Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Travel Lockdown is OVER!

It's true; I hold, in my hands, all the required implements of international travel. Canadian passport (old and new), I-485 receipt, employment verification and status clarification, H-1B documentation. Nothing stands in my way between me and the world!

And by the world, I mean probably just weekend trips to Vancouver.

2.5 months lockdown... much less than the 6 months I had last time. Not bad. Hopefully I won't have another lockdown for a few years, if at all.

I am planning to go to Vancouver this weekend, mostly to get my I-94 transferred to my new passport and to remind the Irishman's liver that it has to make up for the time it's had off.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Kingsgate is Mine!

What, do you ask, is Kingsgate?

THAT, my friends, is Kingsgate!

Yes, though I've been hinting at it for awhile, it's just been finalised today. I have just "closed" on the transaction, and now officially own this two-bedroom townhouse in the Kingsgate region of northern Kirkland. Since the name is cool, I will just refer to the townhouse as 'Kingsgate' from now on.

First off, I would like to thank three people, without whom this would not be possible.

First, of course, my darling Amber, without which any abode would just seem empty.

Second, my real estate agent, Mary Dobson. While she sent us dozens of potential listings, Kingsgate was actually in the very first set she sent us. She showed us lots of patience while we we reviewed listing after listing, and helped us navigate the tricky waters of American real-estate. Drop her an email - she can help you buy or sell your Puget Sound home I'm sure!

Third, my mortgage broker, Jeff Keeney from Golf Savings Bank. I think the most telling experience was when he dropped house renovations on a Sunday afternoon to drive to the nearest coffee shop with Wi-fi, to generate a new estimate for me to look over. He was friendly, helpful, and extremely knowledgeable in the field. I can't sing him enough praises. Oh, and of course, he got me the best deal on my mortgage too with no hassle.

In terms of Kingsgate's vitals:
Built 1982. 1280 sqft, 2 bedrooms, 1.5 bathrooms. A large master bedroom upstairs, and a neighbouring second bedroom/office and a bathroom. Downstairs has a large square kitchen with some dated countertops, but a new stove. Living room facing the rear. One car garage, attached. Fully fenced back yard with patio. Attached to one neighbour on my East wall.

It is technically a townhouse, with a homeowners association, but it is what is known as a Planned Unit Development. Basically, the HOA only exists to manage a few small patches of common space and to regulate the interactions between attached neighbours. Otherwise, it's pretty much hands off - I own the place, inside and out, and can do what I want with it.

Over the next few days, I'll be moving small collections of stuff over, and preparing for some minor painting I want to do over the weekend. The movers will move the furniture on Monday, and then we'll work on finalising the whole project.

For those of you who are curious (and aren't using Facebook for some reason), here's the photo highlights.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Canadian Passport is Here!

Though I've been holding my first British passport for several months now, I now finally received my new Canadian passport.

On one hand, I appreciate the Canadians' personal touch - when one of my references' phone numbers was disconnected, a nice lady from Ottawa called me to ask what was up. Similarly, the Canadian consulate in Seattle was friendly and cheerful. Never once did I feel like I was being processed by a computer or an Indian call centre.

But why on earth did it have to take so long? Two months before it was processed [FYI: you know it's being processed because they charge your credit card when they start]. Another two weeks for them to mail it to the Canadian embassy in Seattle.

Why mail it to the embassy? Simple. They need to cancel the old passport. But in the current US immigration climate, you'd have to be stupid to let your passport out of your hands even for a second.

After all this, I still only get a five-year passport. WTF. You'd think they'd make a ten-year passport for those outside the country, especially since non-residents don't qualify for the passport renewal program. Thanks for the help - way to help those that need it the least!

Of course, with a day off work, some train tickets, and some clever fast-talking, several Microsofties have discovered how to get Canadian passports SAME DAY! Cheapens my accomplishment a bit. Email me if you want to know how these clever individuals did it.

BTW, this does not mean that my travel lockdown is over. The Nebraska Service Center has been processing some early August applications, so I predict that it will be another month before I can travel.