Exciting times ahead

Exciting times ahead

This post will be a small bit all over the place as I have lots of different bits of news. Let’s get the biggest bit out of the way first. Last week I celebrated 6 months in the USA and on Tuesday night we got confirmation that my application for a Green Card was approved and I am now a legal permanent resident of the USA. USCIS have been quick and efficient all the way through this process and even with a few hiccups it went smoothly. It’s only 13 months since our first application so to be at this step already is good as we weren’t expecting to get here till around September.

Moving on the job hunting is going ok, have had a few interviews and all went really well but as I am away this weekend they have been put on hold till Monday so hopefully something will come along then. On a more professional level I have registered my business trade name for my photography business and next week I will also be registering my business for a Georgia business license.

As I said I am away this weekend for a personal reason, visiting the in laws for Leanne’s Grandmothers funeral in Saginaw, MI. We took our first flight together yesterday, flying from Atlanta to Flint, MI arriving into a lovely thunder and lightning storm and this morning woke up to a lovely blue sky and sunshine. The view here is fantastic and I can’t wait to come back up in July for a happier occasion.

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Oscoda View

Our visit this time is as I have mentioned is for a sad occasion and a funeral but I am glad I am able to be here to support my wife and here family on this sad time. I have already had a walk around this morning and it is absolutely lovely, my new parents in law have a lovely home in a lovely area of Oscoda. I have mentioned I never met Leanne’s grandmother but I had spoken to her once and I can see the influence on Leanne.

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The house in Oscoda

Tomorrow is the funeral so there want be any post from me till at least Monday when I get back to Atlanta. It will be back to job hunting and getting my business up and running. You can check out my business website at www.amanwithhiscamera.com. That’s all for now so have a good weekend and I will be back early next week.

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Trailing Spouse…..kind of!

This post is the full interview I posted a link to back in March. The interview was done for another blog about Trailing Spouses and my story gave a different aspect to the other stories that the site contains.

The Male Trailing Spouse Series: Billy in Atlanta

Welcome to another post in my series on male trailing spouses. This post is a little different from my others as Billy (who blogs at St Pats to Spartans) isn’t really accompanying his partner so much as joining her. But nevertheless as an Irish expat in the US, he finds himself in a position very familiar to many of us: starting again from scratch with finding work, friends, a routine….all the while his partner’s life carries on more or less as before. Added to this, Billy and his wife Leanne had the extra stress of needing to sort out a visa for Billy before he was able to join her. All in all, I think Billy’s story adds another very interesting dimension to this series.

We got engaged in Ireland and visited Ardagh for some photos together

Thank you for being part of this series Billy. First of all please tell me a little about yourself and your partner.

I am a male trailing spouse from Ireland who came over to the USA on a k1 fiancée visa in December 2015 to marry my wife.

I am from Ireland and I met my partner, Leanne, in 2001 while here visiting Savannah for St Patricks Day. We remained friends for a long time before, in 2014, we had a chat about the possibility of our lives being together rather than an ocean apart. Thing then started to move quite quickly as we arranged visits to both the USA for me and Ireland for Leanne.

It was during my visit to Atlanta in February 2015 that we decided that we wanted to be together and get married. Of course the visa process isn’t for the faint hearted but we got started on the paperwork right away. We filed everything with USCIS (United States Citizen and Immigration Services) in April, got approval at the end of June and visa was in hand mid September for me to be able to travel over to live with Leanne and finalise our wedding plans for December 2015.

My trailing is not for work, it’s not following my spouse to her new role, but it is for love. My wife has a job with Peachtree Orthopaedic Clinic and is well respected in her role there.

As a male trailing spouse, how did you feel when you first arrived in your new country?

I was nervous stepping onto the plane in November 2015, I was leaving my life of 48 years behind, I was leaving my 17-year-old son, my elderly parents and all my friends. I knew Leanne had a broad circle of friends and I had met most of them at least once but now I would be starting all over again.

