US K1 Visa Application
***I am writing this piece in retrospect about my Thai fiancée named Som. It is meant to reminisce one of the most wonderful things that happened in my life, express thanks to those people who helped me realize my dream and hopefully, inspire other couples currently engaged in a long distance relationship to hold on their love for each other***
August 17, 2005, Wednesday afternoon, aboard Northwest airline all the way from Seattle and with a few hours of stop over in Narita, I finally arrived at my destination, the city of Angels, Bangkok, Thailand. I, honestly, was feeling very tired from the long torturous trip but the charming smiles of the airport staff especially the ladies just vanished my weariness away. Hey, I was in my mid 30s, been single for quite sometime already and sweet smiles are just so rare in my very busy city back in the US. Apart from its exotic charms, I heard that Thailand satisfies all kinds of adventure considering its many promising attractions and of course its well-preserved opulent and flourishing culture. It's my first time in Thailand and while the initial sights of Bangkok from my taxi window didn't impress me much, the thought of the exciting adventures I would be having the next days was enough to keep my reverie going.
I billeted myself in one of the cozy hotels which dotted the banks of the famous Chao Phraya River. The view of the busy river, its turbid waters, and the various structures along its banks was distractingly perfect that I spent an hour just looking at it while trying to relax myself. Shut-eye eventually got me flat on the bed and the rest of the afternoon I spent sleeping. Eventide came and I purposely decided to have dinner outside to have a closer feel of the city and to start experiencing for myself the renowned Thai hospitality and friendliness which all the online travelogues I read never missed to mention. The airport and the hotel staff were friendly but I felt that their kindness was borne out of their duty to make their guest feel welcomed and taken care of. I got to be outside in the most natural places to be able to experience the real thing, I thought. A browse at my Lonely Planet book gave me various names of restaurants near my place, yet I chose a relatively far-away restaurant whose name I found odd and interesting. It was rush hour when I went out of my hotel and the gridlock in BKK was terrible. I was just glad that the taxi driver spoke some English and he tried hard to answer some of my questions. He asked me basic questions, too like where I am from, what's my name, how I am doing, etc. He also asked me if I would be going to the disco and have fun. I just smiled at his questions and answered some of them, if only to show him that I was paying attention.
At last, after almost an hour inside the pink cab, we finally reached "Cabbages and Condoms" restaurant. The warm ambience of the restaurant made possible by the unique handicraft decors and not to forget the condoms scattered all over the place was worth noting. In particular, the condoms in various sizes and colors are well arranged, hanged and framed on the wall. It was accompanied by the powerful slogan that reads ‘SAFETY CAN BE FUN". I thought the restaurant was making a strong political statement. The enclosed area was nice with its interesting decorations but I chose to dine al fresco under the canopy of the multi-colored lighted trees. I got a good seat in the middle which allowed me to survey the other tables around me from every direction. Well, the diners were mostly foreigners, mostly Caucasians and Mongoloids. Some of them were with their young Thai fiancées or wives. A few minutes passed an attentive young waitress with her infectious smile approached and handed me the menu. The tag on the left side of her white blouse bore the word Som. I instinctively thought that was her name so I confidently addressed her with Som when I returned her greetings and expressed my thanks. She replied with a full open smile which revealed her beautiful white teeth. I must have been right of assuming that was her name as I saw her mixed emotions of surprise, gladness and shyness right after I uttered the word. Still blushing, which made her even more beautiful; she asked me what to drink. I told her I wanted a glass of red wine. She repeated my order and when I showed approval she went off somewhere to relay it. As she walked away, I noticed her dainty figure made prominent by her immaculate white blouse and black trouser uniform. She's really attractive, I thought. A few minutes later, she came back with the glass of wine. This time she was more relaxed.
"So you're Som?" I asked for the sake of letting her feel that I am interested in knowing her more.
