Matthew’s Blog


Blogging about my life and journeys….

Last post at 17:22 UTC, Saturday, 19 December 2009

As the final post, for a while, on my Green Card adventure, I can confirm that I have received my Permanent Residents Card!  I’m officially a Green Card holder and am all set to live and work with Lara in California!

On very short notice (2 weeks) I was asked by my employer to travel to the US for business, however I would have to travel with Lara and on my Immigrant Visa, so I worked in some vacation time for a long stay!

We travelled on November 30, and arrived in SFO, where we were greeted by a pleasant immigration officer.  I had my fingerprint taken, handed over my immigration packet answered some basic questions and then the officer stamped my visa to endorse it as a temporary I-551 (Permanent Residents Card).

As we haven’t been married for 2 years yet, my status is conditional.  So 90 days before the second anniversary of my entry into the US I have to apply and have the conditions removed.  No biggie.

Since we’ve been in the US, I spent a week working down in San Jose while Lara had a “Spa Week” at our hotel!  I have opened my bank account, I was issued my social security number and card, and I received my Green Card proper!

We’re currently looking for housing in the San Jose area, hoping to move in early January so we can start our new life!  When we have some more time and we’re settled, I’ll do a few detailed entries on the process and forms, so come back and check the site for updates!

After a long, and sometimes arduous process, my immigrant visa was granted!  I received a package my secure courier yesterday which contained my passport (complete with Visa!), some supporting documentation that was submitted, and a large, sealed brown envelope.  The envelope is to remain sealed until the immigration official in the US who greets me opens it.


The Visa packet!



Immigrant Visa in my Passport!

Things are going to start happening very quickly, as my job transfer is being finalised, we need to give up our apartment and sell some things, such as our car, furniture and other belongings which we don’t need and won’t be taking with us.  We need to finalise the shipping company arrangements.  The list goes on.

The Process Goes On

Unfortunately, this isn’t the end of the visa process. When I arrive in the US I must fill our a form to get my Green card proper.  As we haven’t been married for two years, this Green card will be conditional.  Exactly 90 days before the two year anniversary of my entering the US as an immigrant, a window opens during which we must petition for the conditions to be removed from my Green Card.  Failure to do so will result in deportation from the United States.

Now I have a lot more information, I’ll update the Visa’s section, and provide more concise details about how we went about it!  But this might take a little while, so please bear with us!

Well, I should have posted this a week ago, when the selling actually began, however I didn’t think of it!

In anticipation of our visa application being completed and the craziness that will undoubtedly follow, we have started auctioning our wares on eBay.  At the moment, I have sold my Xbox 360 (Oh, I miss you!) and have some books and PC games for sale, that are ending soon.

So follow me on Twitter for news of more listings, or keep checking out my eBay page!

It’s been a couple of weeks since my visa interview, and I’ve been a little slack in blogging.  I ran my first half marathon, which occupied most of my time since the interview and is the primary reason for not reporting on it so far.

We arrived in London the day before the interview, and checked out the embassy location, just to make sure we knew where we were going.  We took the route from the hotel that we would in the morning, worked out the timings, you know, the usual.  We wanted to make sure we had plenty of time.

The morning of the interview, we were up early, and after readying ourselves, made our way on the tube to Grosvenor Square.  In case you are in any doubt as to whose the biggest house on the block is, the square is adorned by statues of Roosevelt, Eisenhower and an Eagle.

The US Embassy

We joined the queue and had our appointment letter checked.  We had to wait outside, and were grateful for bringing our umbrella!  It rained.  After waiting about 30 minutes, we went through a security checkpoint – think of it like going through security at an airport.  We were inside.

Take a ticket, take a seat, wait for your number.  The whole thing was somewhat reminiscent of my only DMV experience to-date.  Only people were quieter, and not rude to the counter staff!

The waiting area was busy, there were no seats for some of the people waiting, and there was a constant stream of numbers being read of the PA system.  Looking at the board, I figured we would be a while.  98% of the numbers started with the letter N and the remaining 2% an I.  Quick deduction N = Non-immigrant; I = Immigrant.

