On Faith and Proof

Today’s post is from Emily, who you’ll remember from her fabulous New Orleans elopement. It is ostensibly about the process of getting married and dealing with the immigration process. We’ve never gotten a chance to talk about just how hard this is, and allow those of you who are going through it a voice on APW, though we’ve done our share of multi-national weddings. But really, today’s post is about faith, and about how we each struggle with knowing what’s true for us, and what’s true for our marriage. Because the thing is, life isn’t perfect, and we know this. We don’t always read our partners correctly, painful things happen, and people leave each other all the time. But amidst all that, we need to find a way to listen to the still, small voice inside of us and have faith (or not). And how we navigate that question is a huge part of figuring out what marriage is about, for us, for now.

A Practical Wedding | On Faith & Proof

Do you love your partner? Prove it.

Not to me, not to them. Not to yourself. Prove it to the United States government. Oh, by the way, if you don’t do a convincing job, you could be convicted of a felony and possibly go to prison for up to twenty years, depending on which state you live in. No pressure.

When I got married, I knew full well that my husband would be applying for a green card. Of course, I hated to mention that to people, because talk of immigration status can change the reaction to your wedding. More of a “Hmmm…” than an, “Awww!” (Can I get an amen from the pregnant brides?) When I was open about it, people were determined to put the fear of God into me. “No one ever got married for a green card and later thought it was a really good idea,” someone said.

But we didn’t get married for a green card. We got married because we wanted to join our lives together. Having just lost my father, I was aware that life was short and unpredictable, and I was in love and I didn’t want to wait. I didn’t want to wait for my family to be okay with it, I didn’t want to wait to plan a wedding, I just wanted to be married. Period.

I was also incredibly naive. I’m a citizen, I thought, and I married someone who isn’t a citizen. Surely there’s someone out there that can just fix that right up. I imagined applying for a green card would be a lot like applying for our marriage license. There would be a big building, a beige room with receptionists and paperwork. It wouldn’t be romantic, but we could get it over with as soon as possible. Ha!

Due to circumstances beyond our control, our marriage is automatically assumed to be fraudulent. We were asked to collect proof of our relationship and, again, demonstrating my naivete, I gathered journal entries, poems, love notes, and the room service bill from our honeymoon. “No, no,” our lawyer said to this. “We need legal proof.”

Legal proof is difficult to gather when you’re two twenty-somethings fresh out of college still living with roommates. So far what we’ve been able to scrape together is in a small half-inch binder. Phone records with our calls to each other highlighted, our car insurance policy, our tax return from this year, our lease on which I’m listed as “authorized resident – friend.” I know there will be an interview. I know we’ll be taken into separate rooms and asked inane questions about the location of our toothbrushes and how much our rent is. I know that our ability to give similar answers will somehow be further proof for the legitimacy of our marriage.

I have always struggled with faith. I am skeptical. I question everything.  I can be a cynic. But since I started preparing for our interview, I keep looking over at our binder, that thin little stack of official papers, and I think more and more that proof is just an illusion. It doesn’t always mean as much as we think it does.

I picked out our wedding bands. Matching, because I liked the idea of equality. They were from a jeweler in my home state. Most importantly, I chose ones that were made of silver. Our rings are humble. They felt appropriate for us, starting out in the world and in our marriage. A lot of people don’t like silver because it tarnishes, but do you want to know a secret? One of the best ways to prevent tarnish on your jewelry is to wear it. The oils from your skin protect the metal.

On the drive to our ceremony, I confessed to my husband that I was afraid. “I don’t know anything about marriage,” I told him, panic rising in my voice. Without taking his eyes off the road or his hands off the wheel, he told me, “Here’s all you need to know about marriage: I’m your husband and I love you.”

Now, almost a year later, as this immigration process drags on, I wake up every morning and I slip my ring on. It’s the first thing I do. I like the way it looks on my hand. I like the daily reminder of the commitment I’ve made. I may not know how our problems will be resolved, or when, but I do know that we will handle it together. That I will handle it as my husband’s wife.

A Practical Wedding | On Faith & Proof

Photos by Maile Lani

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  • Amanda

    “Here’s all you need to know about marriage: I’m your husband and I love you.”

    Oh yeah this. So much. Thank you and good luck with the process, you will get there. In the meantime be happy that you have each other, and that you will conquer all, because this is the leap of faith we are all doing :)

    • Emily, I love your husband quotes :) I just read your elopement post and gushed at “You make your own luck”. Sigh and swoon. Good luck with the legal bs! I think you’ve got all you need to prove your love.

    • Yeah, that line made my lip go all a-quiver.

      Hooray for wise husbands. :)

  • lor

    Amanda said it best, not sure what else I can add but good luck and congratulations on a year in!!

  • Zan

    Oh! Big hugs Emily. Big hugs. There are a bunch of us immigration spouses floating around on the APW interwebs, and we all know how much the immigration process can suck.

    We are still in the midst of the green card process ourselves, so I’m right there with you lady. You can come and find me (via my blog) if you want someone to vent to about the process.

    • Me too! We just got the email *this morning* (timely post!) saying that the NVC has approved that step & are now preparing for the interview. Scary! Also, I think I need a binder. So far we just have a manilla envelope and it’s pretty full!
      Can we start an “APW spouses/sponsors of GC applicants” support group?
      I’m very lucky that my partner is European, so we won’t have to do quite as much convincing as I’m sure you will, Emily… but even still, it’s not a fun process!

      • Liz

        Maybe an APW spouses/sponsors of spouse visas anywhere might be good? We’re going through the same process here in Australia. Granted, we’ll probably have to do it again if we go back to the US, though the thought of that alone makes me just want to stay put—especially the thought of explaining to everyone yet again that marrying a citizen of another country grants you nothing but the burden of proof.

        Best of luck with the process, Emily. I hope it’s quick, as painless as anything involving immigration can be, and at least something you can look back on someday as a challenge—the first of many, probably—that you made it through together.

        • Everyone who’s willing to provide support is welcome! :)

          And I may have to quote you about the “marrying a citizen of another country grants you nothing but the burden of proof”. Perfectly stated!

      • I’d join that group. Except I’m the one needing the green card, not him. Which complicates things even more, because it’s already presumed that as a woman I’m far more invested in getting married than he is (I’m not), and with me holding the visa thing over his head how can I not think that’s pressure, and how can I live with myself knowing that?

        Not that anybody’s ever said so, but it’s what I imagine they’re all thinking.

    • marbella

      I just got my fingerprinting done last week… hopefully not too much longer. Ours was made doubly hard in that my husband is Irish, and was going through his US citizenship process during our engagement, hoping it would come through in time for him to be a citizen when we married. Faith and hope is a definitely huge part of the immigration process, and something I have had to remind myself pretty much every day of the past few years we’ve lived in the US. Thanks for the post, Emily.

