Before I continue with my travel and other related stories, I’d like to share how I came to live in the US. I’m on an E-3D visa. For those who don’t know, the US has an alphabet listing of visa categories from A to V. There’s the A visa for diplomats, the B-2 tourist visa, the popular and controversial H-1B visa, the J visa for students and professors, etc. Even the forms have alphabet tags. In my opinion, if they streamline the visa application and make the requirements easy to follow, the process would be easier for both the applicants and the visa processing centers. However, as I’ve observed, most things related to the US government is bureaucratic if not unnecessarily convoluted.
Opening a bank account in my name required a Social Security Number. To get a Social Security Number, I needed to apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD or Form I-766), which took 90 days. The SSN took a further 2 weeks. The bank (and we did have a nice bank) did allow me to be a joint-account holder with H; otherwise, I would have been totally dependent on my Australian bank account for my funds.
At any rate, I’m an E-3D visa holder, which means I’m a dependent of an E-3 visa holder, in this case H. E-3 is a visa classification applicable only to Australian citizens. This visa came out of a trade agreement, signed into law by then US President George W. Bush back in 2005. As an E-3D visa holder, I have the privilege to work or earn income in the US, unlike other dependents who are not allowed to work.
H and I owned an IT company based in Australia. The core asset of our company was a technology developed by H since he graduated from university. Our company partnered with others to form a joint venture based in the US, which then became a full-fledged company. This company was bought and H was given the opportunity to come to the US to oversee the implementation and further development of his technology.
Image from therakyatpost.com
To get an E-3 visa, the company prepared the bulk of the documents to support Form I-129 with H providing the rest . The Supporting documents required as per the USCIS website were:
- A Labor Condition Application
- Academic or other credentials
- Job Offer Letter from the company
While the company lawyers were busy preparing the LCA, we went on a 3-week trip to Greece and Switzerland, stopping by Israel. I received the packet since H had to fly immediately to the US on a business trip. When H came back a few days later, we had to fill out the online DS-160 forms separately, took ghastly photos of ourselves with my Nokia phone (I wanted a proper photo since I am vain but H was adamant the consulate was going to take another set of photos. Hah. How wrong he was.), dug high and low for an original copy of his University diploma since we only found a certified true copy, and booked our appointment.
On the day of the interview, we dropped off our car at the service station and took the tram to the city. I only had my wallet and my lip balm with me since we were told in the confirmation letters not to bring any electronic devices and no large bags. Purses had to fit in one hand. Since all of my purses, at that time were bigger than my hand, I had to ensure my clothes had pockets. Ah, the bane of women’s clothes.
We arrived one hour before our appointment at the Melbourne consulate so we spent the time having a snack at a café in the next building. Twenty minutes before our appointment, we decided to see whether they’d let us in. The glass door was locked and had to be unlocked by the guard inside. We had to log on to a computer using our passport numbers and went through an airport-type security, complete with metal detectors. Individual passes were given and had to be hung around our neck, while non-essential items like my lip balm and keys were taken from us. A guard escorted us to the 6th floor where we had to go through another metal detector before we were directed to a small space. After waiting for a few minutes, a staff called us in front of a glass window similar to those in banks. Our names and passports were taken and checked against a list.
We experienced a bit of a hiccup when the staff wrote E-2 on our document. H had to correct him and explained that the website didn’t have the E-3 option available on the website so we clicked on E-2. The staff paused before asking whether we submitted our documents to the consulate. From what we understood, for an E-3 visa, the consulate required the documents to be forwarded prior to the interview but there was nothing in our confirmation letters explaining that bit of information.
The staff said the lack of E-3 option on the website could be due to the E-3 quota being used up that day. Before we had time to panic since we’ve already given notice to our landlord, booked our flights in anticipation of a visa approval, and because H was needed for the staff meeting at a specific date, the staff merely changed the visa type and asked us to stand in the blue lane. Another few minutes of waiting, another staff called us to his booth. The staff asked H what his job was, the name of the company he’d be working for, the number of employees in that company before he was asked for his fingerprints. I was then asked about my job, my relationship to H, and how long we had been married before I, too, was fingerprinted.
After that, we were told we were approved and our visa would be priority-sent to us. The entire process took 15 minutes. Three days later, we received our passports and visa in the mail.
And here we are. Our visa is good for 2 years, renewable for another 2 years, but we’ve made the decision to start another chapter of our life in another country. Because of that, we’ve tried to visit or I’ve tried to visit as many states as possible to experience bits and pieces of the USA, which I will be sharing in the posts.
As such, the posts following will be looking backwards.