Sunday, April 7, 2013

Seoul Interview Review: He was approved!

Jay was approved!

It was an agonizing 2 hours of waiting but let me explain the process.

Our appointment was 8:00 am on February 12th. We arrived way too early [maybe 7:30] which was good to get a ticket, but the windows didn't open until 8:00. We were called up after only 15 minutes or so, with a distinct air of not-wasting-any-time.

Before the appointment I had arranged all the documents and supplemental forms and back-up paperwork I wasn't sure we'd need, into my own filing system [see previous post for that organization], but when we arrived the sign on the wall said to arrange all documents in the order they appear on the checklist supplied by the embassy. This, as it turns out, was the only document I hadn't brought with us and with no phones I couldn't look it up so we handed everything over as it was and helped the document-checker find anything she didn't immediately have.  Of course we had way more than we needed and my cover letters and indexes were quickly shed and handed back to me. So, point being, while I think it's good to be over-prepared, it doesn't score you any extra points for being an obsessive organizer.

The document checker found everything we needed, asked me a question about my tax forms [I was very afraid for a moment that I had supplied something incorrect] and then only took my most recent tax form and my joint sponsors most recent tax year information as well. The only forms they took were the ones on the checklist supplied by the embassy, plus copies of my domicile evidence [a letter from my graduate school]

After our documents were checked, Jay went downstairs to pay. He came up, handed them the receipt from the payment and we waited waited waited. I had read that I was allowed to stand with him during the interview, so I was very well dressed and in stockings in the frigid cold Seoul morning. When Jay was called to the window for his interview, the interviewer looked at me and quickly told me I should sit down. Haha, so I left and waited anxiously for maybe 10 minutes while he asked Jay questions similar to this:

how long have you been married [specific to the number of days]
what date we were married
when we were going back to the US
where did we meet and when
what did he do at [where we met]
how long we've been together
what we were doing in korea

The interviewer didn't even ask for any of our personal relationship evidence. He told Jay he was approved and would receive his passport in the mail in a few days.

We left feeling amazing!! [and celebrated with some Thai food]

That being said, a few days later we received an e-mail saying they couldn't confirm Jay's fingerprints and he had to go all the way back up to Seoul to confirm his identity. This turned out to be the fault of the consulate- our interviewer never asked Jay to officially confirm his name, so he had to go back up to Seoul and go to the consulate just to say, "yes, I am James Weedall." And then it was finished.  2 days later, we received his visa. 

We also have all his visa documents in a sealed envelope that he is supposed to present to the immigration officer at the desk when he enters the US [at JFK airport for us], along with his vaccination form and a chest x-ray. Since we're travelling for almost 2 months, Jay has to carry all of this in his pannier on his bike through 3 different countries before we get on the plane to go home. I will happily update our last report in June when we pass through those gates at JFK!

To anyone else going through this process, good luck and I hope this has been helpful!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Immigration Interview

Our immigration interview is set!

We are scheduled two weeks from now: February 12th, 2013.

Here is the index of our documents [I organized by each person involved because that's what made the most sense to me. If the interview is anything like the petition submission, they could just tear through this in a second and not even notice the organization. I'll let you know in 2 weeks whether it was appreciated or not!]:

Section One: Immigrant Documents

l  DS230 Part I
l  DS230 Part II
l  Copy of all current passport pages
l  Copy of all expired passport pages
l  2 Passport Photos
l  Copy of Alien Registration Card
l  Original and copy of birth certificate
l  Sealed Medical Report
l  British Police Certificate
l  Korean Police Certificate, Signed Translation
l  Previous and Current Work Contract

Section Two: Petitioner Documents

l  Copy of Alien Registration Card
l  Copy of full passport
l  Original and copy of birth certificate
l  I-864 Affidavit of Support
l  I-864 Tax Information
l  Written Explanation of tax information and joint sponsor
l  Proof of Domicile
l  Letter from Joint Sponsor supporting re-domicile
l  Previous and Current Work Contract

Section Three: Joint Sponsor Documents

l  I-864 Affidavit of Support
l  I-864 Tax Information
l  Proof of Domicile: Copy of Passport, Copy of tax returns, Copy of Birth Certificate