      • I’m amazed at how many of you are going through this. I think it would be interesting to hear all your stories! The immigration issue is particularly prevalent right now in the fight for marriage equality as well: http://www.immigrationequality.org/template.php?pageid=154

        • Michele C.

          I’m also going through the immigration process! I am sponsoring my Italian husband and doing a direct consular visa, meaning I’m applying for him in Italy where I’ve lived for the past few years. It’s a bit different than the K1 fiance’ visa, and includes a trip to Naples for the interviews, but I’m hoping it works out well! We are getting wedding’ed tomorrow, as a matter of fact, to start our process ASAP! Good luck to all other sponsoring brides.

          • goodheart

            oh immigration fun! i’d love to see more posts on this — in fact, maybe i’ll finally get my act together and write about our courthouse wedding that was timed on the green card schedule and was more “hey, so the judge is available that day, are you?” than romantic. except that in the end, we used the courthouse vows at our partyceremonywedding a year later since they were so surprisingly awesome!

            we’re now in the middle of “removal of conditions” and i have my biometrics appointment on friday. i’m not as stressed about it this time around as i was for the initial interview two years ago, but it has been a journey….

          • Anna

            My future husband is Italian also. I already have my appt at the consulate here in SF and the American consulate in Naples. He’ll change his visa status after our wedding in Italy this summer. We are considering hiring a lawyer for a one-time (or 2 or 3) consultation because its a lot of paper.

            This is certainly one topic where the internet is not super helpful. The government site seems overly complicated and everyone’s personal story (while interesting and sweet and loverly and supportive – mostly) is so different that its not the same as advice…

        • Liz

          I’m glad the immigration issue is coming up in the fight for marriage equality. I’ve always thought it’s completely unfair that same-sex couples in the US basically have to shift countries to stay together. Here in Australia, there is at least the option of a de-facto partner visa, which is pretty much the same as the spouse visa. While not perfect, it is definitely better than having no options at all for any couples outside of the heterosexual married couple box!

        • With so many people moving and living around the world, it’s inevitable that more people from different places are getting married to each other. It’d be so much more convenient if we fell in love with people from our own countries, but alas.

          (Ear wax.)

    • Katy

      I’ve just been through a similar process (though to get into Australia and my partner is from NZ). We’ve got a temporary partnership visa that lasts for 5 years as he’s not an Aussie so I can’t get PR or citizenship. It did take 3 months of me being in Canada alone (not the worst time frame, but not hte best…). In other words, I hear y’all and we should definitely have a support group!

  • I can hear the hope in your words. My best wishes go out to you!

  • Marchelle

    As someone who’s been on the receiving end of the marriage immigration bullcrap (albeit in the UK, where the process was rather kinder), and who *just* came out the other end if it, legal citizen of my beloved’s country and my adopted home AT LAST (almost 3 years later!), I wish you two all the luck, patience and tolerance for assholes in the world.

    And what your husband said on your wedding day? It never gets any less true.

  • Oh, big hugs! That sucks big-time. Good luck, and know that we’re rooting for you.

  • Jo

    Best of luck to the both of you!

    C intentionally chose a weak metal because he feels that the day-to-day life gives it patina. It gets character. It shows your life.

    • Yes! My ring has a lot of tiny scratches and dings and scuffs from day to day life, but it is still on my finger. :)

  • Casey

    Oh, oh, oh. My sympathies for you and your husband for having to go through this process. I used to work in immigration law (NOT on the govt’s side..) and one of my main jobs was preparing clients’ marriage petitions and getting them ready for their interviews. It was heartbreaking in so many ways, and in some cases very different from yours, green cards were denied and husbands, wives and children were kept apart in different countries for years. It’s a hateful system and really makes you rethink the idea of “marriage to citizen = some sort of free pass.”

    Depressing stuff out of the way though, it sounds like you got married for all the right reasons. This process will test you, but if your relationship is already as strong as it seems, it will only get stronger. Hang in there! The very, very best of luck to you!!!

  • My sister is contemplating going through the same thing, since her boyfriend is Swedish. They joke about it, but I can’t even imagine how difficult it must be. But yes – yes to what really matters in a marriage – “Here’s all you need to know about marriage: I’m your husband and I love you.” And I love your approach to the wedding rings; that’s such a beautiful sentiment. Lots of luck to you and your husband, because you deserve every happiness after going through what the US govt is putting you through.

  • It’s true that everyone seems to think “you get married, your partner gets citizenship. Easy.” (Especially those in our parents’ generation, as that was the case when they were getting married ~30 years ago.) But this thing that we’re putting so much effort into, paying so much money for, and waiting for around a year to accomplish? It’s just residency. We’ll have to renew it all again in a year or two.

    Your partner sounds fantastic, Emily. Good job on that front! Good luck on the rest of the process, and know that you’ve got us all here for support (some of us even know exactly what you’re going through!).

    • goodheart

      no kidding! i work with international students and even one of my students was like, so yeah, i married an american so i “automatically” get my greencard. i hated to tell her how much work that was going to entail and that there were no guarantees….

    • It’s actually a bit frustrating. People often ask me when/if we’re moving (back) to the States, and I usually purse my lips and sigh and mention the immigration process and how much of a pain it is. They frown a bit and usually follow with, “but you’re a U.S. citizen. What’s the problem?” I know they’ve never had to deal with it, so it’s really hard to explain it in a way that a) makes sense and 2) isn’t patronizing. (But really, if it was that easy, don’t you think we would’ve done it initially?)

  • Hypothetical Sarah

    I’m familiar with the problem of accumulating relationship proof as a twenty-something student (and long-distance, in our case). Phone records? We talk on skype. Letters? Email is more convenient. Joint bank account? We live in separate countries. Joint tenancy agreement, car payments, anything? See previous statement. It’s a curious way to take stock of a relationship.

    Our immigration struggles are settled now (turns out it’s way easier if you only want to be the “dependent of a student” in the UK, which is not at all related to citizenship), but I wound up married (way ahead of schedule, which I don’t regret at all) because of them.

    Hang in there! And good luck!

    • Zan

      Oh you’re done?! Wow! That was fast!! Congrats Sarah!

      • Hypothetical Sarah

        Thanks :) Yeah, we tried while just engaged, provided lots of proof, and his application was denied (!!!) because clearly you can’t be in a “relationship resembling marriage” if you live in separate countries (grumble grumble grumble). One immigration shotgun wedding later, all we needed was a marriage certificate and proof of finances… no further relationship proof, and his visa got approved in like a week. They didn’t even give him a hard time about having JUST been denied as an unmarried dependent.

