When I tell people about my upcoming wedding to John, one of the first things a lot of them say is “So you’re becoming an American?”
How can I put this politely? No. Although I’m flattered to be considered a contender, I’m not spending my spare time studying citizenship tests or practicing my trans-Atlantic, Catherine Zeta-Jones-esque drawl. For starters, it takes something like ten years of residency to become an American citizen, and also, I don’t really want to. I like my burgundy passport. I like my allegiance to a tiny, regal lady with immaculate taste in brooches and an unbelievable talent for small talk. I like it when John says “tomahto” by accident. I like America, too, obviously, or I wouldn’t live here. But just as I don’t plan to give up my name, I have no plans to give up my nationality. For one thing, my American accent is horrible and I hate, hate, hate American football, so I’d be pretty useless all round.
My colleague Erin and I decided a while ago that there should be an exchange system between Britain and America whereby willing participants in similar fields could swap countries without adversely affecting employment rates. Every time I see one of those ads on TV complaining about 14 million immigrants a year stealing American jobs, I feel a pang of guilt. “That’s me,” I think. “A job-stealing (albeit tax-paying) immigrant.” But at least I speak the language (kinda).
Despite what these ads may have you believe, getting an American visa is no mean feat. When John and I get married, I can apply for a green card, which means that after I submit myself to drug tests, communicable-disease tests, reflex tests, and background checks, and after John and I go to an interview and provide proof that we really are in love and he didn’t order me from a Russian catalog, and after I give lawyers and Homeland Security many thousands of dollars, I’ll be granted the status of “permanent resident.” And no longer will I have to stand in line for three hours every time we leave the country and watch the “Welcome to America” videos on an endless loop, which will be a blessed relief.
Applying for permanent-resident status is just one of the many tedious administrative tasks associated with our wedding. Applying for a marriage license is pretty simple (at least I hope it is, because we haven’t done it yet and the wedding is in two weeks). Then there are the endless rounds of e-mails associated with getting 30 people into the country and finding them a place to stay. There are contracts to be signed, time off to be booked, and Zipcars to be hired.
There are the fun tasks, such as ordering invitations and registering for gifts, although even these can be fraught with tension. Will my English relatives consider our pale-blue, Art Deco invitations to be unspeakably naff? (Embossed, plain black-and-white lettering is de rigueur over there, although I eventually decided that it was our wedding and we could have any invitations we liked and everyone else could shove off.) John and I didn’t think it was fair to expect gifts from people flying thousands of miles at their own expense, so we hesitated about registering anywhere in case it seemed presumptuous. But after a number of queries from friends and family, we eventually bit the bullet and put our names down for some stuff at Bloomingdale’s and Bed Bath & Beyond. Then people yelled at us for not putting enough things on the list.
Really, you can’t win.
You can follow Sophie's story from the beginning here.