"Yes, my name is Som, and you?" she replied smiling. Her English was ok and I could follow her. I told her my name and she was quick to say she's pleased to meet me. Momentarily, she excused herself and went to usher the newly arrived guests. My interest in her was dramatically growing I could feel it. It's never been this quick before that I developed a strong liking for someone. Yet, it's still early to entertain my fondness for her. I was in the restaurant for dinner and not to indulge in my silly thoughts of the beautiful waitress. I finished my meal and another waitress, to my disappointment, took care of my bill when I gestured that I wanted to bill out. I left the restaurant without seeing a trace of Som. I surmised she was in the toilet or was assigned at the computer and condoms room, an internet café at the corner of the restaurant. I went out and was about to flag the next taxi coming when I saw a familiar figure walking few meters away towards the main road. I immediately found my way amid the arriving guests and hurried to catch her. She was surprised and very shy when she saw me walking beside her.
"Hi Som! Done with your shift?" I asked her.
"Yes, finished work already?" She replied shyly.
It felt good walking beside a girl you have a huge crush on. It felt exciting although you weren't sure if the feelings were mutual. But, Som's beautiful eyes sparkling whenever she answered my questions were enough to reassure me that somehow she's not scared of me or that I wasn't making her uncomfortable. That was already a good sign, I thought.
We eventually reached the main road and by then I had already summoned enough courage to invite her for a cup of coffee. I didn't mean to appear pushy so I offered her an option that maybe we could just meet next time if she's not available today. She said she's not in hurry so we headed to the nearest coffee shop.
Som was still very shy as we were sitting at a coffee shop but she smiled at me once in a while. I tried to make her comfortable by telling her more about myself. Somehow my initiative to open up and my constant praising of how lovely she is in between helped. She also started telling something about herself.
I learned that she's 25 years old and she's not actually from Bangkok but from the northern part of Thailand specifically from the province of Isan. She actually finished a degree in education but it's not her priority to teach yet. She wanted to be of help to her family first so she worked as Thai tutor at day time and work as part time waitress in the evening. I was very much impressed with her candidness and most especially with her sense of responsibility. Right there, I knew I was speaking to a beautiful, sincere, decent woman who puts love for her family before anything else. And right there, I knew, I like her more than just an immediate acquaintance.
Our conversations continued till the sky train station. She urged me to take the train to escape the traffic down. I followed her advice so we found our way inside the train. Coincidentally, she's going to the same direction I should be going to although, my station would come first before her. Just the same, I insisted on accompanying her till her station. At Victory Monument Station I bade good bye to Som after I told her how grateful I was for the wonderful evening. I actually offered her a cab that will take her to her apartment but she refused. She flagged the next cab for me instead and told me to take care on the way. She promised to keep in touch by answering my call and informing me of her whereabouts. I got in the cab while Som made her way to the bus stop. As the driver smoothly maneuvered the already traffic-free road, I looked back from the window and got a glimpse of Som's familiar figure slowly disappearing in the distance.
As soon as I reached my hotel, I tried to give Som a ring and I was glad she arrived home safe. There's an excitement in her voice as she talked to me and more or less she must have been blushing, too. Such an observation somewhat strengthened my belief that the feeling was mutual between us. I slept with the thought of her.
The next day, I did the usual thing a tourist would do when visiting a country for the first time. I was at the so called tourist spots especially the ones in the near like the temples, the grand palace, Kao san Rd and the shopping malls. Late in the afternoon, Som and I met at the park near her work place. We had conversations, walked around, went boating and laughed our hearts out as both of us loved to crack jokes. It was a romantic and meaningful meeting indeed. Few hours passed, I brought her to the restaurant where she's having the part time work. I left her there and promised to come back and pick her up for dinner.
Som and I had dinner at a restaurant overlooking the river whose murky waters glimmer from the lights coming from the boats cruising and the buildings around the area. Needless to say, the place was just perfect for an ideal romantic dinner date. That evening I wanted to set things clear. I wanted to tell Som how I enjoy her company and how I like her a lot. I also wanted to ascertain her true feelings for me. I was afraid that all the while my assumptions about her feelings to me were actually wrong. I played optimistic nonetheless.