        But we’re totally immigration-lite compared to the rest of you. It would have been much harder if I was a UK citizen and had any ability to stay in the country beyond the end of my PhD.

        • Zan

          Ugh, yeah. I commented downthread that Stephen is already talking about wanting to move back to the UK someday (I’m on board) but we’re not even done with greencard paperwork yet and I’m just dreading having to do it all over again. I mean, right now his job is here and my PhD is here but that’s not forever and apparently getting into the UK on a spousal visa is just as obnoxious as it is here. OY.

          Glad it all worked out for you guys though!!

          • Hypothetical Sarah

            Oy. Good luck! At least your paperwork will start off in order from the green card application, right? Can that be considered a tinge of silver-lining?

            The UK government recently decided that they want to clamp down on immigration. Except they can’t control people coming in from the EU. So what do they do? Crack down on students and highly skilled workers. Because that’s a smart economic move, right? Seriously.

  • Moz

    Best of luck with the process – let us know how it goes.

  • Every marriage is a huge leap of faith, mostly because (no matter how carefully you plan) the future is so very unknown. Like you said, you can’t really prove love– you just have to trust it. I think this is part of why we picked the reading from The Little Prince for in our ceremony: “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

    Now if only governments would understand that. :) Best of luck to you both throughout this process!

  • I’m crying.

    This is so apt for me right now. The whole visa process scares me and it’s what Ryan and I have been talking about.

    Ryan is Indian and I’m American. He’s had visa history in the US. When he was a kid he lived here on his dad’s visa and had to get an extension. Which is totally legal, but apparently doesn’t look that good. And then, three years before he met me, he was engaged to another American and their visa was denied due to finances. Which was an act of God, I’m sure, because a few months afterwards he found out that she’d been cheating on him for seven months and if the visa had been approved he would have been her husband before he found out. So it probably saved him from a failed marriage.

    But to the US government those things might look like he’s desperate to live in the US and we’re not even sure if he’ll be able to get a tourist visa… we’re not even sure if he’ll get to meet my family before we get married! We wanted him to come visit me in May, but after looking over the evidence we can present to the consulate we’re thinking maybe I should go to India this summer instead. Especially since I’m unemployed so I can stay for a longer period of time, which means more together time.

    And then there’s which country to live in when we marry. We both agree we’d rather raise our kids in the US, but the issues still exist. I said we should start our lives in India, and once our marriage has been established for sometime go the US. Ryan wasn’t the convinced until he just found out about DCF (direct consulate filing) and it looks like a feasible option for us, and now we’re leaning in that direction.

    And who knows? Maybe we’ll opt for door number three and move to another country all together.

    Thank you SO MUCH for sharing this with us Emily. I will be praying for you and your husband.

    • That sounds like such a tough situation! I hope he at least gets to meet your family before the wedding!

      We’re doing consular processing in my partner’s home country, while living in a third country. We have an immigration lawyer in the U.S., but are able to do it all via email and phone calls (I’d be glad to give you his contact info, he’s great!).

      The problem with living in a third country, as we’re finding out now, is that my family isn’t here! ;)
      It might be a good idea for you guys to be married and live elsewhere for a year or two before applying for his GC, as it seems that that would at least help prove that it’s for real. You should definitely talk to an immigration attorney, since they could tell you if something like that (or another option) would be a good plan of action. Some do free initial consultations, some charge for them (ours was $100 but then that was discounted from the total price when we hired him).
      Good luck!

      • Thanks. :)

        I can’t see us consulting an attorney because I’ve been unemployed for over a year and Ryan makes roughly $300 a month, which is livable in India, but not exactly an attorney friendly budget.

        • There are some who do free initial consultations, and it’s worth finding one to know that you’re doing the right things which will eventually lead to an approval! I Googled “immigration attorney Detroit” and got a fairly long list, after that just had to call around and ask about their consultation fees. We met with two before settling on the one we hired, and learned stuff from all of them! So just see who’s practicing near you and if any of them offer free consultations.

          • Amber

            It can be very risky to try and navigate all the paperwork and rules of immigration law. The US makes it very difficult for every day people to apply for immigration visas, etc, by themselves and the consequences are pretty stiff. I’m pretty sure you can get charged with a crime for not doing the paperwork properly, even if it was just a mistake. So I would warn against trying to do this on your own, even though it’s expensive to get a lawyer. At least someone to make sure you’ve done it properly before you submit the paperwork.

            We just started the green card process for my husband.

          • We are also in the immigration process (for Canada) and we wanted to get a lawyer because it seemed so scary. After getting a price quote, we realized we couldn’t afford it. It took TONS of research, but we did it on our own and I feel confident that we prepared our application well. However, doing it on your own is about like the choice to do a DIY wedding. It is really hard work and you have to prepare a lot and do major research to learn how to do it right. It was stressful and tears were involved at numerous points. And of course, some cases (the non-straight-forward ones) need a lawyer. But our case was straight-forward, and we would have had to do the background work anyways (tracking down every address since the age of 21, every organization I was ever involved in, etc, etc.) so we didn’t want to pay someone else when we had to do so much work ourselves anyways. Anyhow, I just wanted to say, doing it on your own (at least for Canada) is not impossible. Good luck in your process, however you choose to do it!

        • Michele C.

          I live abroad and most of my friends are other American women, some of whom sponsored their husbands to live in the US. They all did it themselves – I am in the process now. It is fairly straightforward, you just have to do your research beforehand, the US government consulate sites have it all written out clearly. http://www.visajourney.com has a lot of the info too. But these are clear cut cases with no complications – if I was in your shoes, in this complicated case, I might get the free consultation. I hope it works out for you, good luck!

      • Anon

        If you haven’t already, call your local Member of Congress’s district office and talk to their immigration caseworker. They’ll have resources and sometimes other contacts you can call, and if you run into issues, they can be helpful unsnarling things.

        They are there to be your advocate when you have to deal with the other agencies of the federal government. USE THEM!

        • KMA(C)

          One other thing to consider would be calling around to any law schools around you – many have free clinics where students do the immigration work, supervised by experienced attorneys. Just another thought if you’re looking for help!

          • Melissa

            We couldn’t afford an attorney either but this is how we got some help with the process – the law school in our area has a legal clinic where they do immigration work. Extremely helpful! Be warned they can only help you so much because they don’t want to put their names down as having prepared it in that kind of consulting situation, but every bit of help from someone who knows what they’re doing helps.

    • Midwest Lantern

      This sounds very stressful – I wish you the best! Hang in there!

    • Oh girl! I’ve been there! Hang on! My fiance is from Australia and we’ve considered the move to the US many times but decided that really, it is a lot easier to apply and be approved once you’ve been married for a while. I think getting married and starting life in India before applying to the US would probably be best–especially because the immigration office is going to seriously question his motives for coming. Give em hell though! Show them that you two are in love and in it to win it! Good luck!

