Friday, August 3, 2012

American Immigration: Getting Steven to the USA.

Source
I'm sure this may come as a surprise to most of you, but Steven and I never planned on spending our first year of marriage in Germany. In fact before getting married our intentions had been to stay in the United States from the get go. You see, when we got married I was less than halfway done with a degree in Journalism and I had planned on working hard to graduate early so that I could support Steven while he worked towards his engineering degree. Unfortunately (and in some ways, fortunately, as you'll read later on) the entire process of getting Steven's Visa has been chock-full of much drama and stress. 

Steven and I plan (and have always planned) to "Settle Down" in the US. We love Germany, we love being able to travel throughout Europe and see the world, and we love being so close to Steven's family during this time, but we both agree that America is the place for us in the long run. We're not looking to start a family in the very near future, but when we do we feel that the United States is the right place to raise kids, particularly as members of the LDS faith.

That being said, issues with visas and immigration have made this whole ordeal extremely difficult for us. So many people ask me "Why aren't you moving back to the US yet? He's married to you so it's gotta be easy, right?" Ha. Wrong.   I've decided to share our experience with the immigration process with hopes that I can shed some light on the subject from the perspective of a married couple right in the middle of visa madness. Who knows, perhaps there are those in similar situations who may find this helpful.

Explaining things in chronological order seemed to make the most sense, so here goes:

January, 2011: 
January, 2011 in Park City Utah
Steven and I began talking about marriage. We weren't officially engaged so we were sort of speaking about things in the hypothetical sense, but we made the decision that we wanted to live in the US and that we should start taking the necessary steps to get Steven a visa. We looked around online and filled out a bunch of paperwork for a fiance' visa, which said normally processed in three to five months. At the time,this seemed like the right thing to do. Steven could come over to the US on a fiance visa which would be "upgraded" to a greencard after we got married. No problem, right? Well...

February, 2011:
Engagement photos in February, 2011
Steven put a ring on it. We were now officially engaged but had filed for the fiance visa the month before, so we were feeling pretty good. Steven and I set a wedding date for July which we felt would give us plenty of time. Steven was in America on a visitor/tourist visa at the time.

March, 2011 

Steven's visitor visa expired which meant he was forced to head back to Germany while we waited to hear back from immigration.

June, 2011 (Aka: When things got complicated.): 
Now only a month from the wedding, we still hadn't heard back about the visa. It had been five months since we'd filed, which meant we should have heard back already. Attempting to get anyone on the phone with helpful information was impossible, I can't even begin to tell you how much time I spent on hold. Shortly after, however, I received a packet in the mail from Immigration Services - my form had been returned to us because we put "N/A" down instead of "None" on one of the question forms. Because of this mistake we'd have to refile, which would take another 3-5 months. As you can imagine, we were pretty upset. Our wedding was planned, the vendors were paid, invitations sent out - and now all of our plans had been changed with only a month to go. Sometimes I hate America.

Our first thought: Can he enter on another visitor visa and marry me anyway? 

I was working as a paralegal for a lawfirm at the time, and I asked my boss if he knew any immigration lawyers he could put me in touch with. He did, and I was grateful to have "outside help." What we learned from the lawyer is that because we'd filed for a fiance visa and essentially been "denied," Steven would be flagged at customs when entering the country and would probably be denied a tourist visa. 

Well, crap.

We did not want to put off the wedding, so we decided our only option was to postpone our plans of living in America and move to Germany after getting married. We would then give Steven the necessary documents to prove that he did not intend to stay illegally in the United States so that he could enter in July and we could hitched.

July, 2011:
 

I waited for Steven at the airport with absolutely no idea if he'd be let through or if he'd be turned around at customs and sent home. Thankfully he was granted access to the country after he'd presented the customs officer with a hefty stack of paperwork proving that we were planning on moving back to Germany. We got married (hooray!) honeymooned in Cabo and then began preparing for our move.

August, 2011:

We moved to Germany and began making efforts to apply for a post-marriage visa. We learned that applying in Steven's country of residence for his American visa was a far safer way to guarantee acceptance and we would have saved a lot of time and money (our rejected fiance' visa had cost us $350 and the lawyer we asked to help us...well, don't get me started.) if we'd just planned on doing this in the first place. One of the requirements of him applying for his visa in Germany is that his spouse (AKA me) needed to be a resident of Germany as well, and we could not file our petition until I had proof of German residency. 

February, 2012

Fast forward six months and I finally receive my German residency card. Apparently getting a visa in Germany is just as difficult as getting it in the US. At least they let me live in the country throughout the process (side eye America.) With the residency card in hand we made our appointment at the US consulate to file Steven's visa in person.

It was only then that we were made aware that I needed to be a "resident" of Germany for six months  before Steven could apply. No matter that I'd lived in Germany for six months already...because I'd only received the visa that month, we had to wait until August to apply. August. Not to leave, not to interview to be able to leave....no, we had to wait until August to be able to apply. Let's not forget all of the steps to come after our petition is filed.

To be honest, though, I wasn't ready to head home in June (as per our original plan) and found myself oddly relieved after getting over the original frustration.

August, 2012

Well, our appointment to formally apply for Steven's visa is this Monday. If everything goes according to plan, we would be looking to head back to the US before Christmas this year. I put heavy emphasis on the word if, though, because if you took the time to read this monster of a post you know that things rarely happen the way that we want them to.