Section Four: Evidence of Bona Fide Marriage:

l  Copy of Marriage Certificate from the U.S.
l  Copy of Joint Credit Cards
l  Copy of an E-mail requesting to set up wire transfer into a Joint U.S. Bank Account
l  Copy of a wire transfer into a Joint U.S. Bank Account
l  Copies of a scrapbook chronicling our relationship history, includes photos, letters, plane tickets, and travel stubs.
l  Photos showing relationship history

Thursday, December 6, 2012

DCF in South Korea: Preparing for the Immigrant Interview

It's been 2 weeks and 4 days since we submitted our I-130 Petition in person at the US Consulate in Seoul. Today we received the e-mail giving us our next step! Record time!

I will update the post later with all the forms and information we will have to gather for our interview!

DCF Korea: Submitting the I-130 Petition

Submitting the I-130 Petition in Seoul, South Korea.

Jay and I got all our forms plus a few extras together and created an amazingly organized packet of information. We e-mailed the address posted on the Seoul Consulate website to make an appointment, but after a week of no response, I started posting on, and learned that they CHANGED the appointment system but didn't update the website. We found the correct website ( and made an appointment for November 19th, at 1:40PM.

Here is a list of everything in our packet- I went with the "better to be over-prepared than under-prepared" philosophy. I've also starred *** the things they actually took from me out of that list.

On top there was a cover letter with an index of everything included and where to find it  [ALSO: don't staple anything, just use paperclips as they're going to tear through it anyhow] 

This is the index:

  • I-130 Petition for Alien Relative***
  • Copy of unexpired U.S. passport (Petitioner)***
  • G-325A (Petitioner)***
  • Passport Style Photo (Petitioner)***
  • Copy of Birth Certificate (Petitioner)
  • Copy of Korean Alien Registration Card (Petitioner)
  • Copy of Current Work Contract (Petitioner)
  • Copy of Previous Work Contract (Petitioner)
  • Copy of unexpired U.K. passport (Beneficiary)***
  • G-325A (Beneficiary)***
  • Passport Style Photo (Beneficiary)***
  • Copy of Birth Certificate (Beneficiary)
  • Copy of Korean Alien Registration Card (Beneficiary)
  • Copy of Current Work Contract (Beneficiary)
  • Copy of Previous Work Contract (Beneficiary)
Evidence of Bona Fide Marriage: 
  • Copy of Marriage Certificate from the U.S.
  • Copy of Joint Credit Cards
  • Copy of an E-mail requesting to set up wire transfer into a Joint U.S. Bank Account
  • Copy of a wire transfer into a Joint U.S. Bank Account
  • Copies of a scrapbook chronicling our relationship history, includes photos, letters, plane tickets, and travel stubs.

Day of the appointment

So, we arrive at the consulate super early [around 12:30PM for a 1:40 appointment], show our appointment printout and passports, and head up to the 3rd floor. There was only one couple ahead of us and the window was still closed. I organized and reorganized and within minutes the window opened and the man started dealing with the couple in front who, by comparison, had absolutely no organization. How do you show up to such an important appointment, not have the forms filled out, and have to ask your wife when her birthday is, right in front of the official? 

While they were writing out their forms, he called me up, I gave him my whole beautiful packet, which he quickly tore into, taking out only what he needed and leaving the rest in a sad pile of paperclips.  While this massacre was going on, he gave me a payment slip and sent me down to the 2nd floor to pay. I payed the $420, which was something like 507,000 won, and ran back upstairs. 

Jay had one green form to sign [don't follow the Consulate website- your spouse MUST go with you to fill out this form!] and then I handed the payment receipt and Jay's form back to him. He gave me my extra papers back, told me to save them for the interview, and said we would receive an e-mail from them in about a month!

All in all, it took about 12 minutes. 12 minutes!  A four hour train ride up, a night in a love motel, and an hour early to the appointment, which only took 12 minutes in and out! AMAZING!    

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Direct Consular Filing in South Korea

This blog started out as a poor attempt to chronicle our year in South Korea teaching English. As you can see, the last post was somewhere around our first week in Korea, and then never since haha. It's been an interesting year, and while I'll never call Korea my home, we've had a lot of fun and have extended our contract for another 6 months.

