Saturday, November 12, 2016

And you may ask yourself, well... how did I get here?

Toulon: October 2015

Three years.

It's been three years friends.

Three years ago today, the State Department received our initial application for Gregory's spousal visa.

Today, I sit here typing from my desk in my bedroom in my mother's house while Gregory is spending another Saturday in Dublin without his wife. (If you're interested, he's spending the day in the pub with some friends watching rugby, I doubt you're surprised.)

How in the world did we get here? That's a question I've been asking myself a lot lately. You might want to pour yourself a drink and sit back and relax. This is gonna take awhile.

. . . . . . . . . . 

Way back in July 2013, Gregory and I made the decision to leave The LPV. It was a difficult but well thought out decision. We felt America would be the best place for us to set down roots and grow together and hopefully start a family. We settled on the Berkshires in Massachusetts to be near my sister, my father's family, and only a drive down the Taconic from my old New York hometown.

We waited until August before we told our friends and family, and we slowly began to put the paperwork together and make plans. Since we would be staying in France until after the New Year anyway, we honestly weren't in that much of a hurry. I had friends that had gotten spousal visas and it had only taken them about six months, so we thought the whole process would take about six to nine months.

By the first week of November, we had the initial application and paperwork in the post on its way to the State Department. We figured Gregory would have his spousal visa sometime around June 2014. No problem, right?

So off I went at the end of February to get a head start on our new life in America. I'd began looking for work while Gregory spent a month tying up loose ends in France. He and Fifty arrived at the end of March with three months on his tourist visa. We were positive that by the time his three months were up, he'd have his green card in his hand and by the end of Summer 2014, we'd be on our way to begin our new life in the Berkshires (after all that's where our stuff had been shipped).

. . . . . . . . . . 

Before we knew it, it was the end of May 2014, and not only did we not have a green card, but our file had only finally been transferred from the State Department to the National Visa Center (NVC). Now, we weren't entirely sure how long it would take the NVC to process our file, but we figured at least two months which would be after Gregory's tourist visa timed out.

We had two choices, we could either send him back to France for the summer and he could see his family and friends one last time before being back in the U.S by the beginning of Fall (when we thought sure he'd be processed by), or, we could file an Adjustment of Status.

An Adjustment of Status would have allowed Gregory to stay in the country until his file was processed. It would have meant another mountain of paperwork and an additional $900 in fees. However, Gregory would not be able to leave the country until his spousal visa was finally processed.

We decided to go with the first option for a few reasons:
1. I was scared a bunch of additional paperwork would confuse our file in the system.
2. We were worried that if something happened to Gregory's grandmother or anybody else, he wouldn't be able to leave the country to see them.
3. Since it had already been six months since we had filed the initial paperwork, we didn't think it could possibly take that much longer.
4. We really, really didn't want to spend another $900. International moving is expensive y'all!

LONG STORY SHORT, WE SHOULD HAVE SPENT THE $900.


. . . . . . . . . . 

So in June of 2014, Gregory went back to France to spend the summer with The Londons for what we were sure would only be two - three months.

Silly kids. Silly, silly kids.

Within a month we submitted our second round of paperwork and then in August we received our first 60 Day Wait Letter.

For those of you lucky enough to not know: The 60 Day Wait Letter is a letter that states that while they received your paperwork, they(The NVC) are experiencing delays and won't even be able to look at your file for 60 days. Ain't that a kick in the teeth?

Fast forward to October 2014 when we finally received a response to our second round of paperwork. Sadly, it wasn't the "congratulations, get ready for your interview" response that we had hoped for, but rather a "you made a mistake on your form, please correct it and send it back to us" response.

The mistake was that I left a line blank where I should have entered a zero. Sixty days for a mother trucking zero.

Within 24 hours the corrected form was expressed back to The NVC,  but then a couple of days later we received our second 60 Day Wait Letter.

This is where things gets fuzzy... I don't really remember much of what happened the next few months because it was Thanksgiving (my first back in the States!), and then Christmastime, and all of a sudden 2015 rolled in. I do know however that we did received another 60 Day Wait Letter. I don't recall why or what it was for, but I know we got it because I know that in this whole mess of three years, we've spent six months purely in a line with no one looking at our file. 


. . . . . . . . . .

Moving right along to March of 2015 (one year since I had been back in the States) when we FINALLY got notification that Gregory's interview had been scheduled at the Embassy in Paris for the following month. We had made it! It had taken 18 months of us flying back and forth to see each other, but Gregory was finally going to have his interview and all would be well!

