TLJ is now TOM!

Hey TLJ subscribers,

Here’s some exciting news from The Lead Journal – over the last few weeks it has gone through some exciting changes and is now called The Overseas Magazine (TOM). Here’s why – we want to offer unique and useful solutions for business operations and living overseas and the brand change was integral to that. You can read more here

You have been such a great supporter of TLJ right from the start and I really hope that you will help us grow TOM as well! Please subscribe to the site and check out the Facebook Page

Thanks for being so awesome – I’ll really appreciate it! 

Warmly,
The Overseas Magazine
Editor

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Green card process through fiancé (k1) visa

Once upon a time my husband and I were engaged :). Some of you know that I am an Indian and my husband is an American so after we got engaged and decided to live in the US, my green card process towered over us. We spoke to some friends who had gone through this process before and realized that it would be easier for us to get married in the US. It would be simpler to get our marriage recognized, which, in turn would expedite my green card process.

I bookmarked this page on my computer: uscis.gov/green-card/green-card-through-family and followed all the steps listed.

Other sites that were helpful:

The information on those links might seem like a whole lot but read on and you will see that it’s not that difficult to get through the process as long as you are paying attention.

March 2014:

My fiancé had returned to the US after our engagement and that served to our advantage because he was able to submit the initial intent of marriage and other supporting documents to the US immigration services in the US. You can find the list of documents on the USCIS webpage but two things seemed important:

  1. Proof of income/employment in the US – This included salary details and a letter from the employer. Therefore, proof that I wouldn’t waltz into the US and ask the government to support us.
  2. Proof of our relationship – This included some letters and photographs – thankfully we had plenty of both which were appropriate for sharing. We submitted photographs of just the two of us and a few we had clicked with friends.

August 2014:

There was just silence till August 2014. We had received an acknowledgement after sending the initial documents and I had a tracking number assigned to me.

In August, I received an email that that the initial plea was approved and I needed to submit additional documents supporting my intent to marry my fiancé and other documents that would establish me as someone credible. I spent the next several days filling out forms and gathering documents.

One of the documents required was a proof of no criminal history. The easiest way to do this was to ask the passport office in Kolkata to release my criminal history since they maintain that information for issued passports. This step required an appointment set up at the passport office, which wasn’t hard to do. You can check your passport office’s website about how to go about this.

After mailing those documents, we waited to hear from USCIS again.

September 2014:

We heard back around mid-September! I was directed to the final step of the process, which involved a health screening and in-person interview. Inconveniently for me, neither of these processes were done in Kolkata. I called USCIS and requested an appointment in Mumbai.

According to the USCIS representative I spoke to, who are all really polite and patient, by the way, if I had a clear health record – meaning if I wasn’t the carrier of any deadly diseases that would be a threat to the US, I would have the in-person interview within the week! Since I was able to stay with relatives there, I decided to spend a week during the first week of October in Mumbai, hoping to get everything done and return to Kolkata with my visa approval.

For the interview in Mumbai, I needed some originals from my fiancé which he had to mail through FedEx to make sure they made it on time. So I opted for the second week of October for the visa interview just to give us enough time to get all the documents perfect the first time. Our goal was to go through the process without having to repeat any steps.

October 2014:

Health checks take a few hours to finish and you will receive an email with instructions about those. Save that email because the health center in Mumbai asked me to forward the email to them before they could schedule the test.

I went for my health test alone and wished I had company because the waiting between different steps were boring. I was asked to return another day to collect all the test results and was warned not to open or tamper with the envelop in any way. I would have to carry it with me to the US and present the sealed envelope to the Immigration officer at the airport. (Side note: I did not have to submit anything at the US airport. The fiancé/k1 visa on my passport was all that was needed).

Before the health test, I was advised to get visa photos done before going to the in-person interview. There were several stores that offered visa photo service near the health test location. Visa photos have some strict specifications. You could also get photos clicked and printed at the consulate but the prices and hassle would be outrageous. So get the right photos done even before the health test so that you can submit the same one during the health test.

I was excited to have cleared the health test, even though I wasn’t really expecting anything different. We had made it this far! I felt ready for the consulate interview. Consulates always have rules about restricted and permitted items and it important you comply if you want to get inside otherwise you might have to reschedule your appointment.

The in-person interview at the consulate was painless. Someone at the first counter checked my paperwork and I was directed to another counter for my interview. I was asked a few details about my fiancé and his family. Basic questions about the number of siblings he has, if I had ever met his family, his date of birth, how we met, if we have a wedding date set, if my family would be able to attend. Then the person asked me for my fiancé’s phone number. I did not have it memorized so I told her that. She smiled and went ahead with the approval. But just so you don’t feel as foolish as I did, learn your partner’s number and address.

I received my fiancée visa approval right away and I was told that my passport bearing the visa would be mailed to the consulate in Kolkata. It was ready for pick up within a week!