In our first year we:

-saved [a little] money
-made some awesome friends
-learned some basic Korean
-discovered that kimchi is an acquired taste
-learned we CAN live in a confined 10x10 foot apartment together and not go crazy
-ran and cycled over a thousand miles
-traveled to the Philippines [incredible!], Jeju Island [not bad], and everywhere in Korea you may ever consider going

We resigned our contract because:
-money money!
-an opportunity to simplify Jay's immigration status into the US.

Jay and I had planned to get married in the summer of 2013, and would then have to start filing for his immigration status after. It would take many years and a possible $7,000-$8,000 [immigration lawyers.. vomiting noises...]

ANYWAY, through some super awesome research by yours truly, we learned that because we were foreign residents of Korea, we could start Jay's immigration process through the US Consulate in Seoul, through Direct Consular Filing. It would only take a few MONTHS and cost about $1,000. So, we're saving the party for later, and decided to get married immediately!

We went home to NY after we finished the contract, got married [city hall style], and came on back.

Over the next few months we will be working through the immigration process in Korea. We noticed that there is very little information for people doing what we're doing, so this blog will finally serve a purpose! I will be posting our whole process as it happens, to hopefully help anyone else trying to do something as complicated as being allowed to live in the same country as the person you love.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to post me a comment and I'll address them!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Where the hell am I? What do you mean South Korea!

Hi guys,

So this is my first attempt at a blog entry. I don’t really document my life in diary form, but having read Jen’s Rwanda blog religiously and seen the amount of people that read her well constructed and interesting description of African life, I figure I will try and contribute to our forthcoming journey diary that Jen is surely to build in elaborate form.
I think I will write this from humble beginnings. As I still don’t know how we got here.

I currently sit in Syracuse airport (9/92011 @ 9:38 am) with Jen being sleepy by my side, drifting in and out of consciousness, clutching TIME magazine hoping I wont notice her head nodding out of the corner of my eye. We are waiting for our flight/flights to begin. Syracuse- Detroit- Narita, Japan- Busan, South Korea with the journey spanning about 24 hours. After a long summer in the States (long but thoroughly enjoyable for the most part) I am well ready to get to Korea and begin climbing the terrifying proverbial mountain that is learning how to teach hyperactive 7 year old Korean’s who can’t converse with me in anymore than abrupt actions and grunts how to learn and use English.

The possibility of going to south east asia and embarking on a teaching career has always interested me. Since I was in University, and before I left to go to work at camp in 2008 it was a thought, but made nothing more than an intriguing pipe dream that I may one day take on. However, since going to the states for a couple of summers, living out of a backpack, making ends meet with my savings and most significantly waiting for Jen to return from the Peace Corps whilst working everyday in the stereotypical dead-end job the option of leaving for a career based foray became more of a desperation than a polite and exciting thought. My Dad has always said to me (in that voice that Dad’s do when they want to sound supportive yet relaxed and kool) I should always strive to work in a school setting, passing on any knowledge I have, being patient with those who need the attention and being happy that the stress you end up going through makes a difference somewhere along the line.

(Destination update. Detroit 9/9/2011 3.00pm. Waiting for our seat numbers to be called at our gate. Jen is at the book store as I changed the money over to Korean Won).

I have lost my train of thought inflight from Syracuse, so I think I may have to leave this entry until I get some coffee in me and I have exhausted all the credible in flight film options, if there is any at all) P.S there is a old japanese man wearing a tweed suit and croc’s sitting opposite me and he is really enjoying his public sing song. I love old people:) see you in Korea.

(Destination update. Yulha, Gimhae, South Korea. Our apartment 9:50 am local time)
Right then, back to the blog. Sorry it has been so disjointed. Writing it this way has it’s pro’s and con’s. On one hand I don’t miss any of my thoughts, and on the other, reading this back, it’s very disjointed. But you guys get the gist.

