It's officially official. I am resident of the United States and the state of Oklahoma!
Moving to another country is not as simple as getting on a plane and getting off of it on the other side of the world. I'm not sure there's any way I could describe the vast amount of paperwork Sarah and I have had to do over the last year and a bit. But finally, things are starting to be complete.
People close to me will be aware of all the preparation and waiting that went into getting my visa, but that was only part of the process. My visa only allowed me to come the US and marry Sarah. It doesn't allow me to stay here or work here.
Once we got married, Sarah and I filled in a bunch more paperwork. Part of that was to apply for Permanent Residency, sometimes called a "green card", because they give you a card that is, well, green. I also applied for "Employment Authorization", which is another temporary status that new residents get given while awaiting their green card, which is exactly what it sounds like: it gives me permission to work while I wait.
As it turns out, that last bit turned out to be unnecessary. Because just after receiving my Employment Authorization, we got the news that my "Application to Adjust Status" had been approved! Here's me with my green card:
Okay, there is no way I'm putting a photo of my actual card on the Internet, unless I want my identity stolen. But it is a card, and it is predominately green. It's the fanciest ID card I've ever seen. I've seen cards with holographic images before, but never one with a holographic image of my face. Pity the photo looks awful.
It looks something like this.
A lot of people have asked me about what Permanent Residency actually allows me to do. Mainly, it allows me to reside here. Permanently. But on top of that, it lets me work, and it lets me apply for all sorts of things that I couldn't earlier, which makes life a whole lot simpler. It gives me the right to re-enter the country if I leave (though I do need maintain my residence to maintain the status). As far as I can tell, it gives me most (not all) of the the rights that a US citizen has. No voting, no serving on a jury, but I can do most other things.
There is a catch. My residency is "conditional". That condition being that my marriage with Sarah is legit. Basically, in two years time, we'll need to prove that so I can "remove conditions". Shouldn't be too hard. :) But it'll be annoying to have to do paperwork again.
One thing that becomes a lot easier with my green card is getting my driver's license for Oklahoma, which I did today. Oklahoma only lets you transfer your license across from certain countries, and Australia is not one of them. So, that meant doing the computer, vision and driving tests, as if I'd never had a license before. As it turns out, though, having your license for over ten years makes it pretty easy to show that you are a safe driver, once you learned all the little differences in the road laws. You'll be pleased to know that I never even tried driving on the left hand side of the road once. ;)