Our ticket was stamped 8:33.  With no electrical devices, and no large bags, the only thing we had was our folder.  Well, other people had the foresight to bring books, news papers and magazines, this was perhaps our one mistake.

1 hour 45 minutes passes before we hear our number being read out, and we make our way to the counter.  The immigration officer was polite and friendly, I was nervous.

First off my finger prints were taken.  All of them.  Four fingers or left hand.  Four fingers of right hand.  Both thumbs.

She asked for my birth certificate, police report, and other bits and pieces, I duly obliged.  As I handed over our documents she checked them off on a list.  I was asked some questions about have I been to the US before, how many times, the usual.

The officer handed me a sheet of paper, with my visa class checked, and instructed me to the teller window where I would pay before returning.  $400 lighter ($355 for the visa application, $45 security surcharge), I presented my receipt.  Another check on the form.  I was handed my chest x-ray, to show the immigration officer upon my arrival in the US, and instructed to sit and wait for our number to be called.  Again.

Another hour passes before we are called again, this time to a different window.  This is the consular officer who will interview us.  Again, the officer was friendly and amicable.  My finger prints were taken again (I guess to verify I was the same person an hour ago?) and I swore an oath that I was telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Some basic questioning followed:

  1. Why do you want to live in America?
  2. How long have you known each other?
  3. When and where did you get married?

The consular officer was satisfied that we were legitimate, and even said he wanted to give us the visa there and then, however there were three pieces of information missing, and as such our visa application is suspended until we provide them.  We felt a little deflated, but the gentleman was helpful and explained there is little to it.  Once we have the documentation, we call the embassy courier, who will collect the evidence and passport, which will then be processed and we will have the visa in 3 days (pending approval).

So the three pieces of information?

  1. Proof that Lara has maintained a domicile in the United States or intends to re-establish one no later than my travel to the US.
  2. Lara’s 2007 tax return.
  3. Our sponsors 2008 tax return.

Let’s look at these in reverse:

When we had our sponsor complete the I-864, he hadn’t submitted 2008, and had filed an extension, however we provided 2005 through 2007, along with various information on asset ownership and value.

Lara didn’t work in the US in 2008, and therefore had insufficient earnings, exempting her from filing a 2008 return.  We had an affidavit stating this, which was accepted, however they require a copy of her last filed tax return.

Proof of domicile?  This was described by our consular officer as ‘fuzzy’.  How do we prove that, if Lara hasn’t filed taxes?  Well, he gave us some pointers, and we have begun assembling our documentation package.

All in all, it wasn’t a scary experience.  We left feeling dejected, but ultimately satisfied.  We had read somewhere about the domicile thing previously, but completely forgotten about it.  It turns out we probably had suitable proof on our person, but racked by nerves and disappointment completely forgot about it.

I wish I could bear happier news, but at this time we are still waiting.

In my previous post, I mentioned we have our interview date! Well it’s coming up really fast now – Wednesday!  Lara and I are both really excited, nervous, anxious and apprehensive.

We spent this weekend preparing, going over EVERYTHYING, ensuring we have dotted all the I’s and crossed all the T’s.

I have spent three hours this in front of the photocopier, producing copies of everything, twice.  The letter we received with Packet 3 said that we only need the originals, however I was reading the USCIS site and it said to take a photocopy as well.  Ok, confusing, but I’ll do that. A second copy is for our records.

In preparation, we’ve assembled a new Binder much like the one for Lara’s Fiancée visa, which includes all of the requested documents, as well as plenty of other evidence, supporting documentation and all of the correspondence between USCIS and ourselves.

Here is the table of contents, as it appears in the Binder:

In accordance with the instructions for immigrant visa applicants, please find the following documentation enclosed. Photocopies of each document have been enclosed in addition to the originals.

1. Passport

2. Birth Certificate

3. Police Certificate

4. Passport Photographs

5. Evidence of Support:

a. I-864 and supporting documents from Petitioner

b. I-864 and supporting documents from Joint Sponsor

6. Marriage Certificate

In addition to the requested documents, the following supplementary information has been included.