Leanne met my son pictured left while she was visiting Ireland and he was present when we got engaged

I was a bit apprehensive about finding my own friends rather than my wife’s friends just adopting me. But they have all been so kind and nice and welcomed me with open arms. I am making friends with them all and have started to make contacts outside of my wife’s circle of friends in other things.

I have joined a photography club and in April I will start back playing football, soccer. These activities will allow me to broaden my horizon and meet new people. Friends to me is an important thing, it’s nice to be able to chat to people and not just my pet dogs.

Have you had to give up a job/career and if so how did you feel about this?

Not really a career, I had already retired from a career in the military after 23 years’ service and had a job in Dublin Airport but that is all it was, a job, not a career. But leaving the military put me in a much better place in my life so when we had the chat about being together I was able to make the choice I did.

I am not able to work here in the USA yet as I am awaiting permission from USCIS and that is quite difficult as I have been employed since I was 17. Add in the fact that I am in a new country and that can make it more difficult, but I find things to do during the day and being a house husband for now is a good thing as it is allowing me get used to the cultural differences in the way things are done here in the US rather than Ireland

Wedding photo of the 2 of us outside the courthouse in Decatur after our wedding in Dec 2015

Have you found it easy to fit in and make friends? Have you met other men accompanying their partners or are you a rare species? If you have met others where and how have you met them?

As I said my wife has a broad circle of friends and every one of them has been so nice. A few have offered to join me for lunch just so I can have some company during the day. Again something important when I am only settling into life here is help from others and I am never afraid to take whatever help is offered, even if it is only company walking the dogs.

I do have an Irish neighbour who is also married to an American girl and we have got together to watch a rugby match and it’s good to chat to him. He has lived beside my wife for over 2 years but it was only when I arrived and he seen the Irish flag outside the house did he knock in and say hi. I don’t really know any other trailing spouses locally but I do have 2 military friends who live in Massachusetts with their American partners and they were a great help as I was preparing to move over.

Our wedding rehearsal was done with Leanne wearing her mothers wedding dress and I was wearing a kilt the as i was wearing when I met Leanne

Do you think it is harder for men than women to accompany their partners abroad – and if so, why?

I don’t think in this day and age it is any harder, the problems will be more or less the same, especially if not working. It helps that I didn’t follow my wife to a new job for her. She was already living in Atlanta for nearly 20 years and had a firm base and life here. She plays tennis so there is a circle of friends there, she has a good core group of friends and they socialise a lot together and now we are part of the ‘couples’ group which also helps. The loneliness of being at home all day would the same for either of us and it helps to have a plan of something to do every day.

Have you got any particular stories or incidents to do with being a male TS? Either positive or negative.

I moved for love, we knew each other for 14 years before we finally were able to become a couple in the same country. I am here and starting a whole new chapter in my life, I have to learn to drive on the opposite side of the road, figure out US supermarkets, try not say awesome and figure out sports here too. I wouldn’t change a single thing but if I could it would be that I wish we could have done this a lot sooner on our lives. But it wasn’t to be.

What would you say to another man considering accompanying their partner overseas?

Do it, embrace it, have a vague plan of something to do but overall embrace the whole idea. Don’t be a loner, try find something you like to do and go do it. Support your spouse as much as you can as they too will be having certain difficulties and its only together that those difficulties will be kept minor and not ruin the experience. If you are used to or have a need to be the main bread winner, just park that notion and embrace the new opportunity that being a trailing spouse has offered up to you.

Billy and Leanne with my family in Ireland

What more do you think could be done to help male expat partners?

Don’t really have anything here, but as an Irishman in Atlanta I have reached out to organisations from Ireland based here in Georgia and they are a great help.