Your prayers and positive vibes for our visa appointment on Monday are greatly appreciated. 

That being said, I want you to know that I understand that these setbacks were meant to be, and in the long run...good for us. We didn't plan to be in Europe this long but we've had a blast. We've fallen deeper in love and discovered a love for travel and adventure that we hadn't even known about before being here. Had I not been expatriated I would not have started this blog and met all of you. The only real "bummer" of running into so many issues with the visa is that I was forced to take 1.5 years off of school, putting a huge delay in our educational plans.

If you are finding yourself in a similar situation, need advice or are just curious, don't hesitate to email me with questions. I'd be happy to offer you any information I have so that (hopefully) the road others take towards bringing a foreign spouse to America won't be nearly as rocky.

25 comments:

Rachael said...

Geez! Sending luck from Holland to Germany! We are in a similar situation, opted to sign the marriage contract with our parents earlier this year then we'll have the wedding next year...just submitted our I-130 last month and just got a letter yesterday that we've been approved to the next phase! Dutch boy should have his interview at the embassy in 3-5 months we hope! Good luck to you and Steven!

Katrin said...

Daryl, good luck for Monday! I am thinking of you! I know how hard the process can be, ours was very chaotic too. They sent our paperwork to the wrong state which meant a huge delay...

Lisa said...

Good luck. Will be praying that the process will be smooth sailing for this point on!!

Kelsey Rae said...

Daryl, I will keep you in my prayers! I cannot even begin to understand your inevitable frustrations. Remember that whatever happens, Heavenly Father is there and that the most important thing is that home is wherever you are together.
xo kelsey rae.

Danielle said...

Wow! That sounds like a huge headache! I hope everything goes according to plan this Monday! Good luck!

engquist said...

Oh, sister friend, I feel your pain. When we moved to Cyprus we were technically here illegally for awhile and FREAKING out because the paperwork was not signed the right way, it was raining, somebody was cranky, the list goes on and on. There were days when I really had to remind myself that we were supposed to be here. As of right now, things are looking good though and we love Cyprus again! Good luck this next week! I fully sympathize and am praying that all will work out soon!

http://www.seewhatiseadesigns.com/2012/01/you-cant-handle-truth.html

Breenah said...

Good luck! Will most def be praying! Glad it all worked out for the year, though :)

Betsy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Betsy said...

I'm sending you SO many good thoughts. I just met with an immigration lawyer two weeks ago about how to bring Jon over to the States from the UK after we get married next summer, and it really sounds like we're going to be long-distance for the first few months of our marriage. It's awful, but you're right - it's a learning experience!

Jenny said...

Wow, that is so crazy how long it takes! I hope the appointment goes well (mostly so you can get back here and come hang out with me sometime)!

Tamaras Blend said...

Oh man, that sounds awful! Good luck, I'm sure you'll be spending Christmas in the US!

Anonymous said...

Was Steven Mormon before you got married... I thought that LDS was pretty much exclusive to the US? This post just made me wonder, so I hope it's okay to ask! :)

Daryl said...

Steven is a third generation mormon! His grandparents on both sides converted :)

Megan said...

I.HATE.VISAS.

Kristen said...

My sister married abroad and she had to wait 6 months before her husband could come over. Patience is a virtue.

Mimi Finerty said...

Oh my god what a process. I guess I was pretty lucky when it came to moving from London to Cyprus because they had joined the EU so they couldn't turn me away! hahaha.

I hope everything goes well and your plans fall into place soon.

Elle said...

oh god! this sounds like a nightmare. i hope everything goes well on monday! i'm praying for you. :)

Kelsea Echo said...

Oh gosh... all I can say is WOW. And good luck!!

Kristina said...

fingers crossed! visa situation are always so difficult! good luck!

Steph said...

Oh my gosh, what a crazy process! I'll definitely be praying for your appointment on Monday!

dearsafia said...

Sending you so much luck Daryl! I really hope it works out for you, you guys deserve it. Let us know how everything goes!

Big hugs!

Ashley Anderson said...

can i tell you just how much i LOVE your wedding story? the whole part about you waiting at the airport for him and not knowing if he was even going to show up, especially on the weekend they were practically shutting down the 405 the DAY of your wedding.. it just GAHHHH i just love it :) so much that i tell people about it all the time...and THEY love it! haha. i hope things work out for your guys :) california really is the bomb.com!

Amanda said...

What an incredible story, I am so sorry things have been so hard for you both. I shall keep my fingers crossed that everything goes accordingly and you both get back to the US before Christmas!

ashley // chasing heartbeats said...

This is such a helpful post! Although we are not planning on moving back the US in the very near future, I had no idea that applying here in Germany for Andreas to move stateside would be easier. We were both living in Germany when we got married in the US, but never went through immigration together after a scary experience getting sort of harassed about us getting married and staying in America. So I too was sitting waiting for Andreas to come out of the immigration line before our wedding and started freaking out after 45 mins. Fortunately it just took so long because the non-US citizens line was so long. :)
I hope all went well on Monday! Keep us all posted :)

Alex Butts said...

People so don't realize the complications of the whole visa stuff. Germany will miss you guys - I know it'll work out and your original plans for the US will be even better for your time in Germany. I'm so glad you were in Germany because I got to meet someone wonderful!

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...