Much happened in the last six months! Not being a practiced blogger, I have failed to update this as I should have. Instead, I have been working, preparing to ship my things, going on a trip with my fiancé to Texas and Washington to see friends and family before I leave the States, e-shopping for things I need to bring with me (and early Christmas shopping), enjoying the time with my chosen family, and playing Star Wars: The Old Republic (note: that game is amazeballs and a total time suck!!)
But enough about what has kept me busy! It’s time for…
The Application Aggravation, Acceptance, and Approval
(Or the continuing headache of dealing with VFS Global.)
On May 15, 2017, I submitted my application to UDI for temporary residence, on the basis of family immigration for those getting married. Trygve and I went over the checklist multiple times (mostly at my insistence), and there were several emails back-and-forth to UDI to clarify things. Yet, somehow, VFS Global still required at least one thing not included on the checklist, and the Consulate required something misrepresented on the checklist. They required a copy of my receipt for payment of the fees to UDI (never mind the fact that I wouldn’t have the cover letter without first paying), and they also tried to require a copy of Trygve’s old passport because he had no used pages in his current one (Norway doesn’t return old passports when renewing). Further, the checklist on UDI’s website clearly states that I only needed a copy of my passport, and VFS Global, after “checking into it,” confirmed that was all I needed. Turns out, the Consulate required my actual passport, which I had to send to them via FedEx, and then have them send back to me.
Then, after the Consulate sent it back to me, I received an e-mail from VFS Global stating, “A decision on your Visa application reference number: [####] has been made by the Royal Norwegian Embassy/Consulate General in New York. Your processed application has been received at the Norwegian Visa Application Centre and is ready for collection.” Unfortunately, this was false. This was an auto-generated email that did not apply to me or my case. They apparently send these emails to those who have sent their passports in for Visa stickers when the passports come back from the Embassy. But they didn’t have my passport (I paid for its return with my shiny FedEx account), nor did they have this decision they’d emailed me about. Instead, they received the letter and notary acknowledgement page I’d mailed with my passport to the Embassy in New York. When I asked about the fact that they gave me only three pieces of paper and an empty envelope, and asked about the decision, they could only tell me that I’d receive it directly from the Embassy in a couple months. So, that was basically a waste of time, money, gas, and time off, not to mention the aggravation of sitting in rush hour traffic in San Francisco.
I did, in fact, receive my decision within the time frame they gave me. On August 7, 2017, the Consular Officer processing my case emailed me my approval letter, with a final date of entry into Norway on February 7, 2018. It’s official!!
Moving Money and Mountains for Marriage
(Or how to navigate the copious amount of red tape.)
The Hague Convention of 1961 is specifically to “abolish the requirement of diplomatic or consular legalisation for foreign public documents.” And here I thought I’d only see mention of the Hague Convention at work! Men, nei! (But, no!) There are downsides to being a planner, but this is not one of them. During my investigation of what Skatteetaten (The Norwegian Tax Authority) requires from the bride- and groom-to-be, I discovered that I needed a copy of the Final Decree of Dissolution (divorce). And this can’t just be any copy; it has to be a copy with an Apostille. In order to receive an Apostille, the document must first be certified/notarized. Well, I had my original certified copy available, but Montana (where I was divorced) doesn’t affix an Apostille to any documents more than 5 years old. So, I had to request a new certified copy from the county that processed my divorce, then, once I received that, send it to another office in Montana for an Apostille.
Norway also has this thing called a “Certificate of No Impediment to Marriage.” Since Trygve and I want to marry shortly after I arrive, and I want him to be able to submit all the documents to Skatteaten, I looked to the U.S. Dept. of State’s website. On there, they state (Hah-Pun!) that, “Some countries require an affidavit by the parties as proof of legal capacity to enter into a marriage contract. No such government-issued document exists in the United States.” Of course. Lucky for me, I have a legal background, and writing out an affidavit is pretty much second-nature to me. (I wrote a 3-page Affidavit, with the Notary portion included, that gave every possible reason as to why I could not obtain a Certificate of No Impediment to Marriage, and my status as a legally single woman. In total, with Exhibits, this ended up being 39 pages.)
Now, an affidavit may be authorized/certified by a U.S. Consular Officer, but it does not have to be! They charge $50 USD for each certification, plus the added hassle of making an in-person appointment at the Embassy. County Recorder offices rarely charge even half that amount. Many banks offer Notary services for free, and the Apostille is certifying only the Notary’s official act.