December 2014:

We fixed the wedding date and I booked my tickets so that we would be married within 90 days of my arrival in the US!

I arrived in the US a week and a half before the wedding date. I had my visa and the sealed medical documents with me. I went through immigration without being pestered with questions. My fiancé and I picked up our wedding license the day before the wedding and being together really made the long visa process worth it!

When my family arrived in the US closer to the wedding date, they were asked two questions: anyone carrying pickles? haha…and purpose of the visit.

They breezed through the immigration process.

[One advice that I received was to get married in court right after entering the US in case the wedding ceremony and party could not be arranged within the 90 days period. That way we could proceed with the green card process and I would not risk the possibility of getting deported. The wedding party could be planned anytime later. Thankfully, my fiancé and I didn’t need to go through this step and our wedding day was a-m-a-z-i-n-g!]

January 2015:

We received our marriage certificate after about 2 weeks of being married and we were able to send all the documents required for my green card processing!

We applied for two other authorizations at the same time – one was Advance Parole, which allowed me to leave and enter the US while I waited for my green card. USCIS is strict about this and may not allow you to reenter the US without that prior approval. The other authorization was related to employment.

I also applied for my Social Security Card, added my name to our cellphone and utility bills and applied for my local ID. I was issued a temporary ID and applied for my driver’s license.

March 2015:

I received my Advance Parole authorization.

April 2015:

We heard back from USCIS – we were eligible for an interview waiver before my green card was issued. In April, I also traveled back to India to visit family and reentered the US smoothly.

June 2015:

I received my employment approval in June.

August 2015:

I received my temporary green card by mail.

My green card and government IDs have expiration dates and are valid for two years. We will need to apply for renewals in 2017 and I look forward to sharing more about those processes when they are completed.


 

 

The “Emerging World” through the eyes of a naive tourist

1843 – a magazine of ideas, lifestyle and culture by The Economist recently published Adrian Wooldridge’s article about his experiences in India. I believe that Mr. Wooldridge tried to be humorous but ended up insulting the “service economy”.

The article begins by trying to explain what the “service economy” in the “emerging world” looks like. It talks about how “waiters compete to pour your tea and masseurs vie to pummel your body” and how in Delhi someone approached Mr. Wooldridge with a Q-tip in hand and offered to wax his ears for him!

The article proceeds to describe a series of really bad choices that Mr. Wooldridge makes in the “emerging world” and he concludes that “.. the service economy contains bear-traps for naive foreigners.”

Reading the article gives rise to two sets of emotions – first I feel sorry for the rough time he had in India and then I feel insulted because the only incidents that he narrates, describes the “service economy” in the “emerging world” as one filled with deception.

Read Wooldridge’s article here.

Mr. Wooldridge describes Jamshedpur to be “in the depths of the Bengali jungle. Getting there condemns you to passing through Kolkata airport, which is run by the communist-dominated local government for the express purpose of humiliating itinerant capitalists.”

I believe that the unrefined description of Bengal stems from his experience at the hotel:

“A charming man knocked on my door, introduced himself as my personal valet, and promised to get my suit dry-cleaned, my clothes washed and my shoes polished so that I could see my face in them, and deliver my belongings to my room by sunrise. Exuberant at the thought of being treated like a maharajah, I handed him everything I wasn’t wearing.”

While it is unfortunate that he was robbed of his belongings in a foreign city, it makes me wonder if someone as naive as Mr. Wooldridge should be recommended to travel anywhere by himself. I know from experience that we accept the weirdest of incidents as being typical to an unknown place. A new place has the power of making us either terribly skeptical about everything or embarrassingly vulnerable to everything.

Of course the next day, he realizes his mistake. “It turned out that their hotel did not provide overnight cleaning let alone personal valets. My charming visitor of the previous night was, it emerged, a scam artist. With several days of meetings ahead of me, I was left with the clothes I was standing in: well-worn chinos, a heavily creased shirt and brightly coloured sneakers.”

Mr. Wooldridge ends up spending the day visiting Tata Steel and villages that he describes as follows, “I spent the first part of the day visiting the steelworks – the hottest and sweatiest place I have ever been – and the second half visiting model villages in the jungle, which were dirty as well as sweaty. “

He then flies to Mumbai, where he stays at the Taj and doesn’t find time to buy clean clothes. Instead he tries to buy deodorant to help his smelly clothes. It makes me wonder why he wouldn’t make time to buy a shirt. He does mention that he arrives late and has to rush to meetings but it almost seems silly that he makes time to wander around looking for deodorant instead of clean clothes.

His description of street hawkers is quite accurate. They are a persistent bunch and the only way to get rid of them is to ignore them and keep moving. But most tourists feel compelled to respond to their never-ending rhetoric.