      • Amber

        The US seems pretty Australia-friendly, he might even be able to qualify for a special, Australia-only visa (E3), but that’s only if his intention isn’t to stay in the US. Even if he gets here on an E3, he can apply for a change of status (that’s what we’re doing, just 6-months married, with the help of my husband’s company).

        Australia’s immigration seems easier for our situation than the US fortunately, though because of the health scheme, I worry about getting disqualified because of health issues (which happened to a woman trying to immigrate to New Zealand!)

    • Hang in there. It’s so tough, I know, and there are so many decisions to make, that aren’t necessarily based on your own wishes. However it turns out, though, have faith that your relationship will live through it. That’s what we’re all fighting for.

  • Oh what beautiful wriitng! I’m not an international/immigration spouse, but I’m sure it’s no suprise that I still related to this post, especially this part: “I was in love and I didn’t want to wait. I didn’t want to wait for my family to be okay with it, I didn’t want to wait to plan a wedding, I just wanted to be married. Period.” In our case it was not immigration status but religion that kept us from getting married for far too long until I realized that I didn’t want to wait anymore, for him to change or me to change or for formal blessings from our families. It was time to be married. Congrats on going through with it and know that I will be rooting for you through the hideous immigration process and beyond.

  • I feel your pain.
    We had to go through this process with the UK government in order to get a partnership visa. We know have to do it all over again to get a spousal visa. We have to prove we are legitimate, again, with just as much paperwork. Luckily, I have all the official proof we need (joint bank statement, etc) because we have gone through this process too many times and because I’m a bit OCD about documentation having just finished a PhD, but it is still a pain in the ass, especially since we each had to go back to our countries of origin (NZ and US), seperately, the first time through.

    Our next move is to the US and we have heard so many horror stories. Hubby has no interest in a Green Card and that makes him even more suspicious. Apparently our life together here (of six years) and the UK’s acceptance of our ‘official’ life together doesn’t mean anything to the US government. I can’t wait!

    We need to pull resources and exchange lawyer numbers (and interview questions).

    Randomly, can I just say how ridiculous I think the ‘interview’ is. Anyone can be schooled on answers. And who’s husband remembers your mother’s birthday? Are you kidding me? I have to remind my Hubby of his mother’s birthday! And where I keep my toothbrush? My husband can’t remember where anything goes in our house. Whatever, we will cross that bridge when we come to it.

    My heart goes out to you. Whatever happens, remember that you are a team, regardless of location.

    • Amy*

      I love that you said, “you are a team, regardless of location.” I’m not an international spouse, but an Army Wife, and those words ring so true! My husband and I recently spent 100 days apart while he was in basic training. We’re now staring down the barrel of a 12 month (or more) deployment. After being together for 10 years, I know it will be hard to be apart, but I also know that it doesn’t make us any less married or any less in love.*

    • We looked at moving to the UK, as DH has a british passport.
      But that spousal visa? My goodness it was going to be tricky, and expensive, and likely to require him to go over to get stuff sorted over there while I waited here for things to happen and them him come and meet me in France or something to get me into the country!
      We’ve now bought a house in NZ, and have put off the idea of moving to the UK till we have kids who are older.

      • Zan

        Oh no! Ugh. Hubs is already talking about wanting to move back to England (eventually) and we’re not even done with all the green-card nonsense (his job is here right now).

        Ugh! Immigration!

  • Erica

    As one half of an international marriage that has had its share of difficulties thus far, I just wanted to send a virtual hug to Emily and her husband, and to Pamela and Ryan, and to everyone else out there dealing with immigration issues. It is SO STRESSFUL and I kinda want to punch people who complain about immigrants and suggest that they have it easy or that marriage = some kind of free pass. Anyhow, I really hope that you guys manage to make it through the process with flying colours, and that the difficulties involved bring you even closer together.
    I don’t have loads of advice, other than:

    1. Always keep any kind of paperwork, and always bring more documents to interviews than you think you need, because you never know when you’ll be asked for what.

    2. Whenever you hear information that you want to hear, right it down and get the name of the person who told it to you (this might apply more in Germany, where individual immigration officers seem to have the power to make arbitrary decisions based on whim). If you don’t get an answer you want to hear (depending on the finality of the decision), try again… and again…
    and again…

    3. Try to find ways to laugh about it, even though it can be hard! Getting mad at “the Man” together is also a good bonding activity and can make you feel more like a team than anything else.

    Good luck! Big hugs!

    • Thanks! And hugs back! :)

    • Meghan

      As someone who has assisted families going through the immigration process in the US, all of this advice is especially true.

      I’d like to add the following advice
      1)When mailing something to a consulate/NVC/USCIS/Govt. agency, send it via certified mail (i.e. make someone sign for it) for record keeping purposes
      2) You may not always get the same officer for your file. Some consul officers do not provide names, so note the window number you visit that day.
      3) If you move, fill out a Change of Address form the same time you send a notice to the post office to forward mail.
      4) If you are applying for a visa to the US, monitor the file online. If it gets 30-60 days outside of the normal window, consider calling your Member of Congress. They may be able to get more info on the status.

    • I second point #1. When we were getting a visa in Canada, one of us was piggybacking off of the other’s visa. We had a lawyer at the time, and he was talking to the guy at the window. The guy said, well, how do we know that they’re not just married to get the visa? I piped up that I had with me a few printouts of our Skype conversations over the previous two years, and the officer took them, I suppose as one source of “proof.”

      They may have been a little inappropriate.

      I just figured that it proved the point even more!!

  • Anna W

    Thank you for sharing this story, and everyone who has replied with their own version. I have had the same experience, but of course at the same time, I haven’t.

    I live in Sweden and my fiance is from Japan. He moved to Sweden to study (before we had met), and we met about two weeks after he had moved to Stockholm. We stayed friends for about 2 years before we knew we wanted to seriously be together. So he was still here on a student visa when we wanted to apply for a partnership visa (here it’s called sambo visa, which means you will have to live together).

    As many other has experienced, we had to go trough the paper works, and then we had to wait a bit over half a year to be called for an interview (!). However, the interview went smoothly (no toothbrush questions;), and it didn’t take more than a week for my boyfriend to get the visa. So it was really worth the wait, and in the end nothing too bad.

    I suppose we have a bit easier laws and rules in Sweden (and also the fact that my fiance is from Japan) when it comes to immigrants and visas. After we’d lived together for 2 years, my partner got a permanent-stay-visa. And now we are happily engaged!