Some other stuff: I came over on a K1 visa and we are still in a visa application process. The application process for the K1 can be stressful and we were separated by the ocean so our support for each other was done via phone calls, emails and cards. Patience was key but in the end we got our visa and now we are just started the next step. The next step is ok as we are now together and we can support each other while being together. Why am I adding this in? Well it emphasizes the point of supporting each other, as a trailing spouse its important you support our spouse as they adjust as well as you do. We still have a few more steps in the whole visa, green card and citizenship journey, but we will do them together.

You can view the full series of articles at Male Trailing Spouse

 

Patience and Process

Well this blog is about my journey to the USA and one of the most important aspects of the journey was the Visa process. Once we decided to become engaged and get married we knew it was going to involve a visa application so I could come and become a legal permanent resident of the USA, so in April 2015 we submitted our paperwork for a K1 Visa, more commonly known as a Fiancée Visa.

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Mailing the package is just one step in a journey that would ultimately end with me travelling to the USA in November 2015 and marrying my sweetheart in December 2015.  In this post I will try explain the process and the nervous moments, the patience required and the elation/relief that approval brought.

The K1 visa process isn’t for the light hearted, the amount of paperwork we had to fill in, evidence of bona fide relationship and waiting, was draining on our patience and emotions. But as a couple we supported each other and remained patient and confident we would be successful and be able to follow our dream of being together.

We were running out of patience when we caught a break in late June 2015 after what seemed like forever. A phone call from a friend and suddenly instead of not knowing and waiting we were approved. Another small step taken. The fact the approval notice came into our phones at late in the evening US time, and very early in the morning Irish time as I was on the phone to Leanne on my way to work made the moment more special.

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Next step was to wait for the paperwork to make it to Dublin via the National Visa Center and arrange a medical and interview at the embassy. As we had approval to arrange the next step and Leanne’s visit to Ireland was upcoming we were both very happy. It was early August when I had my medical and early September when I attended the US embassy in Dublin for interview.

Before the interview I had to make sure our now very big file was all present and correct, tax documents, birth certs, discharge papers from military and lots more relationship evidence. Attending the interview was nerve wrecking, everything we had dreamt about and hoped for relied on this. The worry was for nothing as after a brief interview the consulate official said the words I wanted to hear, your K1 is granted and approved, best of luck. Even now I get goosebumps just thinking of that moment.

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I couldn’t wait to ring Leanne, but I had to wait to collect my phone from security, more waiting. As I said, patience is really needed in this process. It took about ten days for the visa to actually arrive but our waiting was over for now. I packed up my house, got everything ready and on November 5th 2015 I moved to the USA.

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On December 20th 2015 at the Old Courthouse in Decatur we got married and our dream had come true. We got to relax for a few weeks before the next file of paperwork had to be submitted to the kind people at USCIS. We are now in a new process that will take a few more months, but at least now we are together and can support each other side by side as we wait again.

See if what we think is there is really there

One year ago, Feb 11th 2015, I was on a plane from Dublin to Atlanta via Chicago to see Leanne. Today I will give a brief over view of our story and how we got together and how our journey has reached today. We met on St Patrick’s Day (March 17th) 2001 in Savannah, GA while Leanne was there with friends for the celebrations and I was there with the Irish Air Corps Pipe Band to take part in the parade and other celebrations. We had an instant connection and had great fun together.

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Savannah Parade Logo

We kept in touch via email, remember this was before smartphones, Facebook etc so email was really our only option besides cards at Christmas and birthdays. Our friendship blossomed even with the Atlantic in the way and in 2002 I returned to Atlanta to visit Leanne for 4/5 days before a trip to Boston with the band. Over the years we remained good friends and our lives took differing paths. In Feb 2014, notice a trend here with February, My phone made a funny notification sound I didn’t recognise, it was this thing called Google Hangouts, and it was Leanne asking did it work. We had a cheap and easy way to keep in contact.

We messaged daily, we chatted via video a lot of the time too and generally just kept in touch. But we had a few serious conversations and one of them was the ‘Us’ conversation. We both knew what we wanted, we were both on the same page but we knew there was complications, namely a visa and an ocean! We decided that I would travel over to visit in February 2015 and that brings me to the title of today’s post. It really was to see if what we thought was there was really there.

