S. Worthen (owlfish) wrote,
S. Worthen

Obtaining a visa

After weeks - no, months - of rallying papers and forms and bouts of worry - I took the elevator up to the thirteenth floor of the Wrigley Building in Chicago for my 10am appointment to obtain a settlement visa for the UK. Underneath the digital floor number display scrolled a message, welcoming the elevator's occupants to the building and helpfully informing them of the time and temperature in both celsius and fahrenheit. The building was rather grand but the office, entered after a bag-search and metal detector walk-through, was a small drab space. Fifteen rather comfortable waiting room chairs, a long wall desk for form-filling out, a television and windows for vacant gazing, and three counter windows for submitting documentation. The walls were decorated in posters advertising Neil's Dairy. I sat down and waited for my number to be called.

Both halves of curlicued white building might be the Wrigley Building, or perhaps only the left tower.

In a room so small, it's hard not to choose eavesdropping as entertainment. We could all easily hear the counter discussions. Some people hadn't filled in an appliction form; another hadn't brought any documentation with them. A child beaming from her mother's arms had her lost sandal returned to her by a concerned fellow-waiter. At the desk, a man furrowed his brow as he tried to determine what the form was actually asking him. Up at the counter, a worker questioned an applicant's savings. Within fifteen minutes, it was my turn.

I handed over my application and the woman said she'd have to defer my case to her superior officer. Everyone else there was applying for more transient visas, it seemed - student, work, transit. There was no space in the counter's slot to hand over my whole binder. The superior officer met me by a side door and took the whole binder from me. Come back in half an hour, he said, and gave me a slip of paper to allow building re-entry.

My hotel was all of three minutes away, so I went back to read and rest there to while away the time. Listening to everyone elses' cases had made me tranquil. Anyways, I could hardly add any more evidence to the file when it was out of my hands.

I came back at 11 for another 10 minutes wait. The senior officer met me with a smile, complimenting me effusively on how well-documented my application was. (A relief for him after all the applicants who hadn't even filled in the form?) He said I'd proven the duration of the relationship, that they'd grant me "Indefinite Leave to Remain", a much more convenient alternative to the possible "Limited Leave to Remain" that they might have granted me had I proved my case less thoroughly. He gave me back my binder and told me to return at 2:30.

Through the bright sunshine, my father and I went to lunch at a respectable Thai place he'd found, right next to the Thai consulate. We walked the labyrinth painted on the ground by the Episcopalian cathredral; the cathedral itself was closed to visitors. We walked past fountains, along the river, sat in the sunshine. I took photos, returning the camera to him when 2:30 neared. Whether or not they were enforced, the building rules specified "No Electronics".

We were all told to return at 2:30, and our line stretched out the door of the small room. It moved swiftly though. All we were doing was collecting our passports and checking the details were correct. One woman had been issued a student visa instead of a work permit. Mine was all correct, though, a pale sticker with a picture of me, my life in minimal statistics, my permission to move to the UK and live with C. In the end, for all my worrying, it was all very easy.
Tags: moving experiences
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