    However, I’ve had the same reactions from people sometimes, when I told them we would move in together and that he’d get a visa this way. Because we didn’t really do it for the visa itself, but because we wanted to live together!

    Anyway I just wanted to say that I really hope you will make it and to stay together during the process, I believe your bonds will grow during the time you are supporting each other, and that it will end up in a long and happy marriage!

  • Sarabeth

    Can I offer some light at the end of the tunnel? We went through this, and my husband has had his green card for more than a year now. We had no joint lease or car payments, and my income was barely above the threshold for a sponsor. Which, by the way, is bullshit – I didn’t realize before going through this that poor people can’t sponsor someone to immigrate. But anyway, we (just) made that cutoff on my graduate school stipend. We did open a joint bank account as soon as we realized it was a good idea. Most of our evidence was in the form of plane tickets from visits, printed out emails (there was no hassle that we didn’t have more letters), pictures from our wedding and from various other times, and affadavits from my parents. If we had wedding invitations or any catering invoices or anything we’d have thrown those in too, but we didn’t because it was a courthouse thing.

    I should be upfront and say that J is white, from an English-speaking country, and has a Ph.D. I’m sure all of those things made our process smoother than it is for many, many people. Anyway, we stressed A LOT about our situation and whether we had enough evidence. In the end, J had a ten-minute interview in which they basically asked him where we met and how long we’d known each other, they didn’t look at anything he’d brought with him, and then they rubber-stamped his entry visa. Lots of stress for very little actual hassle, except the 9 months of waiting.

    On practicalities: find an attorney who can do an initial consult for free. They can tell you at least if your situation is complex enough that you need legal help or whether you can more or less DIY – which is what we did, using the excellent Nolo Press guide to spousal immigration to help us. If your situation is complicated and you can’t afford an attorney, I strongly suggest looking for an immigration law clinic at your nearest law school – these will be fully supervised law students who are working for free to gain experience, and they may be able to offer more help.

    • goodheart

      i can also offer some hope from the other side (waiting on our “removal of conditions” petition now). the process went a lot more smoothly and quickly than i had dared hope, with none of the crazy toothbrush questions. like sarabeth, our interview was very short and our interviewer barely looked at the GIANT binder i’d prepared. this particular interviewer – echoing emily’s point – told us he did not care at all about letters, pictures etc. since anyone can fake those. he wanted to see concrete proof that our lives were legally bound together — that is all he was judging, not our love for each other. [note: this was a very helpful way to think about this process – civil marriage is a legal beast, and honesty, could have nothing to do with love. but that’s what they care about. accepting that made it a lot simpler to provide information to support that point].

      i wrote about our actual interview on visajourney, in case anyone wants to learn more about the process: http://www.visajourney.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=203178&st=0&#entry3038801

      i’ll add a few more practical tips later in the comments, too.

  • Emily, I wish you continued strength & hope as you continue on this journey with your husband. I have faith that you will have a happy ending!

  • Midwest Lantern

    Emily, you write very well. Just wanted to mention that.

  • erin

    Oh, honey, I feel this. In fact, I’m delurking for the first time in a sort-of-embarassingly-long-time-because-I’m-not-actually-engaged-yet, just to say how much I feel this.

    My boyfriend and I have been dating for two years and he’s currently on an overseas job assignment. About three months ago, we started talking about getting married and that sort of thing, so I optimistically started doing some research and then immediately fell into a really deep funk. The whole process just seems so . . . overwhelming. And I say that from a place of being fairly lucky going in – my boyfriend is from the UK and I make above the requirement for sponsorship, which are both marks in our column, immigration-wise. But it still seems so hopeless, and honestly, the idea that I am going to have to stay in my nice-paying but soul-destroying job for the foreseeable future in order to sponsor him makes my little heart weep. I’ve seen a fair amount of friends get married in the past few years, and although I obviously love all of them, I’ve dealt with my fair share of jealousy that things were just so . . . easy. They wanted to get married, and they did it, and they didn’t have to prove why they were doing it to anyone.

    But! Maudlin emos aside, I just wanted to say: thanks for writing this. And I still remember looking at pictures from your elopement!

  • Tsipa

    The “toothbrush” questions are the ones that I think scare me the most…my (English) husband and I have been together for two years and married since July, but I can’t tell you what color MY toothbrush is most of the time, let alone his! And rent? I never remember about rent, which is why he’s in charge of it and I’m not. How on earth can I prove to someone that we’re “really” married if they ask us stuff like that? God forbid we let it slip that we have separate bathrooms (because I’m messy, thank you very much). Oy…

  • Ophelia

    Hi. I couldn’t read all the posts, so maybe it’s been said before, but we went through the whole process (GC came last year) and it was SO much less painful than even the good stories we heard. We did it all ourselves, no lawyers, very few assets to show joint ownership on, etc., and it was very smooth.
    I say this only to counteract all the horror stories we heard that caused us way too much stress. (I hope this is not the equivalent of saying to an infertile couple to just “relax” and things will work themselves out. I do not mean to belittle those horrid experiences that people do have with the immigration office).
    Good luck to you, Emily. You’ll get to the other side.

    • Kate

      Emily what an amazing post! You are inspirational. I can’t believe how many of us are dealing with immigration issues! I can’t really talk to my friends about the ins and outs of this process so it’s nice to hear so many first-hand accounts.

      Ophelia thanks for your counterpoint. My fiance is Irish and has quite a few friends who have either gone through the U.S. Green Card process recently or are in the middle of it now. He has such a casual attitude about it and thinks it will be no big deal.

      I of course am the rule-follower and am terrified about screwing it up and getting him barred from the country for 10 years. I’m also really concerned about paying taxes since he gets paid in cash as a carpenter. Has anyone dealt with paying taxes as a married couple when one spouse wasn’t paying them prior to getting married to a U.S. citizen? I’ve been told that he’ll be accountable for this year but “forgiven” for prior years.

      I will say that we attended a free legal clinic and it made me feel SO much better about the process. We were told that his case is very straight forward and that we shouldn’t have trouble going the DIY route.

      • Sarabeth

        That sounds like the part you need a professional for. Our taxes have been way more paperwork than the green card was, since my husband freelances for both US and UK employers and is a UK citizen and US resident.

  • Beautiful, beautiful post. We are looking at a relocation internationally together, and I know that they make it really difficult. I cannot imagine the fear of being split up like that, and the audacity to have to put up with the suggestion your marriage is a sham. I admire you for standing firm in yourself and your marriage, and I wish you the best of luck!

