So…

… it’s been a while.  I know, I know, there isn’t any excuse for being away this long, but as most of you who read this know there have been some pretty significant extenuating circumstances…  Well, deportation.

 

Yes.  Deportation.  Sigh.  It’s been an interesting couple of months…

 

So, let’s see.  The last time you heard from me I was counting down to an EPIC trip to Florida for two and a half weeks with the family, with sunshine, relaxation, and general brilliance.  Naturally, things didn’t go quite to plan…

 

Let’s set the scene.  It’s a week and a day before Thanksgiving (the day before my lovely parents are due to drive to the airport to stay in a hotel before they fly out to Florida).  I have been told that the decision regarding my visa extension is due this week, but that there is nothing at all to worry about, despite them requesting further evidence of my status (i.e. that I am a manager) – we have sent them all the possible documentation that they could want, proving beyond a doubt that I am an appropriate candidate.  An email pops up in my inbox.  It’s an invitation to a meeting in 23 hours time with the secondment specialist, the local head of HR and two of our immigration lawyers.  Naturally, I panic, and respond immediately to ask whether or not there is a problem.  After no response for an hour, everyone else is set to ‘offline’, having gone home for the night.

 

Thinking that if there was an actual critical problem, there would be no chance of people not telling me as soon as is physically possible, I nevertheless did not get much sleep that night, but by 1pm the next day (where there was still no response from anyone regarding my questions) I had persuaded myself that it could not be a rejection of the application since it was impossible for people to be so callous as to not tell me immediately.  I was wrong.

 

At 2pm I got a call telling me that the petition to extend my visa had been denied, and that due to this I was in the USA illegally.  I would need to leave the US within the next week.  At that point, my parents are at the airport and I am all packed for a trip to Florida with them.  Naturally there were tears…

 

Thankfully people are really kind.  A director in the office shuffled me (sobbing) into her office so I could make phone calls.  The US lawyers proceeded to point out that I should pack and get out of the country asap.  When I asked them exactly what the time-frame was, there was a pause, and they clarified that the actual guidance was ‘as soon as is practical’.  I managed to talk my way up to 2.5 weeks, since my whole family was in the US, complete with house keys, and I had no-where to live in the UK with my flat being let out (it’s amazing how many moving parts there are…).  I was able to call my lovely sister, and was offered parking space for my car in Chicago by a partner over there who is on the same kind of visa as me (not the most practical offer, but appreciated nonetheless).

 

The lawyers also stressed that it was going to be a big risk reapplying for a new visa in London, since the local office would ‘obviously’ check up as to any other rejections that had gone through the US (more on that later…), and that I might be better off simply appealing.  Which would take a year.  Not the most practical…

 

Somewhere in all that I managed to get hold of the Cambridge (UK) partner and my UK career advisor to ask them to reserve me a desk for December (they were pretty thrilled I was heading back, and I think they were hoping I’d be back for good!), and my lovely friend A who offered her garage as a space to store my car.  Then the letter from HR came, stating that they were terminating my employment effective the next day due to my lapsed visa…. That wasn’t much fun.  Happily, people had sprung into action and I was transferred onto the UK payroll starting immediately.

 

The next few weeks were a bit of a blur.  The next day some wonderful friends threw me a going away party, and there was a ‘temporary goodbye’ email which had comments from virtually everyone I’ve worked with while I have been here.  Naturally there was more sobbing…  There was a LOT of packing (I have accumulated a LOT of stuff in the past 3 years, and needed it all boxing up in case things didn’t work out – so many boxes…), and logistical planning – would I be able to take my work laptop with me (yes), would I be able to work on my jobs (no, not on US soil), could I communicate with the teams who would be doing the work while I was away (not through work email, only via Gmail).  I was lucky that I got half of my trip to Florida, and my family is amazing and worked really hard to keep me distracted and busy.  My goodness we were busy…

 

Then it was time to fly home – from Orlando to Boston, and then Boston to London.  A and her kids met me at Boston airport, and had dinner with me, which was wonderful.  I had managed to upgrade the flight (if I was leaving the US for good, I was leaving in style!) so it was a very comfortable business class flight home, with a lovely friend waiting for me at Heathrow.

 

From there it was back home, to my parents house, to wait things out.  The lawyers were busy while I was still in the US, communicating with their UK team (much friendlier, I have to say, and they pointed out that on their watch no-one had EVER been rejected at the Embassy having had their extension denied… which put my mind at rest a bit), and I had a HUGE pack of support come in from the US firm, with letters detailing how brilliant I am and how critical I am to the operations of the firm.  Which was rather nice.  Plus I got to work in the Cambridge office for a week, catching up with everyone at work and outside and seeing what life would be like on return to the UK.  Answer – pretty fun.

 

The Friday after I landed, was my appointment at the Embassy.  I stayed overnight beforehand at a hotel on Grosvenor Square (Millennium Hotel London Mayfair) – having had an AWFUL journey down (getting caught in the rain, delayed trains, and people getting in my way… I was in a major worry-inspired-grump) I got upgraded to a massive room, and had some lovely room service with a glass of wine.  And the next morning, when I arrived at the Embassy (at 8am), I was sorted out and out the door before 9am.  They didn’t even read all the support, I was approved in minutes.  So that was easy…

 

I have to say, I slept for most of the rest of that day.  I hadn’t anticipated how much stress can tire you out.  Naturally I preceeded the sleep with a battered sausage and chips (this is why I put on 10lbs over Christmas!!), and it was SPECTACULAR!!

 

The rest of the holiday was lovely – it was fantastic spending a bit longer with family, and being able to work from Cambridge was a real eye-opener as to what life will be like when I do return to the UK.  It was really nice.

 

So that’s why I’ve been away so long – I returned to the US on January 3rd, flying direct to Dallas for training (complete with 3 GIANT cases).  After a few days there, it was back to Boston (with some very confused check-in attendants regarding the volume of my baggage…) for one night in a hotel (the flight landed at 10pm – I wasn’t going to wake everyone up moving my stuff back in at that time of night on a Thursday) downtown (the Langham – look it up, it’s amazing, I’d like to live there please…), and then it was back to Jamaica Plain to see some lovely people and start to sort out my stuff.  Which took a while…

 

I’m still not fully sorted out.  The rug got pulled out from under me, and it’s taking a long time to get stable again.  The fact that so many people have been so happy to have me back is really great, but it’s still a big deal and I’m still working it all out.  But I have great friends, and great colleagues on both sides of the Atlantic, all of whom will fight to keep me (family, you know I know you would, that’s why you aren’t included here!), and that’s something that I am very very chuffed about.

 

In the meantime, it’s been back to the personal trainer and onto Weight Watchers (which I should’ve done in earnest on arrival, honestly…) – I’m getting healthy (my trainer actually said ‘holy cr*p’ when I got on the scale this week because I had lost so much in so little time – hooray!) and making plans again, and working things all out.  And missing home, obviously.  But it is good to be back in the USA.

 

Now, back to work I go…  it is busy season, don’t you know…!