The Time Daddy Moved To North Carolina
An immigration visa interview has been scheduled for the applicant at the US Embassy/Consulate in Montreal on February 16, 2010 at 8:30 am.
That's exactly what the attached notice from the United States Department of State National Visa Center said when our immigration lawyer sent the email to us on January 11, 2010.
We had a little over 30 days left until I could finally get approved for my Permanent Resident visa and move to North Carolina to be with Randa and move into our newly built house.
Randa received the email in North Carolina and I received it in Vancouver, we had been married for almost one year but living in different countries the entire time while waiting for the immigration application we submitted nearly a year before to be processed.
We could have done things differently but we decided to take our lawyer's advice and do things the right way, even if it meant we would have to wait about a year to be together, it was the right way to enter the United States as a legal Permanent Resident.
How do I move to North Carolina?
I proposed to Randa at Chapel Hill on January 21, 2009 right before we saw our very first North Carolina Tar Heels basketball game together, a 94-70 Tar Heels victory over Clemson.
Tickets to the game were a Christmas present from Randa a month before, so I almost immediately decided the North Carolina basketball game would be the night when I would finally propose marriage. It seemed like the perfect location to ask her to marry me because Randa was from a Tar Heels family, and I loved watching Michael Jordan when he was with the Chicago Bulls.
The funniest part of that night was when we wanted to enjoy our new engagement with a celebratory drink so when we got into the Dean Smith Center we went to the concession stand and asked for two ice-cold beers. The concession worker laughed and said she'd have to ask her supervisor. Maybe she was a new employee and didn't know how to work the keg?
A minute later her supervisor showed up and reminded us we weren't at a professional basketball game, we were at a student event and alcohol was not served or permitted inside the arena.
Oh. OK. Our mistake. Go Heels!
After the Tar Heels crushed the Tigers AGAIN, we visited an immigration lawyer the next day to discuss our options on how I could legally enter the United States. We had a vague idea of what we were up against because we did some online research but we decided to consult with an attorney to make sure we didn't miss any steps along the way.
We told the attorney our situation and the first thing he asked me is if there was any reason for me to go back to Canada now? He said we could get married while I was here in North Carolina on my week long visit and then submit the paperwork to get my permanent residence through legal marriage to a U.S. citizen.
Hmmm...we thought about that for a second.
He said the whole process would take about a year or so and it would give us the opportunity to be together but I wouldn't be able to legally work in the United States while awaiting my visa. And if I was caught working 'under the table' then my visa would almost assuredly be denied. It definitely wasn't an option he was endorsing.
We were almost in shock at the idea of me not going home. How would we afford that? Me not working for a year? What would I do? What about my life back home? We'd probably drive each other crazy!
We asked what the other option was and our attorney told us we could get married here in North Carolina and then I could go back home to Canada and wait for the permanent visa application to be approved. But I wouldn't be allowed to cross the border into the United States while the visa was being processed, I would just have to wait and wait and wait, and Randa would have to visit me in Vancouver instead of the other way around.
The decision was a no-brainer for us.
We would get married in North Carolina and then I would return home to my job in Canada and wait for the visa to arrive.
Our Wedding & Trips To Vancouver
Randa likes to tease me that moving from Vancouver to North Carolina was my mid-life crisis.
I was 39 years old getting ready to pack up and leave my family and friends in Vancouver, quit my pretty good job and basically start over in a completely new country. On the surface it may have looked like a mid-life crisis but it definitely didn't feel like it to me, I was super excited to be with Randa because we both knew right from the start we were meant to be together.
We were married for the first time on February 21, 2009 in front of her parents at the small country church she attended while growing up in North Carolina.
I still remember asking her Dad to fix my tie in the backroom before the ceremony started. And I also remember Randa and I getting into our SUV after the wedding on our way to our honeymoon...as soon as we started the engine our song came booming through the speakers. We looked at each other in shock! What are the odds! Our song is on right as soon as we get married!?! This is meant to be!!
Then I looked in the rear-view mirror and saw Randa's Mom standing there with a big smile on her face. She had put a CD in the player so our song would start up as soon as we put the key in the ignition. That was really cool.