The dinner went fine. Som seemed to be very relaxed and it pleased me seeing her just being herself. Before dinner had ended, I was able to convince her to come to my room for a more exclusive view of the river through my window. She accepted my invitation after much prodding. I knew she gave in because she thought I could be trusted. I kept that in my mind and didn't fail her of her good expectations. So, indeed, it was in my room window where Som and I professed our love for each other and where we officially became boyfriend and girlfriend. The murky river which became more beautiful as the night grew older was our sole witness. We were filled with joy and Som who was overcome with her emotions cried. As the cliché would say it, we were among the happiest creatures that night. At midnight, I brought Som to her apartment. We had coffee on her small table and talked about the plans for the next days ensuring that we would be spending more time with each other.
On the third day of my holiday in Thailand, I woke up inspired and happy. My relationship with Som was surely the source of my happiness. My trips the next days were spent with my fiancée. I was glad she was given allowed to leave for a while. We were in the neighboring places of Bangkok i.e. Ayuthaya, Pattaya, Kanchanaburi and Chiang Mai. It felt good, going into these interesting places with your loved one. Som's explanations made me even better appreciate the beauty and significance of the places we visited. We also visited her family in Isan and I was very happy to meet her family. We didn't able to talk that much as they didn't speak English but their smiles and gestures of confidence in me were enough to make me feel at ease. I told them my sincere intentions for their daughter. I supposed I got their approval considering their warm treatment of Som and me.
The last week of my holiday was spent in Phuket with my girlfriend. It was fun because Som and I were both first timers in the place so we made a lot of experiments and adventures. I was just glad that Som spoke Thai so we managed to arrange everything for us a lot easier. I believed we got the best deal in our 5-day stay there. Then, holiday was over. But certainly, my love for Som was far from over. In fact, it became more intense within the days we spent together. I wanted to extend my holiday to spend more time with her but work appointments were waiting for me back home. I was very glad that Som understood everything and promised to wait for me. She would go back to work too and hopefully, it would give her enough preoccupation.
My first week back home was the loneliest one in my life. I was missing my girl. I wanted her by my side badly. I called her twice a day and I would always hear her sobbing. She was missing me much. That affected me a lot. Two months passed, my fiancée and I were still together. Our constant exchange of emails and calls never ceased until I found myself back in Thailand exactly after 5 months of separation from her. This time I wanted to stay with her forever not necessarily in Thailand but back home in the US. Indeed, I was in Thailand to see my fiancée and to consult a law firm I contacted before hand in the US on how to bring Som with me to the US.
Together with my fiancée, I was at Siam Legal's office for consultation. My fiancée was immediately briefed by a friendly Thai lawyer, explaining to her the process she had to go through and the important documents she needed to collect. My fiancée was assured and apparently was delighted over the cordiality of the lawyer. The firm's foreign lawyer also talked to me explaining the procedure of the application and reiterating the documents I needed to provide as the petitioner, mostly the ones he emailed me earlier. He also reviewed to me the answer I gave for the list of questions they emailed. Well, I thought I picked up the right law firm as things seemed to be on the right track. My fiancée expressed her confidence too underscoring how she was motivated by the Thai lawyer who briefed her.
I stayed for a week more in Thailand then went back to the US to collect the documents I was asked to provide. In a week, I got all the necessary documents and forwarded them to my law firm in BKK. An application package was sent back to me after one week for my signature. And the first phase of K1 Visa application kicked off. A few more weeks later, I received a notice of approval from USCIS service center and from the Department of State's National Visa Center. As instructed I faxed immediately the notification to my law firm for their reference. They also updated on how things were going on with my fiancée's papers. Everything was under control and my fiancée's cooperation never waned. Luck had been really with us that my fiancée had finally scheduled for an interview with the US embassy consular officers. I wanted to go there and provide her moral support on the interview but my work kept me home. Anyway, the law firm assured me of their full support and having been corresponding with them I really trusted them on this aspect. Anyway, to cut the story short, my fiancée made it to the interview and everything went well. She was awarded the K1 fiancée visa.
Looking back, I thought it was just right to enlist a qualified law firm like Siam Legal International specializing in US Immigration laws for assistance. The money paid for their professional services was nothing compared to the happiness of finally being together with your loved one.
Som and I are now living happily in Seattle. We are expecting our first child next month. Som eventually befriended the Thai lawyer who assisted her all the way and we are planning of getting her as the godmother of our firstborn. Many thanks to Siam Legal for their all out support!