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fip & jim

K2 Visa preparation for SEN child

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I've found it very difficult to find relevant information and advice when preparing for our medical and embassy interview so I thought I'd pass on what measures we've taken so far.

Background: I am from the UK. I have two children, aged 21 & 14. 21 year old child is staying in the UK, 14 year old is emigrating with me. 14 year old has a diagnosis of autism. There is no contact with the other parent and this has been so for years, for personal reasons that I will keep private out of respect for all concerned. 

Jim and I took our time in reaching our decision to emigrate as we both have children and take their needs in to consideration primarily, especially when one child has specific and complex needs. Our needs are secondary. This has added time and stress to the process, but it was necessary and essential to consider the emotional impact, for everyone, of emigrating. At each stage we prioritised so we did not feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the decision and the obstacles to overcome. 

There are two important considerations USCIS will have when assessing a case that you may have difficulty with as a parent of a SEN child - is the individual a risk to themselves or others, and/or are they likely to become a "public charge" if they live in the US. 

Firstly, it is impossible to predict how a child will react to a new situation. Early on we decided it was crucial for my child to visit the US because we needed to know if he could adapt to the new environment. We decided the best time to do that would be in the summer holidays, when we could spend the maximum amount of time in the US. We tried to be sensitive about how being in a new environment would be for him - the taste of different food, the smells of a different country, the sounds. We took familiar things with us so that he could have some comfort away from his regular routines. The thing he struggled the most with was the heat. He is at a very self conscious stage and didn't want to show too much flesh, so it was difficult to keep him cool if we were out. He loved being in the US. We need not have worried about the food or cultural differences, he coped fine with it.

We applied for Leave of Jurisdiction 3 months before filing our petition, to allow time for the court process in the UK. This is a requirement for any child whose birth was registered after December 2003 in the UK. Both parents have parental responsibility for a child registered after this date. To attempt to remove a child permanently from the UK without this court order is child abduction. We prepared for the court hearing much like the petition for the visa - evidence of arrangements for the child (financial, emotional, and social), how he will be provided for in the future, his own opinions, and why emigrating to the US is in his best interests. We do not know where his father is living but the court traced him and notified him of proceedings. He did turn up at the hearing but raised no objections. If he had objected we knew it could take 6 months, or longer, to get permission and would probably involve external agencies assessing us as a family and our intentions. This was a factor in timing our application to USCIS. This was nerve-wracking time for me as we have had plenty of assessments and probing over the years and I still resent opening up to complete strangers about our private life. It also seemed unfair that our personal happiness could be determined by an absent and unsupportive parent's permission. In the end I needn't have worried but you don't know that until the outcome is reached. 

I have kept evidence of Jim's relationship with my children, much as you do with yourself for the K1 - correspondence and photos etc. 

Finding out what to take for our medical has been difficult and a real time constraint. At this point I can advise that they want to know if an individual is a risk of harming themselves or others, and the financial impact of their condition. I booked the appointment 4 weeks ahead from receiving the letter from the embassy to allow time to gather all the necessary documents (you are given options about when to attend). I also asked for extra time at the appointment so that the doctor has time to read it all. I also have spent this period of time preparing my son for what may happen at the interview (being touched, talking about his condition, etc.)

This is what I've included in my son's medical paperwork:

  • The completed U.S. Medical Questionnaire (answered truthfully!)
  • Child's immunisation records
  • Child's patient summary
  • A letter from child's SENCO briefly outlining his current difficulties and behaviour within school
  • Child's latest school report
  • Child's current EHC Plan
  • A letter from the GP detailing current treatment for child's condition

 

It has been difficult getting the required documents from the GP. The staff at our surgery are completely unaware of what's needed for a visa medical and didn't even know what a patient summary is. I am still waiting, 3 weeks after requesting, for a signed letter from them. To save time I would advise you print out the instructions from the email that Visamedicals send you when you book the appointment with them, a copy of the medical questionnaire, and a letter from yourself outlining what you are requesting from them - vaccination records, patient summary and a letter from your GP detailing any diagnosis and any depression you have suffered as a result of caring for a child with complex needs. Don't wait for them to ask for information, take it to them to avoid delays. I am also taking a copy of the assessment my son had from an Educational Psychologist, so there will be no delay if this information is required. 

I'm allowing extra time on the day to travel to the medical to give my son time to calm down if he has found the journey difficult. 

Fortunately my son wants to emigrate to the US and really wants us to be a family, so that has leverage when he is stressed about what we have to do to achieve that. A gentle reminder of the bigger picture and telling him that lots of people find it stressful to go through this process also helps him. 

 

For the embassy interview I am providing additional evidence of how Jim and I will provide for my son in the future. We have researched provision in the US for children with ASD and this was a major factor in deciding where to live. We have bought a house with private living space (self-contained living room, bedroom and bathroom) for him should he need to live near us for additional support as a young adult. Jim's private health care insurance will also cover my son. I am taking evidence of this with us. 

 

If you are reading this because you are thinking of moving to the US with a SEN child then don't be put off by the additional work it causes. It is achievable. You have probably honed skills over the years that you don't even realise. All those meetings with pediatricians and medical staff, school staff, assessments and probing and form filling will have prepared you for this process. 

 

If you have any questions you can DM me & I will happily try to answer. I will keep this post updated as things progress.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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