Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Downside of Falling in Love with an American

Last week we were hoping to embark on an epic road trip up the eastern United States and find ourselves in Canada by this time. We wanted to enjoy a few weeks catching up with the family and friends we left behind before my husband starts a new job next month. New York, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and a week at my friend’s cottage were all on the list. 

As you can probably tell, that trip never happened. 

There is a huge downside of falling in love and marrying an American and that obstacle is dealing with the expatriation process. 

First dance lighting and photography
Completely and totally in love with this American
Considering that I’m from Canada, people have naively assumed that the immigration procedure would be a breeze for us but we’ve been going through the spousal visa process for over eight months and it seems never ending! I can’t tell you how many frustrated hours and tears have come from it. Even just visiting each other’s respective countries causes suspicion that we’re planning to sneak in our spouse illegally (remember that time I was detained at the border?). 

So here’s the update: first of all, I’m constantly referred to as an alien. In January we submitted the I-130 which is a petition to establish our relationship as husband and (alien) wife. Our processing time was initially estimated for five months. “Not bad,” we thought, especially considering that we would be backpacking through Central America for most of that time anyway. “We should have this straightened out by the end of summer.”

We didn’t plan on starting my visa process at that time but, when I was detained a couple days prior, the US border official told me I wouldn’t get back into the country unless I filed the I-130. 

Cue our flurry of activity trying to organize documents so that we could finalize our package before leaving the country for three months. We submitted proof of living together for three years in Canada, affidavits from friends swearing our relationship was legitimate, background information about both of our families, our marriage certificate showing we were married in September 2012, and a hefty application fee of $420. 

Thankfully we listened to the official’s advice because I can’t imagine how far back we’d be in this immigration process if we would’ve waited until I returned in April. 

Seven months later and we were still waiting to hear whether our I-130 was approved. Last month we found out that yes, finally, our petition was accepted and our information was forwarded to the National Visa Center so that my immigration visa (aka permanent residence aka green card  why are there so many names for the same damn thing?!) could be processed.

Next up is more paperwork on our end to establish financial stability. No problem considering that I quit my job to travel, right? *rolls eyes* I will never regret that decision but not having a job in Canada certainly doesn’t help my case and freelancing hasn’t yet replaced my previous income. 

On a different note, my husband’s bachelors degree that he earned in Canada was not recognized by the American military which means he’s out of the running to become an officer. I haven’t blogged about the heartbreak and frustration that resulted from this (ridiculous) decision because, honestly, I just didn’t want to go into it. This summer he decided to make a career change and will be starting a new job in two weeks. As part of our visa application he needs to prove to the US government that he can support me so we’re very thankful for this new opportunity. 

The downside of falling in love with an American
Pictures from years ago: my first motorcycle ride in North Carolina & spending Christmas in Korea
Remember when I talked the other day about practising daily gratitude? One of the things we’re most grateful for this summer is that we aren’t forced to be apart. We’ve been together for six years now, two of those years being long distance, and I’m grateful that we’ve been able to be together throughout this summer. Technically I’m here in the US as a visitor on a tourist visa that’s set to expire in October then I’ve got to get my butt outta the country. If I stay even a few hours after the deadline my visa application can be denied. 

As for what happens after I’m kicked out, who knows? We’ve got a few more months of medical appointments and waiting for my immigration interview though we’ve yet to receive a date for that. All I know is that, despite my permanent address being just outside of Toronto, I have to drive six hours to Montreal to interview at that particular Consular office. They should let me know immediately whether I pass or fail and subsequently whether I’m allowed to expatriate to the US. At this point we’ve (perhaps naively) got our fingers crossed that my husband and I will be reunited in time for Christmas.

So here we are, waiting and living as frugally as possible, hoping for something that’s out of our control. By the end of it all we expect to be out of pocket $1000. At least we’re together for now and I’m trying not to sweat my balls off during these long, hot days of summer in Tennessee.

I hope this post about my expatriation process hasn’t bored you to tears (I suppose if it had you would’ve clicked X by now). Betsy and Gillian are two other bloggers going through similar processes so check out their sites if you’re interested in reading more.

Have you ever gone through the expatriation process after falling in love with an alien? Share your experience with me in the comments below – I’d love to read your immigration story and the obstacles you overcame. I need some moral support! 

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