Immigration Headaches

Everything is more difficult when you’re the foreigner.  Little things frequently become bigger deals and more time consuming than they would be in your home country.  And Steve has been gone for so long, he’s practically a foreigner, too.  Last week we headed to the bank to add me to Steve’s bank account.  At first, they couldn’t find his account, giving us quite a scare, due to the amount of money we had waiting in it.  After they tracked it down, I was added with what seemed little difficulty.  However, we got a call the next day that they had forgotten to make a copy of my visa (permission to be here, not the credit card), so if I could “pop back in”, that would be great.  Any parent of young children knows you don’t just “pop” anywhere—every trip is a project.   And everything is smaller here—smaller towns, less options, less convenience.  So the bank is a 20 minute drive away in the one major shopping district of the shire (county), and in the centre of the large shopping mall-type place mentioned previously, that I actually really like the concept of.   But we had to go there anywhere because we keep discovering things we need to get, and need to do, so it worked out with little problem. 

I do feel there is a sense of genuine-“ness” in those employed in service jobs here.  When the banker called to ask me to bring my visa in, she first asked how my kids did the night before, if we were settling in ok.  So far, in pretty much every bureaucracy, or government agency I have had to deal with, from the customs officer at the airport last week to the constable at the absolute country bumpkin police station where I had my fingerprints taken today, the people have been not necessarily polite, but rather truly friendly and interested in me and my situation.  Steve agrees, knowing his experience in the US, that  people are often more interested to talk to a foreigner and learning what brought them to their country, which is fun.

Yesterday, we tried to apply for Medicare cards, which allow us to use the public health option here.  We had filled out an enrolment form, and, after reading it about four times, were fairly certain we could apply for the card without applying for residency.  So, of course, after getting there (same shopping centre as the bank!), and waiting in line, we found out we were wrong.  Steve was able to get his, but the rest of us would have to wait.  Fortunately, treatment for any emergency here is not nearly as expensive as in the US, so if we have to pay out of pocket for anything while we wait, it is not as horrific as it would have been back home.

So, after that, we made applying for residency our priority.  Now we were still a bit unsure if we would actually make this move until about June this year.  So, when Steve tried to get us all residency cards from the US, they told him that although they are not allowed to formally recommend this option, it can take up to a year for the forms to process while we were still living overseas, so the most practical way to do it was to come in on a tourist visa and then apply.  Well for anyone trying this, if you choose that option, at least read over the requirements and get some of your documents ready before leaving the US!  We did not…..

As the sponsor, Steve needs a letter from his former employer—shouldn’t be too hard to get.  But I need criminal background checks done with full sets of fingerprints by both the FBI and the state of Colorado.  The FBI’s take about 8 weeks, and to send them there and get them back here should add about 3—that brings us up to the length of my visa!  Luckily, as I said, everyone has been super helpful and we learned that I can submit my application without the fingerprints, which will extend my visa while we wait—whew!  So, we spent four hours at least today getting all the correct forms printed off and filled out, my fingerprints taken twice at the local police station and sent by express mail to the correct US addresses. 

The best news of all is that the boys are Aussies, by virtue of Steve!  No dramas there and no cost, just a few forms to fill out—at least some things are easy.

Aside from the polite, friendly people, the bright spot for me of today was a splash of independence.  Since this area is so small, everything is easily accessible.  So, even though I am nervous to drive, I was able to go to the police station all by myself and take care of some business!  Afterwards I went for a jog/walk along the beach.  Both activities were so freeing and made me feel so accomplished!  This CO girl would feel proud doing something on my own in Wyoming, much less Australia!  It’s the little things, people….

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