Pro-Tip #1: Beware of ridiculously expensive services that offer Apostilles!! These are all things you can do on your own for MUCH cheaper, and likely in a more expedient manner.
Pro-Tip #2: Get yourself a personal FedEx, UPS, or USPS account for ease of mailing documents with prepaid return envelopes and labels.
Pro-Tip #3: Make sure the Notarial Act for your affidavit is a JURAT. With a Jurat, you are swearing to the veracity of the contents of the document in the presence of the Notary, who will also witness your signature.
The Purrfect Plight of Pet-Owners
(Or why comfort is key to your pet’s best travel experience.)
If you haven’t yet, please read the section on pet travel in my prior post. As an addendum to all the information there, I have also discovered that you can (and should) book an appointment with a local (or local-ish) APHIS port office well in advance of a scheduled flight for certification of the required veterinary documents. If you cannot see them in person, keep in mind that the 10-day travel window for your pet starts from when your veterinarian signs the documents, not when APHIS certifies them. Additionally, they can verify that the veterinarian you intend to see and have fill out the paperwork is, in fact, USDA-Approved.
Every airline has different requirements, and can conceivably measure your pet in two different ways: either from nose to butt, or nose to tail’s end. Depending on the pet, this could result in two very different measurements, and remember that if your crate/carrier is not long enough, tall enough, or wide enough, your pet will not be approved for flight.
I found one pet carrier company, Petmate, who makes extra-tall carriers (their Sky Kennel) pretty specifically to meet airline carrier requirements. Honestly, the quality of the plastic isn’t fantastic, but the size is perfect, so it’s worth the lesser plastic quality. They sell their carriers on Amazon (insert shameless plug for Amazon Smile to help support charities). I purchased the one for pets 10-20lbs, even though my cat is only 9lbs, and I recommend going up a size for your pet–you’ll be glad you did.
I also decided to go out on a limb and purchase a travel kit from a website I wasn’t entirely certain about. DryFur put together a superb travel kit for pets that has almost everything you need for pet airline travel. My only suggestion is that, if you purchase anything smaller than the “large” version, you also purchase the large food and water cups, as the small ones are really too small for a cat to put its face into. I had to take the spill-proof tops off the smaller cups so Hilo (my cat) could eat. I also purchased a package of the DryFur Carrier Inserts in medium, and they fit perfectly into the crate. I purchased a complementary water dispenser to attach to the outside of the cage that is a top-fill bottle so staff will have an easier time watering her if necessary–there are several styles available on Amazon and other pet store websites. The one I purchased (Choco Nose H220 Patented No Drip Top-fill) was a little tricky to attach to the Sky Kennel because of the grating on the door, but I was able to make it fit.
Make sure you have a harness available, as you may have to walk your pet through security if they are going in the cabin with you. I will find out more about this later when I take Hilo to the ticket counter as a pet-as-cargo. I went with the Voyager All Weather Step-in Mesh Harness because they had it available in an extra small, and it’s all-weather, which will be important moving to Norway. I also purchased a leash for her, Max and Neo Reflective Nylon Dog Leash, partially because the color more closely-matched that of the harness, and partially because they donate a leash to dog rescue for every leash they sell, which is pretty darn awesome.
I invested in a couple self-warming cat beds/pads. I purchased one for the trip in the crate, which will likely be disposed of afterward if she pees on it at all, and another for once we arrive at our destination. This is probably one of the best purchases I’ve made. I tried getting her a cat tree and a cat bed before and she ignored both of them. At least for the one that’s going into her crate, K&H Manufacturing Crate Pad for Pets, Self-Warming/Mocha, she won’t get off it most of the time. She absolutely LOVES that thing, which is great because I want something familiar to her when she’s flying. (The one I purchased for her new Norwegian home is the same brand, but a bit fuzzier/fluffier. I may have to bite the bullet and buy another of the one she’s currently using, though!)
Lastly, she’s going on more car rides with me to make sure she’s comfortable in the crate and doesn’t associate it with always going to the vet, which is traumatic for her. If you have pets who are anxious travellers, I highly suggest you start getting them to love their crate well in advance of your trip. A friend of mine who moved to Denmark with her cat suggested not only this, but also leaving treats inside the crate for positive reinforcement.
Well, that’s all the sagely advice and hard-won information I have for today. Check out the Resources section, which will be updated with links and information from this post. Stay tuned for an impending update on the shipment of my belongings to Norway!