Updated: Nov 26, 2020
Hello, let me start by introducing myself. My name is Rachael McLennan, or my pen/artist name Raven Skyes. I was born in Bermuda. Yes, as in the #bermudatriangle. For those of you who don't know where that is and think it's in the Caribbean, it's not, lol. Bermuda is 22 square miles or 18 miles in length. Horizontal to Charleston, South Carolina, Bermuda is a British island territory known for its pink-sand beaches. The island has a distinctive blend of British and American culture. I would tell you more about Bermuda, but we will leave that for another day. This is a blog about relocating to #California.
I married a veteran American man originally from Campbell, California, in 2016. Jim moved to Bermuda in March 2013. He is a head brewer and started a job in Dockyard Brewery, which is part of IRG - Island Restaurant Group. We were introduced by a mutual friend a couple of months after he arrived, and we became friends. Eventually, we got married. I was working as a bartender and bar manager as well as in video production and multimedia advertising. I've always had two professions for over a 20yr period. So why did we choose to move to California? Why did we want to move? What did we have to go through to move?
Let's start with immigration. I started going through the US Immigration process in August 2019. Jim and I had been married for over 3yrs, and I read that it was an easier process after 3yrs of marriage. If you are thinking of going through US immigration without a lawyer's help, be prepared to fill out many forms and submit every supporting document you can think of. Roughly 30 pages of forms and supporting documents just to USCIS alone. It will most likely give you a headache, and you will need to thoroughly check everything before you put it in the mail to USCIS. Any mistakes and you can expect everything to be returned to you, not kidding! I sent mine off, and while it was in the mail, they changed the date on their website. So, in very small print at the bottom of all the pages I had printed on the forms was the wrong date. It was returned, and I had to print and fill out all of the forms again. USCIS took almost a year, and we received notice in June 2020 that our case had gone through to the next department NVC (National Visa Center). We filled out around 10 pages of forms and submitted all of our supporting documents... again. When I say supporting documents, I mean they want copies of your whole life:
- Marriage certificate - this is an obvious given
- Copies of passports
- Copies of birth certificates
- Copy of my husband's tax returns
- A print out of paychecks for a year
- Husband's job contract - in this case, his new job he was going to start in San Jose, CA
- Letter from his job stating he is working - which he obtained after he got there
- A police record for me
- Veterans card for my husband
- Husband's Social Security Number - photocopied the card
- Driver's licenses
- Letter from our landlord stating that we live together
- Copies of bills in both our names with our home address on each #usimmigrationprocess
It was a little frustrating as I had already submitted all of this information to USCIS. I would submit something to NVC, and then it would take a week or two before I would receive an email stating I had to submit something else. Thankfully I could do this 2nd process all online. I got to the point where I thought there was nothing else I could possibly give them, and then they cleared me through to the 3rd process. The 3rd process was the US Consulate General in Bermuda. I needed to book medical appointments for a physical, blood test, tetanus shot, measles and mumps vaccine, and finally, a gonorrhea test. Yep, I said gonorrhea test! There is nothing quite like being in the hospital and having to have a gonorrhea test with people giving you 'that' kind of look.
"No, no, it's for my US Immigration!"
"Yeah, yeah, okay, lady."
I'm sure nobody knew what I was there for, but it's definitely one of those moments in your head where you think everyone is staring at you. I got through everything and could finally book my interview. At that point, Jim had been working at a new brewery in San Jose, California, for a month, and I had sold everything. I was living with packed up boxes in my living room for weeks and not knowing where anything was. I went in for my interview, and they asked me for a form that I swear I had put in my small folder with supporting documents. I couldn't find it and the tears started flowing. The interviewer had to ask me to move from the glass interview box to the waiting room. I was having a small meltdown until I saw the document. I was lead back into the glass box to get fingerprints. A different interviewer sat down and asked me a few questions. Jim didn't have to go through the interview process as we had been married longer than 3yrs. I'm sure I would have had more questions otherwise. Then the first interviewer came over, and they both congratulated me and welcomed me to the United States of America. I said thank you and walked out, not sure if I had heard them correctly. I was almost in disbelief. I had finished the process and was accepted! Yay! Of course, there was one more payment of $160 I needed to make. That would top off my complete #immigration process to $2,200. Think how much more that would have cost had I used a lawyer. Just be prepared to have a lot of patience if you are going to do it yourself.