The morning of his interview I waited and waited anxiously for his phone call - the phone call to tell me that it was all over, that we were finished, and that he would be coming back to the US for good. Sadly, oh so sadly, that was not the phone call I received.

When my phone rang and I picked it up, all I could here at the other end was sobbing, lots and lots of sobbing, and then "they said no, they said no."

My world stopped.

It took awhile, but eventually I was able to calm Gregory down long enough for him to tell me why and what the next steps were.

Gregory's spousal visa had been declined because in 2012 he had gotten into a fight, a stupid boy fight. But that boy (who started it btw), filed assault charges, and even though the judge dismissed them, Gregory had been charged with assault.

The court documents that Gregory had submitted with his spousal visa application referenced an incident in 2003. The interviewer wanted to know what this incident was. Gregory explained that it had happened while he was working as a bouncer but the charge against him had been dropped and erased from his record. Apparently that didn't matter. Gregory had two charges against him (neither of which had held up in court btw) and so the Embassy needed the court documents from the 2003 charge before they could move on.

WHEW! That was it? They only needed the record! No biggie! I assured Gregory that everything would be OK and he quickly got to work to get the document. He phoned the court in Agde and asked them to prepare his records and the next morning he was on a train from Paris back down to the south of France to collect them.

Within 48 hours, the court records we were sure were only needed to tick a box, were expressed to the American Embassy in Paris. And then we waited.

Two weeks later, Gregory received his passport in the post along with a standard form notifying him of the spousal visa denial with a box checked next to Moral Turpitude as well as notification that his tourist visa to the U.S. had been revoked. Gregory was officially persona-non-grata on U.S. soil.

After the initial shock wore off, we began to plan. We contacted lawyers and discussed what our next step was - it was to file the appeal, also known as the waiver of inadmissibility. In the meantime, Gregory would stay in Europe and I would stay in the U.S. working because everything we read about the appeal and everything we heard all said the process would take only three to four months. Unfortunately, we didn't factor in how long the lawyer process would take.

Months and months of painful back and forths, and document gathering, and letter writing went on and on, until finally in March 2016 our appeal was filed, almost one year since the denial at the Embassy. Eight months later, and here we are.

The USCIS updates their website monthly with a status of where they are with the files. Not where they are with each individual file mind you, just with all of them in general. As of October 15th, they had completed every file they had received up to February 16, 2016. They received ours March 4, 2016. It's been 28 days since they completed up to February 16 and there's only 16 days between February 16 and March 4, so... any day now, right?

. . . . . . . . . . 

Looking back on these three years of the process and two and half years of being mostly separated from my husband, there's lots of questions in hindsight.

Why didn't we get a lawyer in the beginning... well I'll tell you why, Gregory wasn't and isn't a criminal, and we are really, actually married. Getting a lawyer never crossed our minds. Moving to another country is expensive enough, adding legal fees on top of it seemed unnecessary. Could've would've should've let me tell ya. 

Why didn't we stay in France, and wait to move after it was approved... well, who would've possibly thought it would be denied or even take this long? I mean really? Who could've seen this coming? I wanted to get to the States and get a head start on our life together and get back into the working world, and build a family, and a home. (Gee, Sara... how did that work out for you?)

Since it was taking so long, why not move back to Europe and live with Gregory until it was over... this is the one that haunts me the most, but the thing is, when you're in the process, you really have no idea how long it's going to take. It's kind of setup in like increments of 2-3 months. I can't move back to Europe and leave my dog with my mother and jeopardize my career and sign a lease for 2-3 months. But oh, only if we had known those 2-3 month increments would go on for so long, if we had only known (cue tears).

. . . . . . . . . . 

So here we are, three years on. Me at my mother's in Texas, and Gregory still not allowed to enter the U.S., sharing a flat in Dublin with two people. And bonus, he has a single bed, not exactly an easy place for me to stay.

But we are almost at the finish line, no matter if the appeal has worked or not, we are finally almost at the finish line. Our marriage has taken a beating and we've spent almost $40 grand, but either way, we're almost there.

Keep your fingers crossed kids, it's almost over.

P.S. It's not all doom and gloom. On Friday I'm meeting Gregory in London. Cheerio old chaps! 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Summer Vacation Saves All


You know, the one thing I've learned from this whole, horrendous, drawn out visa process, is that focusing on the positive is imperative. I've always been a glass-half full kind of gal anyway, but now, I'm a glass three quarters full, because let's face it if I wasn't, I'd probably be locked away in the loony bin somewhere. That said, while Gregory's visa denial was beyond dreadful, the timing, was actually pretty good.