    • goodheart

      anni, i echo the sentiment about standing firm in your marriage, but i think it is a tad naive to think that “love conquers all” in immigration situations (not that you are saying that, but some people probably do go into it thinking that). as i mentioned above, i think accepting that this process really has nothing to do with love was very helpful — then i could focus on providing the kind of ‘proof’ the government is looking for, which entails legal proof of a partnership. sounds cold, but it was basically like demonstrating a business relationship — here is our contract with each other (marriage license), the accounting we do for our daily life, putting each other down as beneficiaries, sharing funds.
      again, this might seem cold, but changing my mindset from “they want to see how much we love each other” to “they want to see proof of how are lives are co-mingled” really helped me!

  • Ohmygoodness! I thought I was the only one going through this! I can’t believe there are so many people in similar situations!

  • Without taking his eyes off the road or his hands off the wheel, he told me, “Here’s all you need to know about marriage: I’m your husband and I love you.”

    This made me tear up. Beautiful words and sentiments. Best of luck

  • What a lovely post. I can’t believe how naive I was about marriage and immigration before law school/witnessing friends go through this opened my eyes to how demented and challenging the US immigration system can be. Thanks for writing this and best of luck with your Green Card application and your marriage!

  • Tara

    I feel for you, Emily. I think that you are doing well, having faith in this process. That’s about all you can do with any immigration process, regardless of if it’s for a work visa or a marriage green card. Have faith in your relationship and that the US government is only trying to protect you, so they will see the love in your relationship and approve your husband’s green card.

    I am a Canadian citizen living in the US on a work visa and I am currently dating an American. I have been warned by friends to not try to enter the US in a car with just him or the border guards could revoke my work visa and deny me entry.

    • Amanda

      Sadly, it’s up to the discretion of the customs agent. No two follow the same “rules” and all decisions seem arbitrary. Answer all questions honestly, offer no “extra” information (offering extra information will make you appear suspicious) and for goodness sake please always have all your documents with you! We still struggle with border hassles every. Single. Time.

  • My sister in law in struggling with this – she’s Canadian and living with her Mexican boyfriend in Cancun. We just found out that, due to some very long and complicated *American* immigration issues, it could take another 10 years before he’s even allowed to fly to Canada for a visit. And that they can’t get married because it’s easier to bring him in as a boyfriend than as a husband (!). They’re dealing with lawyers in three countries and getting nothing but bad news after bad news.

    My best wishes go out to everyone who has to deal with this bureaucracy crap.

  • This: “I may not know how our problems will be resolved, or when, but I do know that we will handle it together. That I will handle it as my husband’s wife.”

    Beautiful. The government can kiss it, too.

  • “I have always struggled with faith. I am skeptical. I question everything. I can be a cynic. But since I started preparing for our interview, I keep looking over at our binder, that thin little stack of official papers, and I think more and more that proof is just an illusion. It doesn’t always mean as much as we think it does.”

    I think this has so much gravity. Thanks for writing so beautifully about your tough situation. Glad to see the APWer’s in a similar situation can offer you sisterhood through this!

  • Jillian

    Sending good vibes your way Emily. I have a feeling that you and your husband will come out of this process stronger than ever.

    And I love that your gut reaction to supply “proof” was to gather love letters, poems and other very personal items. I think you should send those legal peeps a link to APW ;)

  • I just did that back last fall, but it was for me to immigrate to the UK to be with my husband. What a total freaking nightmare. I feel like one of the worst parts is that it’s so hard to make life plans: job, living situation, and income… what can you plan for?… blech. In the end it did work out, though I’m never speaking to the UK border agency in Los Angeles again. Not that they ever wanted to speak to me, nor were they willing to….
    Best of luck! I’m hoping real hard that everything will be fine and go as smooth as cream for you.

    • Yes! Not being able to make plans is the most frustrating part! It’s like being stuck and no matter how much you call/e-mail/visit/harass the lawyers, the process can’t (or won’t) move any faster.

    • ElfPuddle

      I’m having the same nightmare, and we’re both US citizens. I never would have compared an annulment to the immigration process before, but all your stories ring so very true and similar to mine.

      *hugs* to all of us with futures we can’t plan for!

    • Meghan

      I tried to think of a good way of how I’m feeling now, and your post nailed it.

      My partner is an Aussie. I’m from the US. Right now, he is here on a work visit, and we were able to live together for a few months. This ability has cemented our desire to be together for longer. My next move is to go to Australia on a visitor’s visa for a year to see if we can work out long term…but after that, who knows? It’s so hard to be able to knock off the life’s goals when you don’t know how long one important thing will take.

  • Ashley B

    Having supported a friend (and help to provide documentation) for her Canadian husband, I sympathize. Having helped my friend through it, I’d recommend a lot of patience, legal advice and taking everything one step at a time. It sounds like you already have a wonderful supportive partner on this journey!

  • Can I offer unsolicited, marginally related, and possibly unneccessary advice? Keep your paperwork, ALL OF IT, for forever.
    My dad is a naturalized citizen and was so before he and my mother married. He’s been here since 1968, was in the military for 22 years and married to a US citizen for over 30. And recently he ran into some problems because he needed to have his original paperwork from when he from when he became a citizen in order to get a particular license to transport hazardous substances. Not a copy, not evidence that he was a citizen and the original document did exist at one time (like military service….), but the original document. Or a certified reissuance that will cost over $700 and will take more than 6 weeks to get here.

    This isn’t the first time my parents have had to deal with something like this, so I just wanted to issue a reminder that you may never have to stop proving yourself and your citizenship, so just keep your documents in order.

    And as the child of a parent who is from another country, I want to give every one of you couples who are battling (or have battled) this a giant hug and lots of well-wishes and glitter and unicorns.
    Your children, should you choose to have them, will be very thankful they have an automatic statement for that stupid ice-breaker game of “Tell me something interesting about yourself.” :-)

    • N

      that bit about the children having something for the ice-breaker is a serious silver lining. take it from someone who has to desperately rack her brain for a non-lame answer to that one every. time.

  • april

    Lovely post – thank you so much for sharing with us.

    And keep on keepin’ on! :::HUGS:::

  • goodheart

    so having just put together all of our materials for the removal of conditions process, here are a few tips that came in handy:

    * if you like to know the minute details of everything and will be incredibly stressed out by stuff like how to bind your documents together (bizarrely, metal prong fasteners at the top of the page) or who to address them to, read visajourney and other online guides. visajourney can get a bit dramatic so filter that out and just focus on the practical tips. the interview summaries are very helpful as well – i felt extremely well prepared which helped me be less anxious about what to expect (reading through them will also demonstrate that they rarely ask any crazy toothbrush questions at the first interview; if they suspect you of fraud and request more info, you may have to have one of those where they separate you and ask you minute details, referred to as “scopes interviews”).

