Well as some of you may know, Tony lives in Florida and I live in the UK. Over the last 18 months, I’ve done 6 trips over to Florida and Tony has made 2 to the UK.
Anyway, last summer we had the opportunity to spend a year together in Florida as I’d managed to get a years unpaid leave. All I needed was a little document called a Visa to make it all possible. I had my interview booked for early August and went armed with all the necessary documentation as stated on the US Embassy website. I had proof of my intention to return, proof of finance, a place to stay… everything, or so I thought.
I was 100% confident that the visa was mine. After all, there was no reason for me not to get it. I’ve never broken the law or done anything wrong. My job requires a CRB check (Criminal Records Bureau) reguarly or I don’t work, so I knew I was an ok person.
Imagine my horror at the interview when I was questioned about Tony… did I have his green card number? What was his Social Security number? Did I have his passport with me? I was floored. I’d put on my application that I would be staying at his address, so they wanted to check him out too. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any of his documentation with me. I had no idea that they’d want that.
When the consular officer said the words ‘I’m sorry but your application for a visa has been denied’ it was like the room span and I wasn’t hearing properly. I was distraught. I couldn’t understand why I’d been denied. She explained that she didn’t believe I was a genuine tourist but could still travel under the visa waiver programme- that allows entry for up to 90 days.
So, after such a shock, I had to rearrange everything. I’d given notice on my apartment and had to move out. Flights had to be changed, which costs a fortune. We changed my return to the end of October which was well within the 90 day limit.
However, after poking around on the net, I discovered it was more than likely that I’d be stopped by immigration at Miami and interviewed again. It was highly likely that I could be denied entry and sent home on the next flight. So, I took EVERY shred of documentation I had not only on myself, but on Tony too.
A nine hour flight is bad enough, but when you know that you could be facing an interrogation at the other end and then have to come straight back, it turns the flight into an ordeal. To say I was an emotional wreck would be an understatement, but I had to appear calm on the outside as I knew immigration would try and pull me apart during questioning.
About 2/3rds of the way through the flight, it became obvious that there was a medical emergency on board the plane. Unfortunately, an elderly gentleman suffered a heart attack and died during the flight. Ok, so what’s this got to do with my situation? Well, when we landed in Miami, of course all I wanted to do was get off the plane and get whatever was ahead of me over and done with. But no, the authorities had other plans. As it was a sudden death, the Police made the plane a crime scene whilst they conducted enquiries. So there we were… a plane full of people already exhausted from the flight, with a dead body laid in the aisle, sat on the tarmac being held by the Police for an hour after the flight landed.
Eventually we were allowed to leave and I made my way to passport control and my heart was pounding. I felt sick and was shaking all over. As I expected, I was asked to step aside and wait for a colleague. I was then taken to ‘secondary’ and told to sit and wait. So I sat. And I waited. And I sat some more. And waited some more. There were approximately 75 people sitting and waiting with me and more people arriving all the time. The officers at the desk although mostly polite, were obviously not the easiest of people to deal with. I also knew that Tony was sat in arrivals not knowing what on earth was happening, although he’d obviously expected for me to be questioned.
After 2 hours, I was called forward and asked a few standard questions. Ok, I had the answers, but when the next 3 months of your life depends on the person in front of you and you’re aware that the whole waiting room can hear you, it’s difficult to speak clearly and consisely.
I’m not going to go into detail over what happened for the rest of the night…yes, you read correctly, the rest of the night. Thankfully there was no latex glove action LOL!! I was denied entry and then, thankfully, parolled in until the end of October. I was held for 15 hours in total whilst they built a case to support my visa application. The authorities were angry and embarrassed that they and I were in the situation we were because ‘some A** H*** having a bad day’ denied my visa application… oh, those were the words of the Chief Officer, not my own
Before I left the UK, I’d already made an appointment for my next interview with the Embassy for shortly after my return. Miami assured me that they’d made and supported a case record for me that would ensure me a visa. As it stands now, as I’ve been denied a visa and subsequently denied entry, I am not allowed to travel to the States.
When I was eventually released, I almost ran through the airport to the arrivals area where Tony had been waiting all night for me. We’d been allowed a couple of short calls but it was very difficult to talk openly to him in front of officers. We were both exhausted, cold and emotionally drained. That experience took me a good 3 weeks to recover from before I could settle in Florida.
When I returned, I went for the second interview. I’d already arranged to go back to work and found somewhere new to live. I couldn’t risk being turned down again, and end up with no job for a year and nowhere to live.
When you go to the Embassy for an interview, although you’re given a time, you’re sent to sit in a waiting room with approx 3-400 other people. And again you sit and you wait. It was a very nerve jangling wait too. I was eventually called and interviewed. It was explained to me that the reason I had been previously denied was because the officer felt I wanted to live in America, despite the fact I had evidence of my intention to return. I was told that further enquiries needed to be made into what Miami had prepared and I should hear in about two weeks.
Two weeks came and went, no news. Meantime I’d returned to work, faced all the ‘poor you’ and ‘what’s happening now’ questions (they’re still going on actually). When I checked the Embassy website, it clearly states you may not contact the Embassy for an update until 60 days have elapsed after the interview.
So Tony booked his flights and came to the UK for Christmas. Whilst he was here, the 60 days had elapsed and I called the Embassy. I was spoken to by a very rude person, who didn’t even take any details from me. I was told to just wait. It could take 8-16 weeks. So when Tony went home, we had no idea when we’d see each other again. It might not be until the summer when he comes back over.
Yesterday I got brave and called again. This time I got through to a really nice man who took my details and was surprised that I’d not heard anything. He asked me to email a certain department and gave me a new reference number. His response suggested to me that a decision has been made.
So, the email is sent. I received an automated reply saying it could take 3-4 days for a response. So that’s why I need your positive vibes. Theoretically, they have no reason to deny me. In reality I know they can do whatever they like. If I get the visa, I’ll fly out to Florida mid February, then April and late May as that’s when the school holidays are here and I work in education, so I get that time off. If I don’t get it, then we wait til Tony can fly here in the summer.
Added by Tony
And if Debbie doesn’t get a visa, since I get precious little time off in a year, we will not be able to see each other until July, which is unthinkable. Thankfully these days we have webcams, email and cheap phone calls, but that is no substitute for being together. Sure we can see each other and talk, but we can’t hug or kiss, go places together, and begin our lives together. If you can imagine what’s it’s like at the weekend for example… The weather could be perfect, there could be places to go, festivals, concerts, or even just walks in the country or along the beach, but you can’t do that when you aren’t together. So many weekends have passed already when neither of us have had the desire to do anything because we are on our own. And so one weekend after another drags slowly past, especially those long holiday weekends, and both of us are not getting any younger.
Any positive thoughts you can send out for us will be much appreciated.