It was time to return to the USA on New Years Eve, our flight was scheduled to leave Gatwick at 11 am. This meant we had to get up at stupid o’clock to drive to the airport from Devon and be there two hours before the flight as required.
A sad Kay barely slept that night before waking up having to say her goodbyes to Mummy and Mowgli before loading up the car and starting the journey in the wet, cold and dark early morning.
We made it to the airport on time, but with me feeling terribly sick and unhappy as Daddy dropped us off with our luggage and we had to hug him goodbye. Not wanting to dwell on the parting he didn’t stay to see us check in, just pulled in and said farewells at the side of the road.
Once in the airport I got a thorough scrutiny of my visa status before we even got to the check-in and eventually we were allowed to get our boarding passes and hand our luggage over. We then made our way through security to the gates, stopping en route for a quick perusal of the duty free shops so I could purchase some last minute Murray Mints.
Despite having a succession of travelators the walk to the gate felt terribly long and by the time we got there I was aching from carrying my heavy carry-on rucksack and feeling somewhat light headed. I was so pleased to get there and happy to be able to sit down and have a rest.
This was not to happen immediately though as of course I got a miserable lady pulling me to one side and selecting me for random screening. I requested that I sit down for a sec first and recover a little, but every time I tried to do so she hauled me back over to her and made me take my shoes off, pat me down and go through my bags. Unpleasant woman and seemingly completely oblivious to the fact that I felt about to collapse.
She then totally panicked me by asking if I’d gone through the metal detection doors at security because it wasn’t recommended when pregnant. No one had said anything to me then and this upset me.
Finally, she let me go and I was able to go slump in the lounge with hubby and have a rest.
The flight itself was fairly uneventful, just a very uncomfortable and long nine and a half hours in an old Boeing 767 to endure. In-flight movies on the cabin monitors were terrible (“The Island,” and “Bad News Bears” twice!) and my requested vegetarian meal left much to be desired. The vegetarian menu was particularly frustrating as for once the normal cabin meal had vegetarian meals listed, yet I got a separate meal anyway. Thus, Bill was able to have a slice of vegetarian pizza, while I got a dry bread roll filled with cucumber and tomato! Crazy.
Eventually made it to Atlanta and started our descent. Sam did not like this one bit. I guess it was the change in cabin pressure but I immediately felt desperate for the loo and my tummy was quite unhappy. Of course, my nervousness about the landing didn’t help matters either. I swear, every time I fly I get worse.
Safely back on solid ground and with my documents in hand we headed to immigration. The first guy we saw everything went smoothly, he checked everything was in order and then sent us over for secondary inspection, saying that we should have no problems there and it was just formality. I was handed my documents in a green folder and sent on my way to inspection.
On entering the room I put my green folder on the counter as requested and took a seat. Things then went horribly wrong.
Why Officer Norfolk is a prick
An immigration official then picked up my folder and called me forward. After glancing at the documents he started ranting at me about not having filed in a form I was apparently supposed to have been given on the plane. The first immigration guy hadn’t asked for this, and the Delta flight hadn’t had this form. When I explained this he ranted at me some more, threw a form in my face and basically called me a lier.
Not having a pen with which to fill in the form I had to then ask him if I could borrow one. This was met with similar attitude but he did eventually lend me a biro.
I then looked at the form and it was in freaking Spanish! I don’t speak Spanish, and had no idea what it was asking me for. Bill then asked the officer if he had the form in English, to which the answer was “no.” WTF. Officer Norfolk then made no attempt to even aid me in working out what I was supposed to be filling in and walked off.
Using guesswork I started filling in some of the details but it really was ridiculous. I could guess what the information I was being asked for was, but matching the answers I was assuming they wanted with the spaces was beyond me. I tried to ask again if he could at least tell me what the form was asking me and the guy snapped once more and barked at me that he would call me a Spanish Interpreter!
At this point I was tired, not feeling well and stressed and couldn’t take him any more and burst into tears.
Another immigration officer then came over to see what the problem was and didn’t understand why on earth I’d been given this Spanish form to fill in. He then took it from me and proceeded to process me himself. When the Spanish Interpreter showed up the poor guy was then turned away because really he wasn’t needed.
Through the tears and sniffles I explained that I had come in on a K1 Visa, married and then applied for AOS which had been granted just days before so I had no green card on me, but I did have a valid Advance Parole anyway. He then asked to see my passport and paperwork, which I’d already handed in to them. Of course, now my stuff was nowhere to be seen and had apparently disappeared. Officer Norfolk had walked off and I had to wait for them to work out where my passport and documents had gone.
I’d pulled myself back together again when the nice immigration official called me back up to see him, having eventually found my stuff. As he was going through my Advance Parole Officer Norfolk came striding back demanding to know what had happened to his pen. This guy had just misplaced my passport and Advance Parole documents and was now getting pissy over a biro! In all the confusion I really had no idea and I think it got taken away from me with the form I had been filling out. Officer Norfolk was downright mean and just completely had a go at me over it, reducing me to tears yet again. It scared me that this son of a b*tch was strutting around with a gun at his side and being a complete c**t for no reason.
The other man was obviously unable to say anything counter to his colleague but was thankfully trying very hard to get us processed and out of there while throwing kind glances my way to reassure me while Norfolk was giving me a verbal bashing.
Finally everything was sorted and with my passport stamped Bill and I were able to get the hell out of there. It’s sad that I can remember the name of the nasty official, but not that of the nice man who actually did his job properly. I also hate to think how people who haven’t followed immigration guidelines to the letter get treated. Very upsetting.
We then had to navigate baggage reclaim, customs, baggage check-in, more security (this time as I’m pregnant I was patted down instead of being made to go through the metal detection gate) and the train to baggage reclaim (take 2) before finally being able to make our way out of that place to the taxi rank. It took us two hours to get out of there.
Of course, when I went through the mail back at home there was my green card waiting for me. It was good to finally have that sorted, but I think I really am terribly unlucky as Sod’s Law obviously came into play again. It was approved 3 days before our second wedding anniversary and is therefore only for conditional residence and not permanent. This means it’s only valid for two years instead of ten and I will need to apply to have the conditions removed. More money, more forms, more waiting. If I’d been married for two years on approval by rights I should have the permanent card in my hand instead. I’m fricking cursed.
I freaking hate US immigration. Saturday night. I was about ready to ge
t the next flight back to the UK. If it wasn’t for Bill and my doggies I would leave in a heartbeat and be done with all this crap.
The house was so depressing when we got home too, with no doggies to welcome us back it felt like an empty shell.
Feeling really quite ill, angry, achy and drained I then crawled into bed and was woken up at midnight by fireworks going off to celebrate the New Year.
That was a really nasty way to end a fantastic holiday in Blighty, and a horrid day with which to end 2005, but at least I have a good feeling about 2006.
We’re very excited about little Sammy, Bill started his new job today, I don’t have to worry about Employment Authorisation and immigration status this year, and now hopefully we’ll be able to make another trip back to England in the summer when Sy and Mel will be visiting there too.