of visa that we have to file after marrying an Indian citizen.
So, after we get married, we have to immediately fly off to India’s capital and put our hopes and dreams in the capable hands of Indian immigration in Delhi. If we are able to apply for, and actually receive this X-type visa, then I will be allowed to stay in the country longer while we apply for the Indian equivalent of a Green Card. In the United States, applying for this type of visa, according to the Indian Consulate, usually takes between 7-9 business days via mail, and can even be issued the same day if you apply in-person, so, needless to say, C and I are hoping for the similar transaction time in India.
So there you go, what a way to spend the honeymoon – meetings, consulates and paperwork. Everyone has asked me where C and I will be going for our honeymoon, so there you go… We will be standing in line in front of the Embassy hoping against all odds that I will be able to get this X marriage visa in my passport so that we actually, for once in our lives, can be together, officially, in the same place at the same time, for longer than just a 3-week visit! On several occasions people have said to me, “wow, that’s so great that you are taking off three weeks for your wedding and honeymoon.” What? Taking off? Hah! Are you serious? I will get to India just 4 days before our wedding… 4! At which time, I will be running around with last minute tailoring, saree fitting, and any other final wedding details, as well as trying to ensure my friends and family coming to the wedding are comfortable. Then, after the wedding, C and I get to spend a lovely “honeymoon” with immigration.
Oh please, you didn’t just think THAT was the only issue we were facing, did you? Haha – child’s play! To further complicate matters, before I leave for India, I have to drive down south to Tucson (not until within 2 weeks of February 5, however), and apply for extra pages in my passport. Yes, that’s right – I have absolutely NO room in my passport for any stamps even, let alone another visa! Don’t ask about the two weeks rule… apparently, according to the National Passport Service Center, they advised me not to take a chance to mail off my passport since my travel to India is so soon, and go to a regional expediting service agency that can speed up the process. Unfortunately, in order to actually go to one of these agencies, you have to wait within two weeks of your travel date. Makes absolutely no sense.
Now, before I even get to India, I have to ship off my passport, from Tucson of all places, and pray that it arrives back to me prior to February 5th! My passport was the one thing I did not want to worry about 2 weeks before I left for India, I was hoping it would not be added to the list of current stressors – but, oh well, at this point, what’s another complication, right? Bring it on!
Also, if C and I are unable to get the X visa while I am in India, then, yep, you guessed it — I have to come back to the good ol’ US and apply for this visa from here. It’s not the end of the world, because, if that were to unfortunately be the case, it should only be a few week process in total. But then, I will have to apply for another “waiver” to come back to India within 2 months, as lovely India doesn’t allow U.S. citizens to return within 2 months of their last visit without this waiver.
So, there you go! In the midst of trying to pack up 29 years of my life, 9 years of my professional career, and say goodbye to friends and family, we are dealing with all of these “fun” immigration issues. What was that about tanning and teeth whitening again? C and I literally spend hours a night researching, reading through forums, and trying to get in touch with various people working for both the US and Indian embassies and consulates for advice once I am in India. This is maddening, and it’s definitely affecting C and I, as we can’t help but sometimes let this ‘process’ get to us– we argue, we are on edge, we are missing deadlines here and there, and basically running around like chickens with our head’s cut off trying to get everything in order so this immigration process can be as smooth as can be. It’s just these “little” issues that surface, like the X-visa within a March 5th deadline and extra pages, that add a little spice to our current situation. But oh man, isn’t our situation spicy enough? My god, for just one day, I’d like to focus on getting married – and that’s it! However, we have to keep reminding ourselves that we ARE stronger than this process, and to not let it get to us!
This is what C and I signed up for when we decided to pursue our international love story. It’s just a chapter — granted a tough chapter — but we will get through it! Our immigration attorney yesterday summed it up best when she gave C and I a sage piece of advice when facing the immigration battle in front of us, she said: “be ready for anything.” And damn, was she right!