Moving to Chelmsford (Summer 2016)

Because we are gluttons for punishment, only two weeks after returning to England (and returning to the correct mental time zone) we up and moved from Norwich to Chelmsford. Thankfully we had done all the house hunting beforehand, so it was just a case of packing up boxes and sorting out moving day.

But oh, were there boxes to be packed. Boxes and boxes. I don’t know how we keep expanding with each move, but it’s going to have to be slowed before we lose an entire room of the house to storage.¬†It’s always good fun to figure out how you last packed all your breakables before doing it again. One year I’ll photograph it all as it’s done so I remember. Maybe.

Due to time restraints and lack of willing (and wonderful) bodies to help us move, we hired movers for this round. It’s amazing how much faster a move goes when professionals are involved. A bit harrowing to watch though. M and I opted to take the train down to Chelmsford and sort out the rental paperwork whilst they put everything on the truck under the watchful eye of the in-laws. Keys were handed over in much better time than anticipated, so we ended up just kind of sitting on the floor of our new empty rental and waiting for the truck and parentals to arrive.

Everyone and everything arrived unscathed, apart from a flower vase that I had improperly wrapped. Not too shabby all things considered! With much help from the wonder in-laws, we unpacked the basics of the house and even built some flat pack furniture without too much profanity and blood loss. In a bit of a box fortress, but a functional box fortress, we bid adieu to the family and began to settle in for the year.

The excitement for the week (post-moving) came the next day with the arrival and installation of a dishwasher! We’d gone a year without one, and let me tell you what a luxury one is when you don’t have it anymore. Not only the ease of cleaning, but also having a space to put dirty dishes before washing that doesn’t cram your kitchen counters/sink and stink up the place. Let’s be honest – sometimes the night’s dishes don’t always get washed right after dinner. Especially when your husband has the ability to use every pot and pan in the house for even a mere casserole.

IMG_1008
What a sight for sore eyes.

Within a week we had tackled the majority of the boxes and put the rest into banishment in the loft. With the house looking vaguely child-safe, we had company over with their bright eyed little baby. Putting down a blanket in the back garden, this was a brilliant evening for catching up and having a BBQ. There were copious amounts of food as per usual, and no one burnt any hair off their face or arms, so it rates as a general BBQ success.

IMG_1043
Plus it may have just been an excuse to use the awesome new grill as soon as possible.

At the end of the weekend, we felt pretty much at home. We’d decorated some, we’d tidied, and we even met the neighbours. Oh, and the neighbourhood cats.

IMG_1083

I was back on the internet scouring for work, and M was doing well in his new posting for the year. Chelmsford is infinitely walk-able and I took advantage of this with my time off. By then I was (and still am) a firm slave to my FitBit. I have to say, the city doesn’t have the same charming feel of Norwich, but has everything you could need and is only 35 minutes away from London by train, so it’s a fair trade. All in all, life was good. Now to just find work again. I make a terrible housewife. ūüėČ

— Kate

The Great Visa Event

You always hear horror stories every now and then with anyone having to deal with federal governments, especially for permits and visas and such. For everyone following my summer’s rambles, you’ve realized that I quickly became one of these stories. At this point, I’ve decided to make a timeline of this ordeal for anyone else that may be searching the internet wondering where their visa and passport are if they end up in a weird situation like I did with an approved visa that just wouldn’t come home!

Without further ado, I give you – The Great Visa Event:

June 30: Completed the application online and paid the visa fee. After recovering from the pain of the standard cost of a visa ($527 in total), I did not choose to pay the additional $170 to have it fast-tracked to me.

Screen Shot 2014-08-17 at 05.19.50 pm

July 3: Completed biometrics in town and received my required receipt. Overnighted the application and all associated documents to the New York City British Consulate. (Didn’t arrive until July 5 due to the federal holiday and honestly probably wasn’t even looked at until Monday, July 7. The overnighting made me feel like I had some control though.) [3 days from start]

Screen Shot 2014-08-17 at 05.22.49 pm

July 8: Received confirmation that my application had been opened and that I should expect a decision in approximately 10 business days. [8 days from start]

Screen Shot 2014-08-17 at 05.25.55 pm

July 17: Visa was approved and I was notified via email in only 7 business days! [17 days from start]

Screen Shot 2014-08-17 at 05.27.15 pm

July 24: Received email stating that I had not sent my application with¬†a completed pre-paid return shipping label and appropriate packaging. (I did, but I’m not going to pick a fight over this. It may have just gotten lost.) Was told to follow specific instructions to give them a PDF of a pre-paid label via email to¬†UKVINewYork.Shipping@fco.gov.uk. I followed instructions and emailed the PDF to the consulate¬†the same day.¬†[24¬†days from start]

Screen Shot 2014-08-17 at 05.28.43 pm

July 31: Used UKVI’s contact form to ask why my tracking information still said pre-shipment. Was told to wait a few days and re-contact them with details.¬†[31¬†days from start]

Screen Shot 2014-08-17 at 05.30.20 pm

August 7: Messaged UKVI through their contact form again and was told that my visa had been approved and they would alert me when it was mailed out. Of which I was already aware.  Tracking status through USPS still showed pre-shipment. [38 days from start]

