Chapter 9 – Waiting For The Interview
Now that we knew the application process had been restarted, Winnie settled down and we went back to talking about our plans for the future. In January she did receive notice from the Guangzhou Consulate informing her of receipt of the application, and what documents she needed to provide the consulate for further processing.
It took her about one week to gather up everything, which included a trip back to her hometown to gain a police report certifying she’d never been arrested. She mailed it all off and once again, we waited.
We knew the next step was for the consulate to submit the application to the FBI back in the US for a criminal background check. I’d been following different Internet News Groups by this time, and knew that the FBI check could take anywhere from four weeks to never, depending on whether or not the application was lost. If all went well, which to this point nothing had, we expected Winnie to gain her interview appointment letter about May, with her interview scheduled for sometime in June.
Meanwhile, my finances were slowly sinking. I was continuing to support Winnie full time in school and her allowance each month was the first item in my budget. She occasionally needed additional money, such as when she put together her consulate application, and whatever she needed came before anything I spent on myself including the mortgage. I now had a car loan to pay off, was still paying the credit cards bills on my second China trip, was still trying to finish paying off the bills left me by my first wife, as well as handle my normal expenses.
My budget was getting tight, but I didn’t let Winnie know this. I knew once she received her consulate appointment, there would be some significant fees and travel expenses involved, including her medical exam. Once she had her visa she’d need a plane ticket to the US. We were planning my my going to meet her in Los Angeles and fly back to Mississippi together.
I wasn’t sure where I’d get the money. A second job was not an option – it would prevent me from chatting with Winnie. So I ran up credit card charges, dipped into savings, and just hoped things would work out.
My income taxes were also a mess. I delayed filing joint returns for 2003 and 2004 for no other reason thanI needed additional proof of marriage for the USCIS. I knew my taxes would be closely scrutinized when Winnie finally had her interview and needed to file a joint return with Winnie. But I needed her social security number, which I couldn’t get until she was in the US. I was told by my tax preparer that there was no alternative to having her social security number on the tax papers, and needed to wait until she arrived. Until March, when I received notice letters from the IRS about my two years worth of unpaid taxes – one more stress to deal with.
I ultimately learned, through several hours of phone conversations on the helpful IRS hotline, about the Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). I learned this could be substituded for a social security number to allow me to file taxes with Winnie’s name, and was able to gain this number for Winnie with her still in China. One more paperwork drill to go through, but getting two years taxes filed was one less set of stresses.
By now I was emotionally exhausted. The more than one year’s wait, reassuring Winnie I was really trying to gain her visa, and being rebuffed from people I was asking for help was wearing me down. On top of the callousness from my co-workers, rumors were getting back to me that the visa delay was due to me doing “something illegal.”
I had no support group to go to for help other than distant family members and a very few local friends. I had become involved with a divorce recovery support group, sponsored by a local methodist Church, shortly after my divorce two years earlier. Once it was public knowledge I was getting remarried I was asked to leave the group as their charter rules did not permit married people from participating. So I was on my own.
Adding to my emotional exhaustion was knowing there was so little I could actually do to help Winnie. I knew she was living very simple and had put her entire life on “hold” awaiting her move to a strange new country. I was also physically exhausted by this time simply because I was not getting much sleep. Winnie and I had been chatting twice daily for months now, which required me to get up very early each morning so we could chat before I left for work and go to bed very late so we could chat again at night. It was exhausting, but this was what we both wanted, and what I needed to do as the least bit of support I could give her.