7. Supplementary information regarding intended immigrants employment status

8. Form DS-230 Part I (Previously submitted) & Part II

9. Evidence attesting to the bona fide of the relationship (Previously submitted)

10. Supplementary evidence of the bona fide of the relationship

11. Correspondence with USCIS and Petitioner / Intended Immigrant

This thing is huge!  We’ve actually got two Binders, one with the originals, and one with the photocopies.

We’ve completed two I-864 forms, one from Lara and one from our joint sponsor.  However the Joint Sponsor one is for backup purposes.  I’m currently negotiating with my employers regarding keeping my job once the move has gone through, in which case my household income can be added to Lara’s to more than exceed the income requirements.

I’ll do a full post on the interview once I’ve been through it, and update my twitter status once I’m done!  Although, there will be a delay – no phones or other electronic devices are permitted in the US embassy!

In the mail today we received our appointment letter!  I’ll post a full post later, but I needed to share the good and exciting news, and seeing that Twitter isn’t working, I thought a quick blog post would be good!

August 26th, 2009 at 9am!

Hi, just a quick post…

We sent off our notice of applicant readiness form to the US Embassy just over two weeks ago, and we’re still awaiting our interview date.  I never heard back from the medical examination people, and no news is good news in that department!

My half marathon training is coming along, although I suffered a minor setback today, when I aborted my run after just 1.25 miles due to a serious cramping in my leg.  I had warmed up, but haven’t been doing my strength work over the last few days.  Maybe I just need to back off a little.  I ended up doing 20 minutes on the elliptical and some core work to finish off.

I’ve been using a foam roller in the evening so help stretch out my muscles, it’s making a difference, although my IT band is still really tight!  Maybe I’ll do a post about my training schedule when I have a little more time to put into it…

Keep following me on Twitter to get more frequent updates on my training and the visa process!

Well, I did it.  Despite my previous running post, where I said I wasn’t sure about signing up for a half marathon any time soon, I’ve done an about turn and entered the Bristol Half Marathon, 2009!

The race is on September 6th, 2009 and despite signing up late, I have a good few weeks to get ready for it.  Those of you who follow my tweets on Twitter will have noticed me mentioning the training!

I’ve jumped into week 5 of Hal Higdon’s novice half marathon schedule, and it’s going well. I’ve mixed it up a bit to work for me, but essentially it’s the same.  I’m not starting from scratch, however, as I was already working out 3 or 4 times a week with a good amount of cardio work mixed in with upper and lower body weight sessions.

Today I had a 40 minute cross training session scheduled and decided to venture outside on the bike.  I’ve not been cycling too much recently, although at the start of the month did a rather impressive (for me) 10 mile round trip to get my car serviced in 40 minutes.


My GPS Track*

The 40 minutes turned into an hour as I tackled the Ashton to Pill cycle route, although I didn’t make it all the way into Pill, I reached the outskirts, took some photos and then came back.

One last piece before I share some photos…I’m aiming to complete the half in under two hours, my goal actually being 1:45.  Although that may be ambitious as I’ve never run this distance before.  We’ll see how the training goes!  My current estimates from the Lucozade race predictor is 1:48.

* I have a GPS enabled cell phone (HTC TouchHD) and wrote a simple app for generating KML and GPX files.  Using UTrack you can extract a whole load of data and plot it to Google Maps!  I’ll be uploading the app to my development blog when it’s complete…

Yesterday was a big day in the Green Card application process: The medical examination.

There is only one doctor’s surgery in the UK that is authorised to perform the medical examination, and they are the Knightsbridge Doctor’s in London.  They have two offices, centrally located and easily accessed by the tube.

Our appointment was at their office near the Bond Street tube station, and after a long bus journey, we made our way there with good time to spare.


Prior to arrival, there are some things one needs to prepare:

  1. Complete the questionnaire;
  2. Obtain a passport photograph;
  3. Obtain a copy of vaccination records.

As mentioned in a previous post, obtaining my medical records wasn’t straight forward.  After submitting my HIPAA form requesting access to my medical records from the US, I received a letter informing me that they were unable to locate any records for a patient of that name in the timeframe given!  I did, however, have a piece of paper that was stamped at the time of the inoculations, although it didn’t look too formal.

The questionnaire is pretty a straight forward medical history form.  You can view the form online, along with all of the other information on the medical examination.


