I absolutely never wanted to live in America. Ha Ha – my famous last words! Everytime I made a close friend, they would end up emigrating to the USA. I even started joking with new friends – ‘Just a warning, by being a friend to me you risk ending up living in America!’
When my last friends emigrated, I ironically said to myself. ‘Well, if you become your own friend, you’ll end up with your friends in America.” A year later, the children and I were already to leave England.
My fiancée lived in Irvine, California. He was eager for me to arrive in America so that we could get married. I had phoned the American Embassy several times and just got an answer machine which told me that I needed to apply for a fiancée visa. I wanted to know further details but couldn’t get through to a person to talk to – just the same old answer machine.
When I let my fiancée know, he was exasperated. A few days later he called me to say that he had spoke to some lawyers in the U.S. and they had told him that I could go over on an I90 and then file the paperwork in the states.
“Are you sure”, I asked?
“Quite sure”, he assured me.
“Would you phone the Immigration and Naturalization Service out there and see if you can get further information. They told me on the answer machine that I needed to get a fiancée visa?”
My fiancée didn’t sound too pleased about this suggestion but reluctantly agreed to call them. He told me a few days later that he couldn’t get in touch with them and that we should follow the advise of the lawyers that he had consulted.
I put my house on the market and it sold in a day! I packed up my house; sold a lot of stuff and gave some furniture to my cousin. I had all my stuff shipped out to the States.
I was living in the Midlands at the time. I drove down south for a few days to spend time with my family and all too soon, we were on our way to Heathrow Airport to fly to America and our new life.
It was cheaper to get to Los Angeles Airport by having a stop over in Missouri. As this was the first stop in America we had to go through immigration. This was the part of the trip that I felt the most nervous about. I didn’t feel one hundred percent confident about the I90 vs Fiancée visa information. But the lawyers ought to know, right? I had bought return tickets so that if the paperwork didn’t go through in time, then we would go back to England. Well, it didn’t go well. After the children and I had queued for awhile, we eventually got to present our passports to the immigration officer. I don’t know what sparked their interest – maybe the fact that we had entered the States about four months ago for a week? They asked me what the purpose of our visit was.
I’m not very good at lying even if I wanted to. So I told them that I was visiting a friend in California. I gave them his name and address. The children and I found ourselves in a set of small connecting rooms to the right of Immigration Control. They then separated me from my children and began interrogating me. I was honest in all my answers even if my initial answer was not the whole story. They wrote my answers down and when they gave me the final draft of the interview, they had changed the order to make it look like I was lying. I was not pleased.
After the interrogation, I was back in the room with my children, where I found that they had let my seven year old go to the bathroom on his own in a crowded airport. I was beginning to simmer with anger.
They then lined us up by the wall and took our picture. Now I felt like a criminal. This was not one of my finer moments. I had no idea what was going on. They said I could have a phone call so I called my fiancée who was out at work and left a message to say that we were with the Immigration Department.
They then escorted the children and I to a plane. They gave our passports and the papers that they had written to the pilot. We were seated on the plane. It was not until the plane took off that I realized that we were on our way back to England. As soon as we took off and the pilot began speaking to the passengers, I learned that we were flying into Gatwick airport. A million things went through my head as I frantically wondered what I was going to do. I decided to shelve some of them and just focus on how I was going to get back to Fareham where my mum and dad lived. I was really glad that we were going to Gatwick as I did know how to get home from there on the train.
I was worried that my mum and dad would be worried about me when I didn’t call on getting to my fiancee’s. I wondered if my fiancée had got my message before he was due to pick us up from the airport.
As we started to land, my son threw up. It went all over him. We had no warning. We had been flying for nearly twenty hours with a couple of hours in Missouri. We had been awake for quite a few hours before we had left to travel to the airport. It was no wonder my little boy had thrown up.
So now my immediate concern was to get my son cleaned up. I had used the paper serviettes to clean up most of it on the plane, but it still wasn’t pleasant. After we left the plane, we had to go through the British Passport Control and pick up our luggage before I could even consider getting him some clean clothes. When we got our luggage, I couldn’t get the three of us and the luggage into the toilets together and my daughter was too young to be left outside with the luggage. So I decided that we would do it when we had gone through customs.
As we exited from customs and emerged on the crowds that were waiting for their loved ones, I felt very conspicuous and I was very, very embarrassed. As we got through that ordeal, I headed for the bathrooms that I knew were a bit bigger. Imagine my surprise and my great relief when I suddenly saw my dad. If I wasn’t in public, I would have probably cried.
My dad said that they were worried when I hadn’t turned up at my fiancée’s. My fiancée had called them asking where I was. My dad had made an educated guess as to which airport I would come back into and got in his car and had been waiting at the airport.
Even thinking about this now, all these years later, I still get choked up regarding what my dad did for me!
My dad looked after my luggage and my daughter whilst I went to the ladies to get my son cleaned up. Then he drove me back to my parents home.
For the next three months or so, we stayed at my sister’s house. I got the children back in school and picked up some temping work. My fiancee’s mother was old friends with the secretary to a senator. Somewhere in this adventure I had been given the forms to apply for a fiancée visa. Once these were submitted to the INS, the senator was able to expedite my application.
We arrived in the States in January 1999 and my fiancée and I got married. In 2003, I started divorce proceedings from my husband due to his abusive behaviour. Looking back on this event with greater hindsight, I don’t believe that the lawyers were ever contacted. I learned the hard way that I should trust my gut when it comes to making decisions and never rely on the advice and decision of another person. If a choice is made and the consequence picked up, I want to be in full control of that choice.