T-Minus 5 weeks & counting…

May 24, 2009

Tomorrow will mark exactly five weeks until departure; 35 days until I leave the secure nest that is my home, family, friends and job(s) and move to the U.S. for 14 months. The thing that bothers me about all of this though, is that I am not the least bit nervous. Am I meant to be nervous? Should I start to feel edgy and panicky or is it still a bit too early for those emotions to kick in?

I just finished watching ‘Confessions of a Shopaholic’ and although this movie has nothing to do with goodbyes, while watching it, it hit me. No, not the feeling of nervousness, but more so the realisation of how much I’m going to miss people while I’m gone. My mum, my dad, Cookie my cat, my girl friends etc… all of whom up until now, have been my security blanket and my support when ever I’ve been in need, only in five more weeks, they wont be there anymore. Well, sure, they’ll still be there, but that there will be on the other side of the world. This thought made me sad. I may or may not have cried. Shhhh. Pretend you didn’t read that part.

All emotions aside, I’m pretty much almost set to go. I told my Team Leader on Monday that I was leaving my job. I had been dreading this day for some time now.  I had replayed this scenario over and over in my head all weekend. It was the cause of many hours of lost sleep. I tell the Team Leader I’m leaving. Team Leader yells at me. Tells me what a let down I am to the team and that I couldn’t have picked a worse time to leave. Yada yada. It went nothing like that, in fact, it was so completely the opposite of what I had imagined, I couldn’t help but cry happy tears when she was so excited and supportive of my decision. It was amazing. Finally, the weight had been lifted off my shoulders and I could start openly expressing my happiness to everyone about my move! Phew.

I have finally booked all my flights! I already had the main flight from Melbourne to Vancouver taken care of, but was still in need of a few more. Ended up booking a flight with Air Canada from Vancouver to Montreal, then with Air Canada again from Montreal to Dallas. From Dallas to Orlando one of the girls on the program and myself decided we’d fly out of Dallas together with American Airlines. At least I will be arriving at Disney with someone and wont be a loner. Yay. We get into Orlando at around 11am and the Aussie’s on the group flight don’t get in until 11pm so we get to head to our apartments early and go and do some shopping!

There is only one more major thing I require before heading off, and that is travel insurance! I’ll probably end up going with Allianz because one, I work there, and two, they are by far the cheapest for 14 months of full comprehensive cover with unlimited medical cover.

The next few weeks are going to be so hectic, but I look forward to them. I do not, however, look forward to bawling my eyes out at the airport upon departure. Ugh. I’m such a sucker for goodbyes. As soon as one person cries, then I start crying. Apparently crying is contagious. Boooooo.

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Visa update Part I – Visa Waiver ESTA and J1 Visa dilemma

April 17, 2009

For the last week I have been racking my brain and emailing every U.S. visa and immigration contact I could find an email address for online. It was driving me insane that everywhere I searched online, I could not find the answer to my one very important question. This question was the difference between a $1600 (inc tax) airfare or a $4000 airfare so receiving a response was imperative to me financial wellbeing.

The issue at hand…

Granted I pass my visa interview next week, before heading to Disney, I want to swing by Montreal, Quebec to visit some friends I made last summer on Contiki through Europe. Pretty much every airline except for Air Canada have a stop over in Los Angeles, meaning I would have to clear immigration at LA airport. I had been advised by Disney that I was not allowed to enter the U.S. on my J1 visa then fly to Canada as it would cause issues for me in regard to the Disney College Program. So the question I was desperately seeking an answer to was…

“Can I clear immigration at LAX on a Visa Waiver (ESTA) in transit to Montreal, Quebec, despite having the J1 visa in my passport? (I wouldn’t be leaving LAX, I’d just need to change flights there). Then, when I fly from Montreal back into the U.S. at this point I will enter the U.S. on my J1 visa to avoid interference with the Disney Program.”

If the answer was going to be a no, then my only option would be to purchase a ticket with Air Canada as they fly direct from Australia to Vancouver which means I would be able to by-pass U.S. immigration. The only problem with this is a one-way ticket from Melbourne – Vancouver flying Air Canada is $3000 AU! And that is only one-way, I would still need a return airfare which would more than likely be another $1000 AU! Ridiculous. On the contrary, however, if the answer is a yes and I can transit through LA on a Visa Waiver ESTA, then I could purchase a return Melbourne – Los Angeles airfare for $1600 AU including taxes!!! $4000 and $1600… BIG difference!

The solution…

On my quest to find a response to this question, I was kindly directed to the CBP.gov (U.S. Customs and Border Protection) website. I searched every inch of pixel on that website trying to find the answer to my question, but no such success. However, what I did find was a nifty little section where you could ‘Find an Answer, Ask a Question‘. I searched through the question and answer database but still had no luck with an accurate response. After several search attempts, I noticed a new tab had become available which allowed me to submit my own question… PERFECT!

I submitted my question last night and was extremely impressed to see a response waiting for me in my email inbox today… less than 24 hours, amazing! The best part is, it was the response I wanted to hear!!!

“What your immigration “intent” is to do, is to make entry at LAX as a traveler for business / pleasure for which as an Australian citizen, if eligible, you may use the Visa Waiver Program and ESTA. You may do this because your “intent” is not to go to work at this time. Then after your holiday, it will be your “intent” to make entry as a J1 in Orlando.

With this scenario having the J1 visa in your possession is not a problem.

So, may you do this, yes.”

Problem solved. I am, however, going to print this response out and carry it with me through immigration in case I am given any hassles. I applaud the speed in which my submission was attended to, it was amazing, especially given the fact that they must receive a plethora of questions on a daily basis.

Five more days until my visa interview! Excitedness! Once I get the all clear, I’m off to STA Travel to purchase my airfares! YAY! I can’t wait to be done with all this paperwork…

Visa papers taking up my bedroom floor space!