(Since I mentioned it, I feel like now is a good time to drop this fun fact on y'all - while Gregory was notified of his visa denial when the embassy returned his unstamped passport to him, I still have yet to be. That's right, I'm the petitioner, and as such should have received notification, but someone cocked up and I still haven't gotten a letter or email to let me know. Way to go America, way to go. My lawyer is on it.)

We got the bad news three days before I was due to fly to Dublin to kick off our summer vacation. You're probably wondering how that could possibly be good timing but here it is; we had a couple of days to process the news, and make a plan (of course that initial plan was defunct about 312 plans ago, but still, we had a plan), and for the shock to wear off, so by the time I was on a plane that Saturday morning in May, we were ready to focus on us, and fun, and to enjoy ourselves. All talk of visas, waiting times, separations, or oh my God what are we going to do, was banned.

So I set off from San Antonio for a few days with my family in Dublin, before reuniting with Gregory in France to return to my old stomping grounds, and my French crew for a three week break from the bull$@*#. There would be laughter, and joy, and South of France sunshine, and goats cheese salads, and Zara, and by God, there would be Rosé. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Unexpected

{this will be me, a lot}

I've been thinking about writing this post for awhile, like, a long while, but I was waiting for things to settle down a bit and for us to have an actual plan in place, and now we do.

So here's the deal; Gregory didn't get his green card, as in denied, denied, denied. That's right kids, D E N I E D. Feel free to take a moment to shout expletives, I know I did. This is what went down and why.

Way back in 2003, Gregory was working as a bouncer at a club. There was a drunk guy who was harassing other patrons and Gregory asked him to leave. He wouldn't and his behavior escalated, shouting abuse at Gregory and the people standing in line waiting to get in. Gregory's boss urged Gregory to get him to go. After many verbal attempts, with zero success, Gregory shoved the guy. The guy fell, got up, and left. That's it.

But then, for what I can only guess was an attempt to get money, the guy brought charges against Gregory and the club. As you can imagine, they were quite surprised. But then, the drunk guy came to his senses and decided not to show up to court, and his lawyer stated that he wanted to drop the charges because he knew he was drunk and at fault. But here's the kicker, Gregory was in court already, so the judge said to Gregory that while he was only doing his job, he was young and needed to learn how to do it better, and he gave him 100 hours of community service. And that was that.

Fast forward nine years to life in Le Petit Village. Remember this post when I said that some stuff had gone down and we needed to get away for a bit? Well here's why... At the village festival, which also happened to be Gregory's birthday, there was an incident.

It was the end of the evening, and the village square which had been closed to traffic had just been reopened, but people were still milling about. A car came speeding through, almost hitting Gregory and his friends. Gregory hit his hand on the hood of the car and then waved his hand in a 'slow down' motion (I know this because I was across the street and saw the whole thing). The driver shouted, "go eff yourself," but in French and not as polite as that. I'm sorry to say that Gregory did not react very gentlemanly like to that, and a fight ensued.

It was a mess, but it was a fight, a dumb, boys being boys fight. Our evening came to end and we all moved on, or so I thought.

A week later, the police showed up at our door to question Gregory because check this out... the guy who Gregory got into a fight with pressed charges and said that it was a racially motivated attack. W H A T ? ! This guy said that he was innocently driving through the village and big Aryan looking Gregory saw him and ran after the car with a baseball bat (where did the bat come from???) shouting for the [insert racially charged words] to get the [insert bad words] out of his village.

That didn't happen.

The case went to court, the racist charges were dropped because the judge wasn't an idiot and saw through that one, and then he ruled that it was a mutual altercation, as in a fight, that's it, not assault, certainly not a hate crime, but a fight, between a couple of idiots. And that was that.

Or so I thought, because Gregory's Green Card was denied on the basis of Moral Turpitude.

P O P P Y C O C K! I wrote to the Embassy and requested another interview because surely they were misinterpreting the court records but get this, the consular officer told me that it's not what happened, or what the outcome was, it's that the charges that were brought against Gregory, COULD have resulted in bigger convictions. Feel free to take a moment to shout expletives, I know I did.

So here we are now, beginning the fun-filled waiver process. The process is expected to take six to seven months, and in the meantime, I'm in Texas, and Gregory is in Dublin (he's working there at the moment and long story short - it makes more financial sense for him to be there right now instead of France).

But here's the kicker, when Gregory's Green Card was denied, his ESTA was revoked (for those who don't know, and ESTA is the visa waiver that people in numerous countries use to travel to the U.S.) so he can't even enter the U.S.! That's right, Gregory has become persona non grata on U.S. soil because he shoved a guy in 2003 and got into a fight in 2012. Feel free to take a moment to shout expletives, I know I did.

