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What a flurry of activity and information the last two weeks have brought us! And the emotional roller coaster has just gotten that much more intense!!

A few days after getting our fiance visa approval letter in the mail, we talked to Nancy, our immigration contact at Rep. Vern Ehlers’ office, who informed us that the Adjustment of Status process (i.e. the process by which an immigrant obtains Lawful Permanent Resident status) had changed yet again. Now rather than being handled through regional consulates and requiring a 90-day wait from time of application, AOS for the entire country is being handled through the National Benefit Center and because of the backlog, can take up to a year. Because employment authorization (EAD) and freedom to leave and re-enter the country (parole) are typically tied to AOS, this means that after we get married it could take up to a year before James would be allowed to get a job or leave the country. Bad news. Nancy did give us some reason to hope that because of this change in the timing of AOS processing, the USCIS may make it easier to get EAD and Advanced Parole separately from AOS. We don’t have solid information on that yet. So whether or not James will be able to go to Greenbelt is still uncertain, as is when he’ll actually be able to work.

Just before James came over two weeks ago and as we were starting to panic because of USCIS’ speedy processing as indicated by their website, James looked up the list of documents that he will need to provide at his American Embassy interview (where he gets the actual visa). The only thing he didn’t already have was a Police Certificate listing all of his arrests and convictions. (That list will be pretty short…) He filed for that immediately on April 13. The information he was able to get at the time indicated that the certificate could take up to 40 days to arrive – which would put him at May 24. And he needed to have it in his possession before he could let the Embassy know that he was ready to schedule his interview. Not really what we wanted to hear.

And then things started happening dramatically more quickly than we could have ever hoped.

The letter from the Nebraska Service Center indicating that our application had been approved and forwarded to the National Visa Center was postmarked April 12 and received by us on April 16. We were told that the NVC processing usually takes 2-4 weeks to process. But on April 26 we got a letter from them (dated April 22) that they had received our information and would be forwarding it to the American Embassy in London. So now we were just waiting for the Police Certificate and word from the Embassy.

I brought James back to O’Hare on April 26 for his flight back to England. It was a really hard goodbye as we really didn’t know how long all this processing would take or when we would see each other again

And then I got a call at 6:45 EDT this morning. It was James telling me that he had gotten the packet from the Embassy this morning. Hooray! And then he called me back 10 minutes later and said, “Promise not to scream in my ear”. His mum had called while we were talking to let us know that the police certificate had arrived!! WOOOHOOO!!!

So now I’ve pulled together most of the documentation needed for the affidavit of support (they need to know that James won’t become a dependent of the state) and will send that off to James ASAP. And as soon as he has his interview date I guess I’ll be going to get a marriage license.

Things haven’t worked out exactly as we’d originally planned. But they are working out somehow. And I guess that’s the important part.

Well, the good news is that James is here (i.e. in the US). Thanks to all of you who sent thoughts and prayers our way! I managed to give myself a momentary heart attack on Wednesday by being in the wrong waiting area for James at the International Arrivals area at O’Hare and thus thought his “where are you” call was a “they aren’t letting me through” call – especially when I couldn’t hear anything of what he was saying and the call was almost immediately dropped. James now tells me that they don’t allow the use of cell phones until you are past customs and immigration. Had I known this earlier, I could have saved myself the heart attack.

The “we’re not quite sure what to do with this” news is that the 2nd Notice of Action from the Nebraska Service Center came through notifying us that our fiance visa petition was approved. We were expecting that when this letter came we would meet it with overwhelming joy, but the timing of it kind of throws things off. We’re still working out exactly what to do from here. Stay tuned for forthcoming information. This does make it likely that we will actually be getting married before October 22, however, there will be something on October 22 and we are going ahead with plans for that.

In October 22 wedding/celebration/whatever it ends up being planning news, we picked up the bridesmaid dresses today (those took 6 1/2 weeks to come in!) and also got all the paper for making the invitations. James is designing those and is doing quite a smashing job of it. I can’t wait to see them put together!

The saga continues. At least now we know that the U.S. wants James. Which is certainly happy news for me. 🙂

As of Friday the NSC’s website said they were processing applications received on or before December 15, 2003. That’s just two days before they received ours. We’ve been reminded that we can’t go by what the website says and that even if they are indeed processing applications received on Dec. 15, it could still well be another month or two before they get to ours.

Nevertheless, it’s been an emotional and draining weekend as both James’ and my thoughts – and conversations – have been full of “what if”? We’ve discussed all sorts of possibilities and eventualities. Another wrench has been thrown into the mix: it takes up to 40 days to obtain the police certificate that James needs to have in his possession in order to get a visa interview appointment with the American Embassy in London. All of this leads to the very unlikeliness of James actually being able to come to the U.S. on May 18 (and he already has purchased that plane ticket) if our application gets approved before then.

The lesson here is that if your plans are dependent in any way on the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, either don’t make plans, or don’t cling to them too tightly.

James is flying to Chicago this Wednesday. If you are a praying person, please pray that Immigration will let him through. Thank you.

Slow down!!

Apparently my “Go, Lincoln, go!” cheer worked a little too well. Today their website is reporting that the Nebraska Service Center are processing fiance visa applications received on November 30, 2003.

Which now has me freaking out a little bit. At this rate we could very well get approval before May 18 which would not be good because then either James wouldn’t be able to come for the summer, or if he did he wouldn’t be able to go back for Greenbelt at the end of August (unless he was able to get Advanced Parole which costs a lot to apply for and, we’re told, is a long shot if it’s not an emergency). Neither option is a situation that we’re very thrilled about.

I like surprises and spontaneity in my life but there are some things that I would just to have be a little more predictable.

On pins and needles…

200 Days

Just noting that we are at T minus 200 days until October 22. There’s a lot to do yet – much of it is on hold until James gets here. So while I’m eager for the time to pass quickly, I’m glad to have space to enjoy the process and not feel the need to panic. We’ll see if I’m still saying that in 190 days…