Here are some links to help you #helpusimmigration
USCIS - https://www.uscis.gov/
NVC - https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/immigrate/national-visa-center.html
So why did we want to relocate? Why pick California? We had been thinking of #relocating to Campbell, California, to help Jim's Grandparents out. They have a tiny house on their property, which Jim stays in when he periodically flies back for short helping visits. Usually, when I visit with him, I like to stay 20mins away in Santa Cruz to be near the beach. We weren't in a hurry to relocate. In fact, we weren't planning on going until late 2021 or 2022. We didn't relocate ourselves; the pandemic covid-19 did. Bermuda went into a significant lockdown in March 2020 for a few months.
Businesses closed down, and for the first couple of months, only grocery stores and pharmacies were open. You could only go to the grocery store on certain days of the week according to the first letter of your last name. Bermuda was in a 24hr lockdown, which meant that you shouldn't leave your property unless it was your day to go to the grocery store. I had just started a new job in February, so my job was put on hold. No flights were coming in or cruise ships, so there was no tourism. No tourism meant Jim's job was on hold as well. The whole island basically had to go on Government assistance. This wasn't something I have ever had to do, and it was an awful feeling having to collect money from an unearned income source. As I mentioned earlier, I have two professions, which meant I was out of two jobs. Those two jobs would have produced twice the amount the government was assisting me with. Still, we were appreciative, and we had enough to get us by, which I can't say for some unfortunate people. We weren't sure if we would be jobless for a while, so I started this business and website, and Jim started searching for jobs. We found a head brewer job for a new brewery only a 15mins drive from his Grandparents. As soon as the airports opened, Jim was gone a couple of weeks after, on August 10th.
I followed Jim as soon as my passport was stamped with a visa. I had already bought a one-way ticket as Delta would change it free of charge for the whole of September, due to covid. I decided to fly out on a Friday as I was sure I would have my stamped passport and paperwork a few days ahead and wouldn't require a change. Everything was sold in our house. I'm sure the neighbors of a nearby parking lot thought I was a drug dealer with the number of people who met me in the parking lot to hand me cash for an item, lol. It would have been easier to have a yard sale, but with covid going on, it was enough to sell one thing at a time in a large open space. I needed to maintain safety. A friend of ours had gotten covid, so I wasn't in the category of not seeing, not believing, and thinking everything is a hoax. Everything was sold except for a few containers and bags over at my Mom's and 2 boxes and 2 suitcases. Oh, and also the cat.
There was no way I was leaving without the cat! Jim had gotten her as a kitten for the brewery. He brought Lager, yes he named her Lager, home at the beginning of covid. Lager and I had bonded, and I call her #littlekitty. Much more suited for the cutest, little black kitty you've ever seen. She has a fluffy curled tail, which makes her even cuter. She sleeps next to me every night, and we even have our own little murmuring language. She sometimes hugs my leg as you can see in the photo.
It didn't occur to me until I was on the way to the airport that I was flying on September 11th (obviously due to stress and anxiety). Not exactly the best date to fly. We stayed overnight in Atlanta as there wasn't a direct flight. Little kitty hardly made a sound the whole trip. She is a really great #traveler. Atlanta was my first taste of the real world with safety measures and masks. I actually was a little put off by my hotel being relaxed. Some people were walking around without masks, and the staff didn't seem to care. It was not a safe feeling as I sprayed Lysol throughout my room, took a long shower, and watched TV in bed. Traveling the following day was good. Little kitty was good. Jim picked me up from the airport. We are safe and sound with no signs of covid to date.
I spent the first couple of weeks adjusting to our new surroundings and fixing up the tiny house. Now that I have been in California for a few months, I am glad that we went through all of the paperwork for my permanent residency. I am still working hard at finding a job, but I have been 'out and about' in the meantime. I've been hiking and driving to some really scenic places. We don't really go out very much due to covid, but there have been a couple of places we have enjoyed a good meal or a few drinks at. I will be writing about plenty of places in upcoming blogs. Good hiking trails, travel tips, home remedies, cooking, TV and movies, best takeouts, best curbside pickup, best outdoor seating, ordering on Amazon. I especially look forward to the blog on traveling around Europe - 8 countries, 11 hotels, planes, trains, and uber - all in just 3.5 weeks!
Tune in on December 1st for a blog on Tiny House living. How easy is it to live in a tiny house? How can you minimize your life? What are some of the things you have to learn to get used to? You'll be surprised just how easy of an adjustment it can be! #tinyhouse
Check back on the 1st and the 15th of every month. I am open to suggestions on topics you would like to see blogged. Email me if you have any questions or suggestions firstname.lastname@example.org