#$@&%*! #$@&%*! #$@&%*!

I'm sorry for taking so long to tell you guys what's been going on, but I just haven't had it in me. These past few months have been rough with a capital R. But I do miss y'all, and I think about you often, and maybe now that I've broken the ice again, I might make it back here from time to time.

P.S. Fifty says hi.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

encore


Here I am again, alone after saying goodbye to Gregory. (Well not technically alone... I do live at my mother's house after all, and of course there's Fifty too). But unlike the last few goodbyes, this time we can truly say that the end is near. (Please, please, please, oh pretty please!)

So this is where we're at... Gregory flew to Dublin today and will arrive early tomorrow morning. After a night out with my brother, he'll fly on to Marseille Thursday morning. (There is a logic to this Dublin trip, trust me.)

Once he gets to France he'll check in with the crew; The Croupier, Honey Jr, a very pregnant Honey's Honey, and of course, his Bumder. Then in a few weeks, the big show... the Green Card interview in Paris... DUN DUN DUN! (I felt like that required a DUN DUN DUN.)

All going well (please, please, please, oh pretty please), he'll have his Green Card by the end of the month. Can you believe it? I mean really, can you? It's been like a million, zillion, years (not really, but seventeen months is an awful long time when you're thinking it's going to be like, nine).

OK, then it's May and Gregory is going to stay put in France tying up loose ends and what not and at the end of the month, I'm going to fly to Dublin (Dublin again... stay with me). On my second night in the Fair City, I'll be meeting my Auntie Ilene (who if you remember is not my real Aunt but an awesome honorary one) and her cohorts for dinner and to give them a quick tour of my old stomping grounds since they'll be visiting for a few days. And then, the next morning, bright and early, I'll be flying to France and finally meeting up with Gregory (it will only be seven weeks apart this time, we can do seven weeks on our heads).

So we'll have one week together in France vacationing and celebrating. I'm thinking a nice stroll around Aix with the obligatory glass of pink, a quick trip to Avignon because I love it so, lunch at Bonaparte's in Cassis, Toulon to meet up with my old sidekick, Mrs. London, Saint-Rémy-de-Provence and Les Baux-de-Provence because why not, and of course Le Petit Village. Sounds like a plan. (ATTN: France, you might want to stock up on the Rosé).

After a week living it up à la Française, we'll be flying together to Dublin (there it is) and spending a few days hanging out with my family and catching up with friends before returning to the U.S. together to begin (finally begin) our American life together.

So that's where we're at. Still not there yet, but almost. Please, please, please, oh pretty please!

What about you? Where are you at?

Saturday, March 14, 2015

ALL the good juju

It happened guys, it finally happen... WE HAVE A DATE FOR GREGORY'S GREEN CARD INTERVIEW! Cue singing: Hallelujah Hallelujah Ha-ll-e-lu-jah.

I have been dreaming of this moment for so long and in my head it went like this: I would reach my hand into the mailbox and pull out a letter from the NVC, I'd open the letter, and immediately start shrieking with joy and doing a happy dance before running into the house where the celebratory joy would continue. There would be laughter and cheerful tears and hugs.

This is what actually happened: the other afternoon I checked my email and there was one from the NVC (which honestly usually makes me panic now more than happy... it's a Pavlov's response kind of thing at this point), I held my breath before clicking it open. After scrolling through the standard blah blah who cares that they write in all of their letters, I finally got to the important part... Gregory's interview had been scheduled!

There was no jumping up and down, no shrieking, no celebratory dancing, instead, Gregory and I just kept looking at the email in a state of shock. Sure we were excited (are excited), but we've been waiting so long that we couldn't believe it. We just kind of sat there, staring at the email. (Way to go NVC, you've broken us, clearly we no longer have the ability to feel joy).

Bottom line though, we have an interview date! Cue golden trumpets. And bonus, it's much earlier than we thought it would be, as in it's next month. Next month! Can you believe it? We can't. It's almost over! Oh my goodness, it's almost over!

Now, I know that this is going to sound a little nutty, but you guys know I'm a little nutty so indulge me please, I don't want to say the exact date in case of some weird jinxy-ju thing happening. But, it is in April, and I would appreciate it if you guys could start throwing some good juju our way in a few weeks. Every bit helps you know, so give me your juju please. Thank you. I love you guys. Cue the virtual hugs. 

