September 15, 2016

Las Vegas

I recently made my first trip to Las Vegas. The first night I stayed in the historic El Cortez downtown. The El Cortez has the best blackjack games for lowrollers, and the hotel rooms in the tower, while not the most modern rooms, are huge given the low prices. For the rest of the week I stayed in a two bedroom suite with my parents just off the strip near Planet Hollywood. In the middle of the week I took a day trip to go see the Grand Canyon for the first time. While it was a long drive there and back, it is worth making the trip. The Arizona Grand Canyon is just a little bit more impressive than the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon...

Here are a couple of videos I made while there.

May 8, 2016

Cathkin Park

Cathkin Park in Glasgow was known as Hampden Park from 1884 to 1903. During its time as Scotland's national stadium, it hosted many Scottish Cup Finals and Scottish internationals. It is where Hibs won the Scottish Cup in 1887. I left in the ambient and bird sounds in to serve as a contrast between the quiet park it is today and the atmosphere which once came from the terraces.


March 25, 2016

Changing of the Guard at the Kremlin

Today I watched the noon changing of the guard at the Russian tomb of the unknown solder at the Kremlin in Moscow.

March 5, 2016

February 5, 2016

Applying for a passport

As mentioned below, the last piece of immigration related paperwork which hopefully I’ll have to do for some time was applying for a British passport.

Compared to all of the previous forms I have completed, the passport application wasn’t particularly notable. There were two pages of the kind of basic identification questions that you would expect. Because the same paper form serves several purposes, you need to read the instruction book carefully. Depending on how you claim British citizenship, you complete different sections. For example, some people need to provide the details of their grandparents. Other people, like me, complete a section with the details of their naturalisation certificate.

The last page is for someone to confirm that the person competing the form is the person in the picture. As is the usual case for many British forms, the person competing that section needs to be a “professional” like a solicitor or a civil servant.

Unlike in the US where you need to go in person to a post office to apply, in the UK you can just mail your application to the passport office. However, after the passport office processes your application, you need to attend an interview. This interview is an extra check to confirm your identity. In my opinion, it would be easier to do this upfront when you submit your application like in the US and then just wait while they process everything behind the scenes rather than have the hassle associated with booking an interview in the middle of the process with the extra days that adds to the process.

One thing to note is that you will be without your existing passport and naturalisation certificate for part of the process. In my case I was without them for two and a half weeks.

An unfortunate coincidence is that my American passport happens to expire this July. As both passports are good for ten years, it means that in 2026 I’ll have to renew both of them. It would have been nice to have them staggered a little bit more.

January 31, 2016

Long time coming

After submitting my first visa application all the way back in late May 2009, my immigration journey finally ended on Wednesday when I had my British citizenship ceremony in Stirling. What is hopefully my finally piece of immigration-related paperwork, my passport application, was mailed off Thursday morning. With that I should be finished with visa stuff for sometime.

After applying for citizenship back in August via the Nationality Checking Service in Hamilton, South Lanarkshire and receiving word in December that my application was approved, the final step was attending a citizenship ceremony. While I would have preferred to have the ceremony in Glasgow, the Home Office assigned me to Stirling, and it was easiest to head there rather than deal with the bureaucracy of having my paperwork transferred from one council to another.

Rob Roy in front of the Stirling Municipal Building
The ceremony was held in Stirling’s municipal building near the corn exchange in the older part of town. I arrived around 30 minutes before the ceremony was scheduled to start and waited with the other participants and their family until we were taken to the room where the ceremony would take place. Once in the room, two women from the register’s office gave us some brief instruction on what would be taking place. Because all five of the other participants were also there early, there was some downtime while we waited for the various local dignitaries to arrive.

The ceremony started with an assistant register from the council welcoming the participants and the various local dignitaries. A Deputy Lord Lieutenant for Stirlingshire and Falkirk spoke for a couple of minutes to welcome everyone as well. Then everyone who was saying the oath said it individually followed by everyone who was saying the affirmation.

The oath is:
I (name) swear by Almighty God that on becoming a British citizen I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, her Heirs and Successors, according to law.

As a group everyone then said together the pledge. The pledge is:
I will give my loyalty to the United Kingdom and respect its rights and freedoms. I will uphold its democratic values. I will observe its laws faithfully and fulfil my duties and obligations as a British citizen.

The Provost of Stirling now spoke. He talked about the local area and participating in the community. Following his speech, we were each called up, in order, to receive our naturalisation certificates and a nice coin, a gift from Stirling Council, from the Deputy Lieutenant and the Provost. Once the last person had collected her certificate, the national anthem, God Save the Queen, was played. That brought the ceremony to an end, and all that was left was to sign a register for the council's records and to head to a small reception.

And with that I had become a British citizen...