Mr. Wooldridge finally ends up buying what he believes at first to be deodorant from “a hole in the wall that seemed to sell everything.” 

During his meeting, his skin begins to burn and he is convinced that it’s caused by whatever was in the deodorant can. The article ends with Mr. Wooldridge ending his interview abruptly and rushing to take a freezing shower.

The heading and content of the article have the power to mislead people into believing that the “service economy in the emerging world” is simply waiting to pounce on and rob naive tourists. I certainly hope that that’s not the image readers begin to believe in.


 

 

Going Places: Potato in Seoul

Some great posts about Seoul from Leanna French on her blog going–places.blogspot.com

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Read: Tourist in Seoul – Gyeongbokgung Palace


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Read: University life in Seoul from the exchange student perspective.


 

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Read: Seoul – A Cat Lover’s Dream?


 

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Read: Short Trip from Seoul to Daegu.


Share your travel experiences with The Overseas Magazine. Email theoverseasmagazine@gmail.com

Entrepreneurial Inspiration: Forever and Everett Photography

I met Forever and Everett’s photographer, Brittney Everett, a few months ago when I visited Ohio. I got to know her and her business a little better a few weeks ago at a wedding. Brittney is one of the coolest photographers I have met. Her calm attitude put everyone at ease during the photo shoot.  So I asked her to share her business story with The Lead Journal!

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Forever and Everett Photography had an interesting beginning – the company is an example of Brittney’s can’t-keep-me-down attitude!

Brittney and her husband were living in Denver and her husband was in school full-time getting his Masters of Divinity at Denver Seminary. Brittney was working for a company but soon after she was hired, she was replaced with a marketing company and was left jobless!

That year Brittney had purchased a nice camera with her birthday money to take good pictures of the beautiful Colorado landscape. She decided to put the camera to use in a way that could make her some money!  When Brittney got married, a friend of hers came up with the clever name combining ‘forever and ever’ with her last name, Everett. She felt as though it fit with a Photography business since photos make memories last forever. Hence the name – Forever and Everett Photography.

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Forever and Everett Photography suited Brittney’s schedule perfectly. It allowed flexibility on the side of any temp jobs or babysitting jobs she could get until she was hired full-time somewhere.

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Brittney’s mom had started her own side photography business and was excited about the possibility of photographing a wedding together! But at the time they lived in different countries so that wasn’t that feasible! Brittney and her mom finally did it for a first time at a wedding few weeks ago! (It was the same wedding where I met Brittney.)

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In Denver, in order to advertise and grow her clientele, Brittney needed to use a strategy that would work with the limited time and resources that she had. So she started the company by offering free photo shoots to a couple families who also attended the Seminary! Those couple photo shoots gave her the confidence that she needed to expand her work. Since she did not fix prices, she started asking for donations for family photo shoots! Her clientele were all in the same boat as them, “poor seminary students, but with children!” She decided that she would rather accept $20 for a photo shoot, than someone not be able to have family photos because they couldn’t afford it!

She posted her pictures on a Facebook page: foreverandeverettphotography and on a blog: www.foreverandeverettphotography.com. Brittney relies on shares, likes and word of mouth as well as the business cards that she occasionally passes out, to build her clientele.

Brittney describes Forever and Everett as more like a hobby or side job that she can fit into her life.

Because I’m a stay at home mom now, it’s still something I can do on the side!

When they moved from Denver to Ohio, she was sad to leave her clients there. She had done photo shoots for many families and they were promoting her to other families. Her business was growing with the referrals that she was receiving since they loved her work so much!

Forever and Everett Photography offers something that most other businesses don’t offer – there are no set prices! Brittney says, “I do it because I love to, I love pictures and I love looking back at photos for memories! I love providing an inexpensive option for people to have those memories!”

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Brittney started with family and baby photo shoots and worked up to senior pictures and weddings.

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I love to capture candids rather than poses, more “in the moment” stuff!

Brittney fits in shoots in evenings or weekends or in the middle of the day, if that works for the subjects.

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I’ve heard the phrase, “Do what you love and it won’t feel like work,” and that’s kind of how I decided that was what I wanted to do in my time of desperation!

 

Brittney took a course at a community college to learn how to use the manual function of her camera and she keeps learning from other photographers.

I mostly have an eye for cool angles and ways of looking at things!

Check out her photos here: www.foreverandeverettphotography.com

To contact her for photo shoots, email her at: brittneyleverett@gmail.com


1913233_488983211207910_1267106761_oGuest Contributor: Brittney L. Everett is the founder of Forever and Everett Photography. 

Images: Brittney L. Everett

The Abode of Clouds – Meghalaya

I’ve always wanted to pen down something and share about this little state of mine. Situated in the north-eastern part of India, Meghalaya is also known as the “Abode of clouds”.  Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya is known as “Scotland of the East” because of its scenic beauty.