So with abundant happiness, teaching is where I am. When Jen suggested to me in February 2011 that she may call time on Peace Corp’s I didn’t believe her at first. I mean I heard what she said, but I personally didn’t have the mental capability to loosen my grasp of waiting 27 months for her to return from Rwanda at 15 months in. I didn’t want to run the risk of jumping at her offer and then her having a change of heart and me resenting her for it. Now I think back, what I should have done, is accepted her resignation from the PC immediately and thought “Shit! Now what do we do, I have no contingency plan for her leaving!” Luckily we had talked about teaching abroad before, and had both agreed we would love to give it a shot. So certain was I, it took me less than 4 weeks to get the relevant paper work in order to apply for positions in Korea.

With much elation on my part Jen returned home to the US May 28th from PC Rwanda with all her extremities in tow and it would soon be time for me to pack my bag once more and leave work. I got to the US on 16th June 2011 and after the most stressful flight possible (short of the oxygen mask’s dropping down from the ceiling whilst over the atlantic and having to use my seat cushion as a flotation device). I was made to buy a return ticket to the UK whilst on a lay over in Zurich. They said they wouldn’t let me on the flight to JFK without having a valid flight out of the US, which I was unaware of. So $1500 later, I had an unneeded flight to the UK and was light of 75% of my savings (I would eventually be able to get a refund). All these blemishes and cracks were spackled over for 9 weeks of my 12 week summer in the US. Being with Jen and her family is great. The kids, beating Joe up, the warrior dash were all ace. But somewhere in between, were 3 weeks of sleeplessness twixt, retina scorching emailing, undecipherable long distance phone-calling and sheer endlessness of the day and its stress’s. The shortened version of this story is as follows.

We had a job- we were set-we sent my documents- the job got given to someone already in Korea behind our backs- we wasted 10 days where we could be looking for new jobs- we sit in our pajama's all day emailing people 13 hours ahead of us- we wait, and wait and wait some more, continue waiting for a reply- they ask us the same questions we already told them the answers to- they ask us again- they ask if we are a couple- they ask us if we can start in December- they ask us to interview with them- we get a call from a Mrs Kim who is definitely a little old lady sitting in a room with a tea pot and a candle- we feel like we are being set up and could be on film as a joke- we learn nothing from our phone call other than that Mrs Kim is probably senile- we reply to the recruiter with our obvious concerns- they reply with nonsense- repeat cycle for 3 weeks.

3 weeks of this is on par with military-esque torture. Finally we get to a point where we have to set a deadline date. If we don’t get a job by this date then we have to seriously rethink our next step. As soon as we set this date whilst out walking the dogs and just falling apart mentally, BOOM! 3 job offers in a night. We chose the best one for us and here we are. As I sit here and read this back it makes me feel exhausted and my stomach churns like a cement mixer thinking about how we got here, and how regrettably, even the luckiest souls amongst us get marred by unfortunate nature.

Yesterday was our first full day in South Korea and unsurprisingly to me, we got a lot of things done to make us feel like we were living together at last. Any time Jen and I have lived together we have either been visiting each other for 2-3 weeks at a time. We have been in Jen’s Uni campus apartment, my two shared houses with my mates in the UK, camp, a mud hut in Rwanda, or taking over Jess and Joe’s houses in the US. Never have we had our own place, just me and her, our comforts, our own utensils, our cups, our own table and chairs, our own bathroom mirror that we can write on in crayons. I have to say I have never felt more at home. I look forward to this feeling manifesting itself with us for years to come.

So some stuff about Korea. Well we landed at a strange time. It’s Monday 12th September here, and instead of getting ready for our first day at school, we are just chilling. It’s the Korean Thanksgiving at the moment. It’s called Chuseok, a Korean national holiday where the people celebrate the prosperous autumn harvest and traditionally return to there home towns and cities to celebrate with there families. As Gimhae( where we are) and its neighboring towns and cities are pretty new settlements, its a bit of a ghost town here. Yesterday we ventured out around our respective town and although its full of sky-scraping apartment blocks sure to house tens of thousands of people I think we must have seen 50 of them all morning. After spotting a couple of 6-a-side football pitches and cringing with excitement at the prospect of actually getting to play football for the next year, we returned home with a few food stuffs in tow to make a plan for the afternoon. The plan was to try and lay our eyes on a supermarket where we could pick up a few home comforts (blanket for the bed, maybe a mattress as the thing we sleep on at the moment, although spacious and typically Korean, resembles a wooden deck in firmness and texture) maybe some food, some hooks for the bathroom for our towels etc. After sussing out where the taxi drivers hang out on our morning foray, we ventured back out after a bowl of noodles each (about 70 calories each by my estimations, mmm weight loss). We had a hard time explaining where we wanted to go, despite showing the driver the address on my phone. We eventually got to the equivalent of Walmart, and found ALL the people. I mean this place was heaving. We essentially went to the store on Christmas eve it was so busy. We went about our business with North Korwan precision, efficiency and effectiveness (as expected) scratching off our list as we went. Garbage bin- check, shower head- check, shower extender and wall hook-check. These last two items are essential if you are taller than 3 ft 5’ and cant fit into a standard bathroom sink because in Korea thats where your shower is situated. Like it or lump it. So we bought a suction pad wall mount for the shower head, a shower head that didn’t dribble on you, and a 3 meter cord. Let operation “giant caucasian shower assembly” commence. (The shower head was originally where Jen's hair brush now is. centre top, next to the mirror. Not conducive to washing in my opinion).