Screen Shot 2014-08-17 at 05.32.36 pm

August 8: Bought a second shipping label and emailed it to the consulate at UKVINewYork.Shipping@fco.gov.uk again as requested, assuming the first was lost in a spam box.  Sent a message to UKVINewYork.Correspondence@fco.gov.uk as suggested by others that had gone through the approved-application-gone-missing process and asked why my papers were still not in the mail. No response from either, and tracking status still showed as pre-shipment. [39 days from start]

Screen Shot 2014-08-17 at 05.34.27 pm

Screen Shot 2014-08-17 at 05.37.50 pm

August 12: Sent a repeat email of the PDF of the shipping label to UKVINewYork.Shipping@fco.gov.uk and repeated my message to UKVINewYork.Correspondence@fco.gov.uk asking where my documents had gone. Found another contact form through the UKVI website to lodge a complaint about missing documents after waiting 10 days. Sent them a message with my email and phone number to contact me. (Never did get a response from them, come to think of it.) [43 days from start]

August 13: Sent the PDF of the shipping label to UKVINewYork.Shipping@fco.gov.uk yet again and repeated my message to UKVINewYork.Correspondence@fco.gov.uk again. Called the pay-line for the UKVI and got to speak to a human who told me that there have been delays in shipping out processed visas. (That would have been nice to know.) He sent me all the information he had on shipping instructions for New York and said he’d escalate my case. I was told to call back Friday if I had received no word.¬†[44 days from start]

Screen Shot 2014-08-17 at 05.53.12 pm

August 14: Notified by email that my package would be in the mail in one business day. Email from USPS tracking that stated the package was leaving NYC by the afternoon and later that it had been dropped off at the New York City post office. [45 days from start]

Screen Shot 2014-08-17 at 05.54.48 pm

Screen Shot 2014-08-17 at 05.56.08 pm

August 17: USPS tracking showed the package had arrived and left Boise, ID and was expected to be delivered by August 18th. [48 days from start]

Screen Shot 2014-08-17 at 05.58.19 pm

 

August 18: Visa is here¬†7 weeks¬†from the start of the¬†application! They returned it with my current and expired passport, as well as my original final transcript and the extra passport photos I had sent along. The visa is basically a pretty fancy sticker placed on an empty page in the back of your passport. (Perfectly placed ink line on my left eye there, haha.) Being there for a year for courses allows me to be there one month before and four months after, so it’s valid from September 2014 to the end of January 2016.¬†[49 days from start]

IMG_0005

 

Needless to say, I AM SO EXCITED FOR THIS. A beastly, massive-sized weight of stress has been taken off me and I can now enjoy my last two weeks (two weeks!!) in peace with my friends and family. Let’s do this. I’ve got it. ūüôā

 

[Edit]: Gianni from¬†acrossthehogsback¬†(Another brave soul crossing the pond for a higher education. Go check her out, she’s awesome!) had a great question that I kind of over-answered, but realized that I never mentioned before. After dealing with the¬†vagaries of federal government requests, I can only hope it’ll help someone else looking at the required documents for their student visa. This is all from an American perspective though, so your mileage may vary.

Gianni asked, “Regarding transcripts, was it actually necessary for you to send them or did you just do it preemptively? And did you send newly ordered, official, sealed transcripts?”

Excellent question! I preemptively sent in more than the minimum required documents to avoid any delays (ha!) for my application. In my package to the UK Consulate I sent:

  • A completed application form with my biometrics receipt attached (duh, a requirement).
  • I didn‚Äôt need the Appendix 8 form for my major, so nothing there.
  • My current passport as well as the expired passport
  • 4 passport photographs (The post office only prints them in packs of 8, so I figured some spares wouldn‚Äôt hurt.)
  • My proof of student loan letter from the university, proving I had the ¬£820 a month minimum necessary for my time there (Crazy that living in London will make that ¬£1020 a month!) I thought about adding bank statements for my savings account, but never did. Couldn‚Äôt hurt you if you have it.
  • A printout of my CAS information webpage that the school sent me.
  • Didn‚Äôt need to do the NQF assessment for mine, nor the ATAS clearance.
  • I hadn‚Äôt paid any money to the university because I‚Äôm doing loans, but I did put money down on my flat, so I sent them copies of my email receipts. Apparently that will look good.

For the ‚Äúdocuments used to obtain your CAS‚ÄĚ I sent:

  • An official final transcript from the¬†university I graduated from (I went to 3 before graduating with my BA, long story)
  • Added in copies of the info from the other schools (Reeeeally didn‚Äôt want to pay them more money for official transcripts when ISU had all the info on my final transcript with them.)
  • A photocopy of my fancy degree paper.

Basically, as a US citizen we’re super low risk and they really don’t need much, but if you want to send them everything they have on the list including the things that don’t count for Low Risk Countries, it’s fine.

Oh, and for the love of all that is holy, DON‚ÄôT FORGET THE RETURN ENVELOPE. ūüėȬ†And remember to put the consulate address as the sender!

 

 

— Kate