As I flew across the Atlantic my mind was racing, this could be a life changing trip, what if we were wrong and more importantly, what if we were correct? What would be next? How would we get on? How much had we changed in the 13 years we hadn’t seen each other? These questions and probably a few hundred more flew around my mind.

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Crossing the Atlantic with Aer Lingus

So at approx 9 pm on February 11th 2015 I landed in Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport after a long day travelling from Dublin. I was still a bit nervous and on the way over I had met an Irish woman who had lived in Decatur for 30 years and she gave me the correction pronunciation of Decatur, I was saying it wrong all this time! As I waited on my bag to arrive I seen Leanne, she had changed and was looking stunning…as always. When we met we did have an awkward moment, hug, kiss…we didn’t know what to do but our instant chemistry that we thought was there was definitely there.

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Our very first bad selfie

We spent a wonderful 18 days together, made our plans for the future and it was soon time to depart for Ireland. That was the hardest goodbye I have ever done, even now after leaving Ireland and coming to live here, that goodbye to Leanne last Feb 28th was the hardest. We parted as a couple who had decided to get married and live our lives together. Now it was a matter of filling in the required paperwork, getting Leanne’s Dads permission to officially ask Leanne to be my wife and wrapping up 47 years of my life in Ireland. On April 20th I made my first ever phone call to Leanne’s parents to ask their permission to marry their eldest daughter. It was my first time to talk to them and I had to be very conscious to not talk as fast as I normally do, this was an important call. Thankfully Bob and Terri were delighted and gave us their blessing to get married and continue our journey through life together.

With our paperwork for our Visa with USCIS we awaited their decision and on June 29th 2015 we got approval for our application for a K1 fiancee visa. With Leanne about to come visit Ireland in July it was perfect timing. Leanne arrived on July 22nd and the following day while visiting the Long Room Library in Trinity College I officially proposed and put an engagement ring on Leanne’s finger. A journey that had started 14 years previous as friends had taken a huge step forward.

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Just after the Proposal

Our wedding plans were already in motion but now we could make them certain and it was nearly time for me to pick a date to leave Ireland and move to Atlanta. November 5th was the date chosen and I had lots to do. Move out of my rented house that had been my home for 12 years, sell my car, spend as much time as I could with my son, wrap up work, say goodbye to friends and family and figure out how much stuff i could actually transport trans Atlantic. I will end this post here but i will come back to our story soon.

It’s Friday!

No matter where you are in the world, driving at rush hour on a Friday is never really a fun thing to do. But today, after a lovely day spent with my wife, we are on our way to a party and the Atlanta city skyline served up a treat with the setting sun behind it.

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Today also marks my 3 months in the USA. It has been fun and eventful. Learning the way things are done here, getting married, driving and everything else that makes up my new life here.

But let’s take a small step back in time to November 5th 2015,  the day I left Ireland, my home country for all of my life. Leaving was hard, to leave friends, family, especially my son and parents behind was difficult. I knew what awaited me here in the USA was love and a wonderful woman who would be my wife shortly after my arrival. As I went through Dublin Airport, saying farewell to friends who had come out to say goodbye as well as to former work colleagues in the airport, it was hard to hold it together. My emotions were all over the place but once on board, and knowing Lassie, my border collie, was on board and ok too, it was time to relax and enjoy the 10 hour flight to Orlando and where Leanne would be waiting to collect me.

So ten hours later, and just as I collected Lassie, the girl I had fallen in love with and would soon marry, arrived and met me in the baggage hall of Orlando Airport. We were finally together and I was delighted to be with her.

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The visa process had been somewhat challenging, and I will go into that more later on as I progress with blog, but now we were able to put that part of our journey away for a couple of months and enjoy being together, and get ready for our wedding in December!