    * as alyssa mentioned, keep originals of everything! we keep ours in a firesafe, organized in the same manner as our interview binder so i can easily find old leases, tax paperwork, marriage license etc. for any random time i would need those

    * even if you are not living together or married yet, there are some things you can do in advance to set up the process of ‘merging’ your lives (not in a romantic way, mind you, but in the ‘this is what the government wants to see’ way). if you set these up early on, you’ll have plenty of documentation come interview time. however, i know these can be more complicated if your spouse doesn’t have a SSN yet.
    – it is super easy to add a line to your cell phone plan, and boom, family plan! this actually saved us money too.
    – surprisingly easy to add someone to your bank accounts and credit cards and then once again, poof, joint accounts. during our interview, the officer explained that financial documentation is most important to him, and he also wants to see proof that the account is being used by both people. so for example, providing cancelled checks from joint accounts signed by each of you, showing that you actually use the account regularly.
    – adding each other to a lease, if possible.
    – i can’t recall for sure if you can do this if you do not have the same address, but stuff like AAA memberships
    – if you live at the same address, joint renters and car insurance
    – we registered our dogs with the city in both of our names (ok not sure how important that is, but hey, it’s a legal doc!)
    – wills – there are easy kits to create these, and these are clearly considered legal documents.
    – beneficiaries of any insurance policies and retirement policies you may have at work- i’d always put my sister down, but changed those right away. the officer who interviewed us basically approved me as soon as he saw this paperwork. (personally, i thought that was a bit creepy as it seems like a good motive for murder, not a a loving spouse, but hey, it’s the government).

    * save everything, part 2 – if you are doing this in the US and have been married for less than 2 years, you’ll have to do this all over again for the removal of conditions materials. as soon as we had the first interview, i set up a file on my computer and every month i’d put in our bank statements, credit card bills, cell phone statements etc. and added things like new leases, tax documents as time went on. so then when i had to pull everything together for the removal of conditions petition, i did not have to search around for any documents and could just print & send! i also made a checklist with all the suggested documents i’d seen on visajourney and on the goverment paperwork, and just checked off items as i added them. i admit i love lists and organizing anyways, but this really made it a lot easier.

    i think that’s all i can think of for practical tips! i’d be happy to provide any info to anyone who is going through this, since i know how complicated life is when you have to worry about immigration….

    • These are all excellent suggestions; thank you. We’ll be going through this in the next couple of years, and reading your list of concrete examples really helped.

    • bumblebee611

      Lawyer in me can’t resist pointing out that adding someone as your life insurance beneficiary is actually *excellent* evidence of your commitment to them: the point is, you trust them NOT to bump you off for the money, so your relationship is based on love, not financial or other convenience.

      • goodheart

        haha, yes, i definitely agree in the legal sense — i think there was something about the way he had phrased it in the interview that made it sound shady. but, absolutely, it implies a life-long (and after!) commitment.

  • As another one of those partners in an international marriage – I just had to chime in and offer some virtual support! I remember going for our interview and being scared, nervous and a bit peeved that I had to go through it at all. The fact that you automatically feel like you’re sitting under a bulb being pressured to prove that what you have is real. Knowing that it totally is but starting to feel more and more like “what if I answer something wrong”
    my husband’s “legal binder” is more like a cabinet. He’s been in the US for a few years on work visas, so our marriage legal work simply added to the big pile. Asking friends for letters, compiling endless number of photos, having to submit my tax returns for the past several years since I am in essence – “Sponsoring” him, showing our lease, bank account, etc
    Here on the other side, I can say that we actually had a really wonderful interview experience. Fortunately we were able to afford great lawyers to help us with the paperwork and prep work. They didn’t come with us for the actual interview- which our interviewer told us actually looks better in their eyes. She said in the majority of cases, it becomes obvious in the first minutes with the couple by their body language, the way they talk with one another and of course…their paperwork.

    it’s a long, long road – and even now, with green card in wallet, we’ll still need to go through more steps every few years. but just have faith (as you so beautifully write about) bc it’s worth it

  • I often wonder if I would even be able to withstand the questioning they fire at green-card-seeking couples, and I’ve been with B for five years! Those questions have nothing to do with how much you love each other. It’s so great that you guys aren’t letting all the logistics/legal bull shizz tarnish your happy marriage.

  • Harriet

    Thank you so much for sharing this, Emily. I had no idea this was such a difficult process. More than that, your post really reminded me that my partner and I face our challenges together, and what a gift that is. Best wishes to you and your wise husband.

  • Yvonne Mason

    Oh, Emily. I am enormously proud of you. I am your friend. I am your other mother. And I love you.

  • Chelsea Urquhart

    This is something that’s on my mind now, every day that I spend with my current boyfriend-who-I-am-going-to-marry-but-not-anytime-in-the-near-future. He’s American, I’m not. I’m here on a student visa, and have been studying here for two years. I love the US, and I love him more,
    We’ve talked a bit about the immigration expectations whether I immigrate the US full-time, or we go back to where I’m from. We talk about our kids, our lives, our future, but we have no idea where it will be. and it scares me.
    I love him, and I know we have enough evidence to prove that our marriage isn’t going to be a shame. Our relationship is 100 percent real, and now we’ve just to get over the hump that is the government. It reminds me of the fight same-sex couples go through, but with less social stigma. All I know is that the government seems to want A LOT of info to prove that “us” is legal, and we’ll do anything to prove them wrong.

    It’s nice to hear posts like this, but at the same time scary. I like knowing we’re not the only couple who will go through this, but it’s daunting knowing that we can’t just go to a church and put rings on our fingers like everyone else.

  • argo9418

    I stared and stared at your wedding grad post, being someone teetering on the elopement fence. I just wanted to wish you the best of luck through the whole immigration paperwork nonsense, because the way you proceeded with your wedding your way strikes me as really brave. It’s been really inspiring to me and I have a feeling the strong character and tenacity involved in deciding to follow your hearts in the first place will lead you through the sticky legal formalities. Very best of luck.

  • Oh wow – I was going to add my comments but there are already so many! Emily – wishing you the best of luck and thank you for the beautiful post.

    Suffice it to say that-

    1) I am also the US american half of an international marriage
    2) We went through the process in Germany, and although it’s been hard – YOU CAN DO IT! You wlll find a way. I truly believe that this experience will only strengthen your marriage

    We haven’t gone through the Green Card process (yet) because we still live in Germany. Maybe we will stay here – maybe we won’t. For now, we are here.

    Oh, and http://www.myvisajourney.com is a great resource!!

  • I don’t have any advice, because himself and I are still slogging through the Canadian process. (Slogging through = waiting with. Still.)