But listen to this coincidence... because nothing in my life is ever straightforward, and the universe does like to give me the occasional spanking every now and then just to keep me on my toes... the interview date has been scheduled on the very same day that Gregory was going to be flying home. The very same day... what are the odds? HA, thanks universe, you're so funny! No worries, we'll just buy another plane ticket because that's what we do, we buy plane tickets. Cue my wallet weeping

Friday, March 6, 2015

Did you know?


Did you know that I started a new job? I did, and I love it; love it, love it, love it. But did you know that sometimes when you start a new job that you love, it can kind of consume you. It's true, not in a bad way, but in a good way, and when your brain is thinking of all of this amazing new job stuff, you're not thinking about other stuff, like oh I don't know... blogging. Oops.

Did you know that I'm blonde now? Not blonde-blonde, but kind of sort of blonde, and it's long, a bit too long, so I'm thinking of cutting it like that girl in that show, Allegiance. (Speaking of Allegiance, I haven't made my mind up about it yet, have you?)

Did you know that Broadchurch is an awesome show? Not the American one, the English one. (In fairness, I've never seen the American one so I can't say if it's awesome or not, but why would I watch the American one anyway, if I watch the English one? Same show, different accents. Dumb.)

Did you know that I celebrated my birthday for the first in America in like, eleven years? I did last month, and I celebrated with a Raclette. Of course I did.

Did you know that they make Red Velvet ice cream? They do, and it's delicious! I can pretty much kiss bikini season goodbye for like ever (but who am I kidding, at my age it should really be maillot season anyway).

Did you know that they're making Rosé in the Texas Hill Country now? They are, and it's pretty darn good. It's not exactly the same as South of France Rosé, but it's tasty none the less. Santé y'all!

Did you know that Honey Jr and Honey's Honey's little Baby Honey is due next month? It's true. We're all more than a little excited about this arrival. Cannot wait to see that little honey face!

Did you know that Gregory has been here for three weeks? Three weeks. I can't tell if it flew by or not. When he gets here, we snap back into married life routine right quick, except we're not in our own home with our own stuff and that blows. Boo.

Did you know that our five year wedding anniversary is in two weeks? Now that did fly by!

Did you know that we're do for a Green Card update from the National Visa Center this week? We are, but the week is almost over so.... HURRY THE EFF UP NVC! Please and thank you.

Did you know that as of this week I've been back in the U.S. for exactly one year? I'm not going to delve into the thoughts I have about the fact that it's been a year and where I thought we'd be by now, verse where we actually are because I'm choosing to focus on the positive, but #$@%*! And breathe.

Did you know that I miss you? I do, every single one of you.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

boom


Something strange happened last week, a house behind mine blew up. IT BLEW UP, like BOOM.

It was late Tuesday morning and I was busying myself with work and getting ready for Gregory's arrival the next day. I walked into the laundry room and turned on the washing machine, and as I stood there measuring out the detergent, a loud bang rumbled through the house shaking me and the room. I steadied myself to catch my breath. I had no idea what had happened, but whatever it was, I had felt it through me.

A couple of seconds later and I was running down the stairs, I was sure a large truck had caused the bang by ramming into the front of the house. But thankfully no, the house was intact, and my mother and Fifty were OK. Pulling on my shoes, I ran outside and looked around. From behind house a few doors down, I could see a large cloud of black smoke began to billow into the sky.

It wasn't a normal house fire, it had been an explosion.

The next few minutes were manic; a few of my neighbors came out onto the street and the police arrived, and then miraculously, the survivor of the explosion made his way onto our street. He was walking and lucid but a reddish-black color and his clothes had been blown off of him and were hanging in shreds. He said that all he had done was turn his television on. GAS!

The police said that those of us on my side of the street needed to clear out. Another woman and I made our way down the street banging on doors urging people to leave their homes, no answer, no answer, no answer. And as I ran back into my house to grab Fifty, I was terrified and holding my breath.

Soon police were positioned in our neighborhood blocking off entrances and sirens were heard all over. The smoke cloud changed from black to white, and we were allowed to return home.

It had only been an hour. How had it only been an hour? In only one hour, a house directly behind mine and only three doors down had exploded so ferociously, that it blew out the windows of one house next door, and completely destroyed the other, the police had come, the ambulance had come, Air Life had flown in, the gas company had come (THANKFULLY), and then we were back inside to carry on our day.

And we're all OK; the poor man is doing well, recovering in the hospital with burns covering 80% of his body, Fifty is fine, Gregory arrived, and other than randomly panicking because I constantly think I smell gas, I'm alright.

So here it is, you never know what a day will bring so use them wisely. Use them wisely.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Pin It button on image hover