Upon arrival to the clinic, I handed in all of my documents, and was asked to wait in the waiting area where I would be handed another questionnaire to complete.  This one was strikingly similar to the previous one, although looked rather more official with the US Embassy seal stamped across the top.  There was also a consent form to sign regarding the HIV test.

Interestingly, you have to consent to having it done, however if you don’t you won’t be able to obtain a Green Card.

The Examination

The examination itself is fairly routine.  A nurse checked my vaccination records, and informed me that I needed a booster of Tetanus, Diphtheria and Pertussis (I haven’t had one since 1990) and I had only received one course of MMR in my lifetime, so required a second treatment of that.  I’m now fully up to date on my vaccinations, at least!

Next up is the chest x-ray.  Shirt off, chest against a plate, hold a lead sheet behind your lower body, deep breath…and the radiographer shoots.  All done.

More waiting ensued in a mini-break of the action before I was summed to the doctor’s office where the physical is performed.

For the third time, I was required to complete a medical history questionnaire, this time orally.  Same questions, same answers, same explanations to my hospitalization.

Height measured, weight taken, and eye sighted tested.  I’m going to go off in a tangent here on eye-tests.  The test is simple, stand about 10 feet from the wall, cover one eye and read the second-last line from the eye chart.

No problem.

Now, repeat, this time covering the second eye.

Again, no problem.

I have an excellent memory for patterns and sequences.  Without conscious thought I was able to memorize the line while reading it the first time.  Even if I couldn’t read it with the other eye, I would have been able to recite the characters.  How can this be a valid test?

Anyway, marching on, next I was asked to strip to my underwear and lay flat on the examination table.  The doctor checked my eyes, ears, mouth and glands.  Using her stethoscope , listened to my chest as I took deep breaths in and out, and then measured my blood pressure and resting heart-rate.

One final part, the cough test and a quick genital examination.  For those of you not initiated in the cough test at school, it is a test for peritonitis and you can read more about it online.

All done.  On the way out, we pay the fee (£190 + £60 for the vaccinations),  and we’re all set.  I ask about the results, and am informed that it takes 4 working days to process the blood samples, and I will only be contacted if there is a problem.  No news = good news.

The whole process took a little over an hour, slightly longer than the ‘Burden: 35 minutes’ stated on the top of the second medical questionnaire!

Today we’re compiling our paperwork portfolio for the interview and sending in the form stating we are ready!

More on that in another post!


One last thing, I asked the nurse performing the vaccinations how many medicals they do a day….about 30.  Some simple math….30 * 190 = £5,700 per day.  Not a bad little racket!

We’ve been busy this past couple of weeks, focussing on two aspects of the application process:

  1. Renewing my passport;
  2. Having my medical

Lets focus on number 1 for a minute….

My current passport was set to expire in May 2010, while that seems a long way off, it really isn’t.  If I wanted to travel to the states in November, just for a vacation, say, I would have needed a new passport.  The nature of my work means that I may need to travel on short notice, so there really is no guarantee that I would have a convenient 4 week window of opportunity between now and November to apply for a new one.

So, I decided on the Fast Track process.  It is more expensive, but I will have my passport back within 7 days.  Yesterday we went to the Newport Passport Office to apply, it was all pretty straight forward:

Them: Sir, have you completed the form?

Me: Yes

Them: Have you two passport photographs?

Me: Yes

Them: How would you like to pay?

Me: Card

Them: Ok, your passport should be with you well before Friday July 17th.

Nothing to worry about!

The medical preparations have been slightly more complex!  I need my new passport back before I go, and I’ve been scrambling around trying to obtain all of my medical records.  I had vaccinations when I emigrated to the US in 1990, and they were administered in Los Angeles.  Obtaining them from is a long process, and I’m not too sure when I might expect them!  My other medical records (from the UK) were a snip to get.  I simply walked into my doctors surgery and asked for them.  2 minutes later and I had a printout signed and stamped by the doctor.

I guess the US take patient confidentiality more seriously!  I had to complete a HIPAA form #17 and fax it back to the US doctors practice authorising the release of my medical data!

Next week I’m off to have my medical, and will post all about the experience when I’m done!