    I just wanted to say that I knew there were a lot of partners-in-immigration-battles on APW, but Emily’s post about it has been fantastic because it’s a very real obstacle to a life together. It’s not just I love you, I love you, Amen; rather, I love you, I love you, WTF are we going to do now??? *panic* As always though, it does wonders to have some kind of support through it, even if it’s virtual. This community connects and resonates with me on so many levels, it’s effing frightening sometimes.

    Has anyone undergone the process in more than one country at a time? I fear it’s a bad idea, just for logistical reasons (not to mention preserving sanity). On the other hand, I’ve always been one to kind of hedge my bets . . .

    • Me too, me too! (Canada) The waiting without knowing how long is the hardest part. :(

      And the several countries at one time seems like it would be really hard to pull off because the US, for example, wants to know that you are going to reside there permanently, like proof of a job and stuff. And Canada, for example, requires that you live 3 of the first five years in Canada, or something like that, to maintain PR. So… maybe you have to get citizenship in one before you can try for citizenship/residency in the other?

      • Ugh, let’s not even get into the citizenship issues!!!!

  • This has been bouncing through my head since yesterday morning. I can’t imagine trying to prove love legally since it’s such a hard thing to pin down and prove anyway. You can’t bottle it and take it somewhere. You can’t take a picture of it. It’s just something you know when you see and know when you feel.

  • Jo

    Hi Emily and other immigration/marriage types! Yes, it can be done. And yeah, isn’t that whole “proving your love” thing not as romantic as it sounds??

    Other people who have done this have covered the basics – except the one – unless you are financially independent (ie wealthy), you will need to save some serious dinero to pay for legal fees, application fees, paperwork fees, for an immigration process – green cards may run in the middle range, but we easily shelled out $2000 and we had free legal advice from my stepsister who’s an immigration paralegal (I know, so beyond lucky!). So, be prepared!

    I will echo the person who said that the immigration review people CAN be super nice. And are humans, and will generally “know” that you are a real deal couple just by meeting you for five seconds, as long as you have the minimum amount of legal docs so they can check the boxes that need checking. We weren’t taken into separate rooms or asked asinine questions about toothbrush color. Just how we met, which was a fun story to tell. So I hope you can not worry about that part so much. If you do your homework, you’ll be fine.

    And good luck. And, as you well know, it’s so worth it and totally a great baby family growing activity.

  • Christy

    This whole post really resonated with me. My partner (who is Chilean) and I (a US citizen) are not married nor engaged, but it’s something we’ve talked about as a “goal” in the next year or so. The two of us met in New Zealand two years ago when we were both on a Working Holiday Visa. He is currently living in Canada on a Working Holiday Visa, while I am in the US. We’re very close geographically, so we see each other often. In the small amount of research I’ve done, I’ve been most stressed about money (I’m going to graduate school next year, and he doesn’t have much!), bigotry (he is Spanish-speaking and working-class), and the length of time a K-1 Fiance visa can take. This post, while nice to hear from other people dealing with these same stresses, made me more worried that our situation won’t be considered “real” enough to warrant a Fiance Visa! We lived together in NZ, but there is no legal documentation of it. We have emails, journal entries, plane tickets, photos, phone records, etc., but no “legal proof”… nor any way of acquiring it seeing that we are living in different countries. Does anyone out there have any experience with sort of situation? Specifically, experience with a Fiance Visa rather than a Green Card? Any words of advice?

    Thank you all so much! We’re still very new to this process, and I welcome any advice you might have.

    • Katie M

      Hello! My (now) husband and I went the K1 route & were in a similar situation. We met while I was living in Kenya, had no idea at the time what all went into getting him to the US, etc. so didn’t save anything (and really wouldn’t have had anything anyway!)

      For the K1 they aren’t looking for joint bank statements and all that stuff – all you need in the beginning is proof that you’ve met in person sometime within the last 2 years. We submitted passport stamps from me and letters from our employers saying that we worked in the same town at the same time, plus pictures of us together. Plane tickets are also good for this. That was sufficient for the initial petition. For the interview they are looking more for proof of “ongoing relationship” which is where the emails, phone records, more pictures, etc come in. You do NOT need to have joint accounts, tax returns together (obviously), leases, etc for the fiance(e) visa. That comes later, after he is already in the US, you are married (and can actually gather some of that up) and you apply for the adjustment of status to get the green card.

      Hope that helps! http://www.visajourney.com is a great resource for this, too.

  • Kim

    For awhile, my now-husband wanted to wait to get married until he received his greencard through work so as not to have to deal with outside assumptions that we got married for the papers and so that he felt that he completed that task on his own. Having never had to deal with immigration prior to meeting him, I found the whole process of “hurry up and wait” exhausting, annoying, and belittling. We eventually agreed that we didn’t want to put our lives on hold (indefinitely) while the government worked their ish out. So, we got married (fabulously) and just waited out his work-sponsored greencard. It’s been about 2 years since he was approved, and I can’t tell you what a breath of relief it was to get that phone call. I’m so glad that part of our life is over!

  • perce-neige


    I moved to NZ in 2008 quite naively (read: solely for him. Some think it’s romantic, some foolish. I admit I go back and forth, but I’m glad I did and that’s what matters). I’m fortunate to be from the US, have arrived with my BA, and applied for residency at 22 (an age when most Kiwis are moving overseas).

    I’m a bit OCD so when I started thinking about staying in NZ for longer than the year I initially planned, I looked into the requirements. I bullied him into a joint account (sorta, his rebuttal was, “I’m too young for that; I have to be 25 to have a joint account.” He occasionally comes up with these gems…) We had lots of documents, plus the medical requirements. I’m a Celiac (autoimmune disease) and was freaking out that was going to negatively affect my application (it didn’t). We didn’t have an interview, although the $2k in fees (work visa app, residency app, residency visa accepted fee) was hard on a working holiday visa. It was utterly unromantic to reduce our relationship to paperwork and expose our private emails. Although, thank heavens for Facebook as my camera doesn’t date stamp – yes, they accepted the printouts from FB with the posting date.

    All in all, it took only 6 months from when I applied to get my residency. This was awesome because I’ve heard of people who’ve had it take 18 months (or more), although some received repeated requests for more documents as their app was deemed incomplete. So I advise that knowledge is power, despite the cliche.

    Best of luck to those going through it; it’s a challenge, but it is worth it!! It was one of the most stressful times I’ve been through (and that holds even though I’m working fulltime and doing my Masters fulltime at the moment), but you do get through it. And then you get to be together, [immigration] stress-free. :-)

  • Brittany

    Thank you for sharing and opening this topic. It is something I will need to think about very soon.

  • Melissa

    My husband is currently a conditional permanent resident. The process is long and hard and it made me so worried all the time. Next year we’ll apply to have the conditions removed. I totally get these feelings. I’m less intimidated by the process now having been through it once and we have a kid together now so that helps too ;)