Summer plan reveal: In honor of my dad's 70th birthday this year, we thought it might be meaningful to gather in Scotland, the home of his grandparents. There's a Wales/England contingent too, but we eventually settled on the St.Andrews/Fife area.
I've been really excited and have been eager to get back to the UK since paying a visit there in my college days and before that as a young teen. Andrei and David have never been!
I'd been thinking it would be a "simple" trip since it's much closer than the U.S. (and fewer time zones) and we can speak English! For once it would be on "our" side of the ocean.
But of course it isn't as close for everyone else, and we all need passports, and the babies all need carseats, and....Andrei needs a VISA.
I guess I sort of knew in the back of my mind that Andrei would need a visa, but I was just thinking of it as something to check off, like when I would get a visa for going to Russia. Then at some point we realized that the UK is not in the Schengen zone. Andrei has gotten visas to Estonia and Finland, and technically could have then entered other Schengen countries on the same visa. But his Finnish visa won't do in this case.
Meanwhile, as it came up in conversation, we were suddenly hearing from Russian friends that a UK visa was HARD to get. That it was harder to prove that one didn't plan to overstay a visa. And I kept wanting to think that didn't apply to us. We're an American family going on vacation, and Andrei just happens to be Russian. But the fact is that our family does have travel limitations, and I have to kind of come to terms with that.
I had to kind of sit myself down and tell myself (and God) how I would feel if Andrei didn't get a visa. I would be really sad if we had to go without him. Not because I'd have to handle David on my own but because we like exploring new places together...I can hardly imagine going off on an adventure without Andrei by my side!
With the visa application, there is always this conflict between wanting to build a convincing case vs. just telling the simple truth. After gathering some documentation, it seemed like we had a pretty accurate representation. But at the same time it's really hard to bring it all up to standard. We had some American documents in a certain format and some Russian ones that had to be translated. There were a few name spellings that were different. We weren't really sure what some of the numbers should look like, especially when we got to the electronic application. I looked up some opinions online, and a UK acquaintance who had gotten a visa for his wife was telling us what to put as our monthly expenses, so we'd have a certain amount left over. But we just answered everything truthfully.
Then of course we had to buy a new printer cartridge at the last minute, and leave early in the morning to get photos done because we'd neglected to do it ahead of time. Andrei has been sick for over a month, and we lost a lot of time! But he's feeling better, and we're relieved to have the application in.