Eight months in America, how it came about

After four years in Canterbury we saw summer 2012 as a potential time to make a change. We had loved being in Canterbury, it is a fantastic city, but we weren’t sure it was the place for us to settle. We decided to look around in February 2012. I started looking into moving to Sussex, a place we had identified to settle and Beth looked into finishing her masters at Denver Seminary.

I found us several houses to view between Horsham and South London and we set aside a weekend to view eight of them. In the week leading up to the viewings, however, seven of them cancelled due to offers or being taken off the market. In the end, we headed to Merstham in the rain for our one viewing of a three bedroom house. When we arrived we knew before even going in that it wasn’t for us. The house was in desperate need of repair and wasn’t what we had in mind when we thought of our first house. The viewing itself only confirmed that. We decamped to Nymans where my Mother works and decided that maybe we should give America a go.

Beth had long wanted me to experience living in America before we settled in the UK and now she had her chance. I started research into visas that would see us through the year abroad and quickly found I had only two options. The first was permanent residency which would allow me to work but it was a nine month process which would have meant arriving in America around December,

 far too late. The other option was a B2 visitor visa which would take a couple of weeks to get but would not allow me to work, that ended up being the obvious choice.

We decided that we wanted to travel September to May, with Beth staying an extra three weeks on either side so she could do extra summer courses at the end. This would also give me a chance to start looking for jobs and housing when I got back. I applied for my visa quite early, around the end of April, so that I would not be tempting fate if my application failed on the first attempt. The first stage went fine and I was offered an interview at the end of May.

That weekend turned out to be good for American Football reasons as well. We made a couple of days of it and headed up to London after church on Sunday to watch the London Blitz’s unbeaten streak come to an end against the London Warriors in a low scoring 

7-3 match. We then had dinner in Chinatown and stayed overnight in a hotel near Earls court.

Early the next morning I checked I had the correct documentation (I took bank statements from two countries, proof of Beth’s course acceptance, our marriage certificate, business partnership stuff, an email from Drew at BAFA National Leagues saying he was happy with the idea and both our passports) and then headed to Grosvenor Square. We arrived about 30 minutes too early and sat underneath a statue of Eisenhower. Eventually I joined the queue to get in, I went through airport style security and then was sat in an airport style waiting lounge (minus anything to do). There were two stages of the interview, for the first, my number was called within ten minutes. They basically took some of my documentation for assessment and then sat me back down. For the second part, I had to wait two and a half hours. I passed the time reading empire magazine and fretting. Annoyingly for the second part numbers were not called in order so you couldn’t really go anywhere in case you missed your number being called. Each time there was a beep and a number everyone’s eyes flew up to the screen to see who it was. Eventually I got called, almost in numerical order, only a couple of higher numbers went through before me and I headed for the counter.

us embassy london

The man on the other side asked me why I wanted to go to America, I answered because of my wife’s upcoming studies, he asked why I didn’t get the ‘spouse of a student’ visa and I said because she is an American citizen with permanent residency in the UK. He asked about our funds and was satisfied enough. Then said he needed to go and talk to his manager. This of course made me rather nervous. After five minutes the guy came back and said that there wasn’t really a visa designed for me but that he would give me a year’s b2 visa as it fit best. He warned, however, that I may face problems getting through customs, I assume that is a standard line but again that gave me a three month long freak out. Anyway, I had passed my interview and would get my passport back in three days. I went outside and joked to Beth that I hadn’t gotten the visa, she believed me until I started laughing. I may have gotten in a little trouble for that.

Over the next couple of months we started sorting things out, we told our respective jobs that we would be leaving in August, booked our flights and organized storage for our stuff. The most important (and easiest) part at this stage was telling our parents our plans and getting each of their support for staying with them in each country. Thank you to them all for that.

The days slowly ticked by and the date to leave got ever closer as we nailed things down. When August arrived we had lots of plans to hang out with our friends for the last time in 10 months and that will be where the story picks up (I figure a thousand words is long enough).


Embassy picture courtesy of stuthetraveller

Football image courtesy of BAFANL