The trials and tribulations of gaining a U.S. Tourist Visa!

Passports give us freedom!

It’s been a hectic couple of days with a few major changes happening to our life changing year plans.  I say TO instead of with or in, since it feels just like that.

First, my work have not approved my 12 months leave without pay.  Not an unexpected result and I’ve known for a few days so I’m now over my initial internal panic.  The butterflies have now settled!!  It’s not like I was asking for permission or anything which means nothing has really changed, it was just a little nugget of security knowing I could go back to work and have a pay cheque in a couple of weeks once we returned to Australia.  Anyway, no biggie!!  We shall move on!!

More importantly, I’ve had a nasty little surprise from the U.S. consulate.  To obtain a longer than 90 day tourist visa we have to go through the following:

Apply online and you must have passports for all to do this (we don’t have the kids passports yet).  Once you have your passports and apply online there is about 4 weeks to wait for your appointment.  Get this – the appointment is in Sydney, and only Sydney.  And all 5 of us have to attend!!  So that’s 5 return airfares to Sydney plus probably a night’s accommodation and transport and feeding us all and whatever wages Gert will lose since we won’t get to choose when the appointment is.  PLUS….we need to have fingerprint police checks done.  At a cost of $145 each.  (Bargain huh?).  THEN we have to pay $700 for the actual Visas if they are approved and the approval process can take up to 60 days as long as there are no dramas.  So we are talking 4 months to get visas and then they are only 6 month visas and THEN there’s no guarantee that the customs man/woman at the gate in the U.S. will give us 6 months entry.  And 1/2 way through our year we would need to reapply for another 6 month visa (and have to leave the U.S. to do so).

Total Cost?  Somewhere heading towards $4000 and a 4 month wait!  Anyone ever heard the term “BITE ME!?!?!”

We just want to come for a little holiday.  Spend a year travelling around, spend our 100K and go home poor!  Is that too much to ask?  Surely the U.S. economy would benefit from this money – AND we’re going to spread it around to all the little towns too. C’mon what’s a pesky little Visa between friends?!?!?!?!

So then I hit upon the bloody awesome plan that we would split our life changing year up!!!  90 days in the U.S. then a trip to Canada for a week, then 90 days back in the U.S. then a nice 4 day cruise to Bermuda, then 90 days back in the U.S. then a week at a Mexican resort (yes, I was about to have my way and get to go to Mexico!), then back to the U.S. for whatever was left of our year.  I know.  I’m a genius!

EXCEPT for the fact that Canada, Mexico and all surrounding Islands have apparently become part of the U.S. while none of us was looking!!!  Goddamnit!!!!  Any time spent in these countries counts as part of your 90 days.  I’m pretty sure Obama planned this after my last post!!  I knew moving Las Vegas to Washington was asking too much!!!

So.  I’m.  On.  Plan.  D.

I have tweeted to my fellow travellers to find out the number of times we can enter the U.S. on the 90 day waiver visa (easily obtained online in about 4 minutes!).  Once I get some info back I will decide how it’s all going to work.  I’m expecting to hear only 2 entries each year = 180 days total.  (How do we all like the sound of 50 states in 26 weeks?)

If that’s the case I will investigate 90 days in the U.S. followed by 90 days in Europe, followed by 90 days in the U.S. with 30 days in Asia thrown in and 60 days somewhere else!!  I am nothing if not resourceful and I’m thinking time spent in (very cheap) Asia will make time in the U.S. even more fun.

If anyone has any other ideas, please feel free to leave me a comment so I can include it in my planning for our life changing year!

Image: Grant Cochrane / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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