Mawsynram, a village in Meghalaya receives the heaviest rainfall in the world and Cherrapunji (Sohra) being the second.

The best time to visit is during the winter season i.e from November – February. But if you want to see the waterfall, monsoon season is the best i.e from July – October.

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Meghalaya – The Abode of Clouds

How to reach Shillong, Meghalaya:

The nearest airport/train station is Guwahati (Assam). Shillong is around 2.5 – 3 Hours drive from Guwahati airport. There are pre-paid taxi booths inside the airport and also the Meghalaya Information center.

If you are travelling by train, the Shillong cab stand is outside the railway station.

Where to go:

Cherrapunji – It is also known as Sohra by the locals. It is a major tourist spot and it is around 2 hours’ drive from Shillong. Places to visit: Nohkalikai Fall, Dainthlen Fall, Seven Sister’s Fall and Mawsmai Cave .

If you want to see the waterfall, the best time to visit is during the monsoon season i.e from July – October.

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Nohkalikai Fall
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A view from the Thankarang Park

Mawlynnong – It is a village 90 kms away from Shillong. It was awarded as the cleanest village in Asia in 2003.  It is also famous for the Living root bridge. The bridge is hand-woven by the villagers from the roots of the trees.

Dawki – It is 1 hour away from Mawlynnong Village.  If you’re up for an adventure, then you should visit this place. The best time to visit is during the winter season i.e from December – February. You can try river rafting, camping, boating and scuba diving.

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The Suspension bridge over the Umngot River, Dawki

Mawphlang – It is just 25 km away from Shillong. Mawphlang is famous for the Sacred Grove.  The forest is about 700 acres and around 800 years old. The forest is protected and preserved by the Khasi tribe. There are guides who will take you for a tour inside the forest. You can also cover up nearby places like the Elephant falls and Shillong Peak.

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Inside the Sacred Forest

Guest author: Babetlin Synrem is an IT professional who loves to travel, eat and read.

 

If we were to visit your city when you were not around to drive us around, how would we get around? Please tell us about your local transportation system, recommended hotels, restaurants, and tourist activities. We know you love your city and can write all about it. Share your experiences with theleadjournal@gmail.com. Find out more topics you can write about: Write for The Lead Journal

 

Ethics in Media Coverage of Officer Involved Shootings: The Ferguson Effect

The shooting of Ferguson resident Michael Brown, 18, by veteran officer Darren Wilson, 28, was the spark that lit the fire for unprecedented media coverage of officer-involved shootings.

Since that fateful day in August of 2014, the media and public have participated in a never before seen number of public opinion “trials” that are full of speculation, half-truths, Monday morning quarterbacking and a vast number of misconceptions. Even a USA Today timeline of events, published in August 2015, failed to mention important details of Brown’s actions—omitting Brown’s assault on Wilson during their first encounter. It seems that the court of public opinion is not only in session, but show no signs of going to recess anytime soon.

One of the biggest disservices the current 24-hour news cycle has done for consumers is the reporting of “facts” before they are fully vetted. It’s bad enough when the media get names of suspects wrong, or when they misreport on the death of a senator—but convicting a city employee of murdering an “innocent” man without proper investigation of the facts has to be one of the most prominent examples of violating the public’s trust.

In his Washington Post article, Jonathan Capehart admitted, “in those early hours and early days, there was more unknown than known.” Yet, that didn’t stop him from sharing his thoughts with MSNBC’s Michael Skolnik on “the death of another unarmed black man at the hands of a white police officer.”

The media’s insatiable appetite for too quickly reporting misinformation is not only a disservice to the news consumers, but to the people whose lives they ruin in the process.

Capehart now admits that the “’Hands up, don’t shoot’ movement was built on a lie.” The two investigations into Brown’s death, released by the Justice Department “have forced me to deal with two uncomfortable truths: Brown never surrendered with his hands up, and Wilson was justified in shooting Brown,” Capehart wrote.

If hindsight is 20/20, where does that leave us as a nation? If when truths come to light lives are still ruined, communities still destroyed and misconceptions are still perpetuated years later, how can we not question journalistic practices of reporting half-truths in the name of breaking news?

[As this post is about journalistic integrity and ethical practices, I should note that Capehart also noted that the DOJ report revealed an alarming number of civil rights violations over the years from the Ferguson Police Department, which also needs to be addressed. But, that does not negate the need for media to be more responsible in their reporting. Stories that are as volatile as police shootings of minorities need to be handled with the utmost integrity and deal strictly with facts—not speculation that has the potential to leave another community destroyed in the wake of violent protests that were built on a lie.] 


FullSizeRenderGuest author: Kristi Reed is a freelance writer and photographer living in SE Asia with her family. She is actively engaged in combating global injustice, ending modern-day slavery and documenting current world events. Kristi is currently seeking a BA in Journalism and Mass Communications from Arizona State University.