We had a game of charades with the 2 lovely ladies who attempted to help us find some bed covers. Bloody hell was that a challenge! After managing to settle on a comforter/duvet and pillow cases we set about looking for the egg crate style mattress additions that are ten a penny in the US and UK. And we failed epically. It seems that if you weigh more than 100lb./7 stone in Korea then you are destined for a rough nights sleep during your stay. None the less the hand gestures that occurred in describing the items sad absence were amusing. After this we ventured back down stairs (yep there is 3 floors to this monstrosity of a super market) where a lovely young Korean man clapped at me, shouted PORK!!!! in my face and ushered me to the pork deli counter as if a red carpet was beneath my feet. I didn’t buy any pork but YAY different cultures:). We made off quite well with our purchases, 250,000 KW (so about $250/£175) and then proceeded to cram into a taxi to home. After being told our apartment “doesn't exist” by the taxi drivers friend we made it back to our street and mumbled our way back to the apartment. Let “extreme makeover- Korea addition” begin. We have put some pictures up online of the finished article, but it was fun to make this place our own. Its really nice and we are both super happy with where we are.

Teaching is going to be a real test. At the moment we are both apprehensive of how much english the children actually know, and how advanced their curriculum is, what books they use, what they are used to doing with previous teachers and how will they react to us coming in in the middle of the year. I am sure we will be fine but the suspense is killing us. The only interaction we have had with kids so far was the little boy who pointed and shouted at us yesterday whilst walking. This made the child’s Father laugh kindly and me die a little inside. In addition to this, there was a play ground in “Korean Walmart” and christ was it a noisy habitat!!!

I don’ think I’v missed anything I wanted to get into this post and I’m sure you are all exhausted by now (if you even made it down here).

So keep checking back for more/all things alien and Korean.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Packing for South Korea

Well hello friends! This is our test post [Jen here at the moment] to see how the blog is looking! I've also attached some photos of us packing. If you're confused by Jay's photo, it's because he had thrown himself on top of the frame pack in order to accommodate an unnecessary amount of shoes.

Jay and I decided that after Rwanda/England, we should really live in the same country for a while, and since we both can't wait to explore Asia and learn another [or several] funny languages, we decided to teach abroad! After the 3 month process of collecting documents, excessive e-mailing, and a LOT of 11:00PM phone interviews, we have positions working together at a school in Gimhae, South Korea. On that note, if you ever need help with the process of getting started, please let us know! We're a lot wiser than when we started :)

Gimhae [look at your handy map to the left] is right outside Busan [formerly called Pusan], the second biggest city in the country, bordered by mountains on the West and ocean on the East. From what I hear they have some AMAZING markets; fish, fruit, and everything in between [anyone who followed my Peace Corps experience knows how much I love markets...]

Hopefully this year will be full of adventures that involve strange and exciting new people, foods, and travels.

We will be MIA for the first week, I think, while we struggle to find basic necessities, furniture, and internet AND learn how to teach english as a foreign language!! As soon as we can, we will upload a video and some photos of our new abode [no mud walls! yaaaaaay!] everyone cross your fingers for a real shower!

My skype is jen.olsen1 and Jay's is usajay2 [yep. USA jay]