Minimize the distance

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Although this post isn't specifically about visas it's just as vital on another level.

Going through this process when separated by thousands of miles from the person you love is terribly hard.

It's my hope that this post will help others bridge those miles and reduce the sting of being so far away from each other.


Phone calls

U.S.

Vonage
Vonage is an internet service (VOIP) that lets you make calls to the UK for the ridiculous flat rate of 24.00 a month. It's important to note that if this is only for land lines or other Vonage customers. If you call a cell number there's extra fees.

Skype
Skype is like Vonage but can be used on your mobile phone. I've used it on my iPhone so you'll need to see if it's available for other types of "smart phones". Currently, you can use Skype on the 3G network and make free calls to any other Skype user. They make start charging a fee beginning next year, but there's no defined date. If you're not shy about jailbreaking your iPhone or Andriod phone, you can use Skype over 3G indefinitely.

U.K.

Penny a Minute
I don't know all the details, but my fiancee used a service, I think, called Penny a Minute. It's like a pre-paid service where you pay via the phone a certain amount and then dial through their service. You pay a penny per minute with no restriction on how long, what day, or time of day. You can call a cell phone or land line, or even a Vonage number and it all costs the same.

Video

iPhone 4

When talking about cell phones I can only speak knowledgeably about the iPhone. Any others will require some reading up on your part. The latest iPhone 4 has a video chat feature called Face Time. It's important to note that while your actual phone call uses your phone carrier, the chat feature works over WiFi. This means you have limited mobility when using this.

KnockingLive
But, there is an app called KnockingLive. This application allows for one-way video, meaning that one phone acts as the video sender and the other phone can view the video. It's only video, there is no sound, but you can be on the cell phone and use the video at the same time. As one example I've used this when out shopping for patio chairs at the hardware store and talking to my fiancee asking her opinion about types and colors. Currently, this is available on both iPhone4 and Android. They're in the works to put this on the Blackberry.

Skype
Skype offers a computer based application for both PC and Mac. It allows for voice and video between two, possibly more, computers and it's free. I have a Mac which comes with it's own chat software, but I find Skype to be better. (personal opinion).



Other ways to communicate

For most of you this is a no brainer, but there are some tips that might be useful. Many are based on mobile phones which allows you to be spontaneous

Email
Clearly, there is no end to the email providers out there. I think Gmail had to invest in additional servers just to store all the emails my fiancee and I sent to each other.


Pictures
Most phones have cameras. Use them. Share part of your day with the other person. We'd take a picture of just something or place we were at, it didn't matter, inside Starbucks, the rows of cereal boxes at the grocery store, being stuck in traffic (drive safely), or what have you. But by bringing the other person into your experiences helps them feel more in touch and closer to you.


Video
As with photos, many phones can shoot video, too. Whether it was a group of friends all waving and being silly, or showing the embarrassing stack of dishes in the kitchen sink, etc, making a short video and emailing it to your future other half is a great way to close the distance.

Voice
Depending on what model of phone you have it will have a voice recorder. They're intended for taking notes but they have an email feature. Because of the time difference it's common for one person to be asleep while the other is up and around. I'd like to make a voice message and email it so when she woke up she's have a nice good morning waiting from me.


Texting
Many carriers charge for texting and I think it's robbery. Several smartphones have texting apps that will allow you to text for free. My favorite is BeeJive. It ties together your Facebook, Gmail (they have a chat), AOL IM, and many other texting providers, and lets you text from a single source while you can see who's available, away, or offline. It does not do multimedia, so you're limited to text only, but it's a great cost saver.


There you have it. In essence you can be on contact with your loved one overseas no matter if you're home, in the car, or where ever. I hope this helps you guys. I know how hard it can be.

Good luck to you all.