During the next 12 months Randa visited me in Vancouver once a month for about a week at a time. We split the cost and had a great time during that year...I still can't believe she would work her double shifts on the weekends, get in her car and drive all night to Charlotte to catch an early Monday morning flight to Vancouver. By the time I picked her up at the airport on Monday evenings she was practically sleep-walking.
While all of these monthly visits were happening, my Permanent Resident visa application was being processed.
I still have all the emails from Randa to the lawyer, they're a lengthy email chain full of questionaires, official documents, medical records, requests of information and status updates. After our initial consultation with the immigration lawyer back in January, we decided to retain his services to help us with all the paperwork and to make sure all our ducks were in a row. That was probably a wise move because we had lots of questions for our attorney along the way.
People often ask me if we ever thought about Randa moving to Canada instead of me moving to North Carolina? We discussed it briefly but I knew the right thing to do was for me to move to be with her. She knew it too.
Randa loves her family and friends and there's no way I would have asked her to leave them behind. The truth is I would have moved anywhere to be with her, this wasn't a mid-life crisis...this was Daddy being head over heels in love with Mama.
The 12 months after we were married were fun but they were also costly. You can do the math: week long trips to Vancouver....the airfare, the entertainment, the immigration processing fees...my gosh, the fees!
Not to mention trying to build a new house while I was still living in Vancouver and Randa handling practically everything to do with the house...all of the mortgage stuff, the contractor's, the decisions to be made, the paperwork to be completed, it was very, very difficult and very stressful.
Things would sometimes get heated, I remember one morning when I was on the way to work and Randa called to ask me what shape I wanted the dormer windows to be. Dormer windows? What are dormer windows? Ugh, I don't know...just pick one!!
The visa application couldn't get approved soon enough. The months wore on and we started to predict when it would get processed.
Maybe it will be Canadian Thanksgiving? Nope. How about American Thanksgiving? Nope.
Hey, Christmas is coming up...do you think they'll issue it over the Christmas holidays? Nope, not then either.
And then finally on January 11th, 2010 we got an email from our lawyer advising an immigration interview has finally been scheduled...the interview was scheduled for all the way across the country in Montreal, five days short of our one year marriage anniversary.
Montreal was cold in February. I mean, it was bone-chilling cold and windy.
Randa booked a flight from North Carolina to Montreal and I booked one from Vancouver. We were going to spend five days together in La Belle Province, doing some sight-seeing and eating at some delicious restaurants.
We enjoyed the old architecture, toured some beautiful churches, watched the kids skate on the outdoor hockey rinks and aced my immigration interview at the Embassy on February 16th.
I honestly don't remember any of the questions the interviewer asked us. We were led into a tiny room and we spoke to an interviewer who sat behind a glass partition. I was nervous although I didn't have anything to be nervous about; my medical checkup, proof of employment for the previous 10 years, affidavits, notarized documents from police precincts in the cities I lived in showing no criminal records, birth certificates, marriage certificates, proof of our mortgage together, proof of our monthly visits to Vancouver, complete with plane ticket receipts and handfuls of pictures of us together were all in order. With the help of our lawyer we didn't overlook anything.
After the immigration interview, Randa was scheduled to fly home to North Carolina and the plan was for me to go with her but it didn't quite work out that way. When I booked my flight to Montreal I didn't book a return flight to Vancouver because I thought I would get my application approved right there on the spot. Silly me.
When I didn't receive my Permanent Resident card immediately after I had my interview I grudgingly booked a flight home to Vancouver dreading the thought of waiting again. Who knows how long it will take to be approved?
I had anticipated returning back to North Carolina with Randa so I had already said goodbye to Vancouver, to my family and to my job. Now I had to return to Vancouver and wait some more? Ugh.
The next day or two are a complete blur to me. I was still in Montreal waiting for my return flight to Vancouver and Randa was already back in North Carolina when I got a call from my Dad who said there was registered mail addressed to me in Vancouver. I told him to open it!
There it was, my application was approved and I finally had my Permanent Resident visa. The problem was it was all the way back in Vancouver and I was still in Montreal!
My Dad agreed to FedEx it overnight to my hotel in Montreal (more fees) and I called Air Canada to cancel my flight back to Vancouver and then booked a new flight to North Carolina.
My flight touched down and I officially entered the United States and moved to North Carolina on February 21, 2010...exactly on our one year marriage anniversary.
Best anniversary present ever.