At first long-distance relationships are like sponges; they’re filled with excitement for the thrills in life to come.
But when you apply for a fiance visa, the hands of government slowly grab hold of this sponge and squeezes it –using paperwork and excessive waiting time– to such a point that your happiness oozes out between their fingers and drips out onto the ground.
Life excitement transforms to anxiety. Then… after months of waiting, wishing, and wanting, does the government get around to your case, approve you, and metaphorically drop your sponge back on the puddle… allowing you to reabsorb what had once dripped out.
The mishandling of immigration cases and lack of sympathy catches most couples by surprise. At first there’s confusion, then resentment, depression, and finally acceptance. Question is: since this struggle is so common for fiance visa applicants, shouldn’t you brace for it ahead of time rather than ride this emotional rollercoaster?
Your excitement-filled sponge
Surely you’ve counted the days since your last separation. And like many others, you probably spent months, if not years, nurturing your relationship before deciding to tie the knot. Committing to marriage is a huge step.
Understandably, this thrill is enough to get anyone excited — sharing the news with family, friends, and coworkers about how you found your perfect partner; daydreaming of marriage, owning a new home, car, vacations, raising a family and more. With a glimmer in your eyes, you click update on your FaceBook status to read “engaged”.
Everything feels perfect.
And now… onto the next step: to actually get your partner to the US. How hard could it be? Searching for options, you’ll come across a variety of methods, one of which is the Fiance Visa that allows you to get a visa “quickly” and without the bureaucratic hassle of marrying in a foreign country.
If that’s your preferred route, congratulations. Unfortunately, this is the part where the big smile on most couple’s faces turns into confusion.
The Government Squeezes Your Sponge
The first major shock, shock # 1, is when you research the visa and actually learn all about the legal process and waiting time.
It turns out that the paperwork and procedures are actually the easy part. All you have to do is prepare an application and mail it in. This packet needs forms, fees, and proof that you’re a genuine couple — not just scamming immigration for a Green Card. Although it’s no walk in the park, it’s also not as difficult as most would imagine government forms to be.
The real challenge, however, turns out to be the waiting time. Most K visa applicants go through a rigorous evaluation process, background check, and must convince government officers that they’re a real couple. With 40,000+ other applicants in front of the line, unfortunately, it’ll take them months to get around to you, almost like saying:
“Oh, great, so you two want to get married? Fantastic. Just fill out these forms and… wait 10 months until we get to you. In the meantime, you can panic about us mistakenly thinking you’re not a real couple (and we’ve made plenty of mistakes before… we’re the government after all)”.
When this shock first hits, couples immediately swallow a lump in their throats wondering, “I pray we did things correctly… and I hope there’s a way to speed this up.”
That’s where shock # 2 enters the scene: despite what promises lawyers or experts make to you, there’s no real way to speed up the visa process. You’re placed in a queue and they’ll get to you when they get to you. Other than making sure you don’t slow yourself down with mistakes or bad proof, there’s no speed pass. People rarely get special exceptions to expedite cases because the government doesn’t consider “but I’m lonely” a good enough reason to put you in first place. Ninety-Nine percent of Fiance visa applicants must wait their turns… which means it’s best to get used to it.
This is the point where your relationship’s sponge drips out every ounce of fun and excitement between the government’s firm fingers. Remember the smile that faded into confusion? Well now, it’s turned into total helplessness.
“Phew”, you’re thinking, “if it was just a matter of being patient, it’s not that bad. After all, we’ve waited this long so what’s a few more months?”
But there’s another twist in the story.
The excitement drips out and leaves you dry
You see, there’s so much fear surrounding immigration that even a legitimate couple –who’s got nothing to fear– starts to worry about their chances of success. Watching news on TV about the President’s stand on immigration, reading horror stories of people stuck in limbo for years, and hearing absolute silence from the government leaves most couples panicking.
Everyday that passes raises more concern: “what if I didn’t do something correctly? What if I messed up on page 3? Will they believe that we’re a genuine couple and not scammers?” On a daily basis they nervously check their inboxes and government websites for updates. Day after day, they repeat with growing anxiety. But they hear back nothing. Just silence.
Imagine living through this kind of constant worry… meanwhile having to maintain a long-distance relationship, a job, and a personal life. You have to put on a happy face for your partner so he/she doesn’t lose hope. You’ve got to keep working your 9-5 job so you can pay those government fees. And you have to break news to family and friends that you’ve got no date set for marriage yet.
Naturally, all of this leads to stress and often fights break out. For example, My wife and I fought over the phone when I made silly accusations that she wasn’t “as nervous as I was” trying to figure this out. Thinking back, I was obviously being a lunatic and there wasn’t a reason to worry. But you can imagine how waiting 10 months without word from the government conjured doomsdays scenarios into my head.
In fact, we became so preoccupied with paperwork that we didn’t even plan our wedding. Our relationship’s sponge had completely dried up and there was a huge puddle on the ground.
Your Sponge will slowly reabsorb
When the government finally gets around to processing your case (after months of waiting) you go through a heart pounding interview face to face with a government official who gets to decide your fate. Although it’s immensely frightening to think your entire future hangs on this single interview, it’s not as bad as it sounds.
Shock # 3 (it’s a good one, this time): the approval rates of Fiance visa cases are over 80% for those who prepare adequately. Meaning, most couples see success if they prepare and hang on long enough. Those who aren’t prepared, however, get denied or delayed even further by monotonous back and forth exchanges.
In a metaphorical sense, the government gently placed your dry sponge back on top of the puddle they just made. They’ve had their fun making you wait in fear all this time but now, you can begin to slowly reabsorb everything that dripped out.
At this point, you may have abandoned plans for a huge, festive wedding, and just opted for a small, family affair going through the courthouse. Don’t be surprised if you think to yourself “we’re so glad it’s over… wouldn’t want to do that again” .
You can slowly regain your excitement and remember what you had originally planned: honeymoon, a Thanksgiving dinner, buying a new car, picking names for future kids, getting a driver’s license, and so on.
This will happen to your sponge, so brace for it
If you’re in the early stages of the Fiance visa, I promise this will happen to you. Out of the 40,000 yearly applicants, how many go through the emotional rollercoaster? Almost all of them. After guiding tens of thousands of applicants, I’ve seen the same events play out time and again.
They’re excited at first: they want to do things perfectly in the visa process, they start planning a wedding, picking a wedding dress, and even organizing their honeymoon. But once they hit the first brick wall maneuvering through government mazes, they struggle, get impatient, and lose excitement. At the end they emerge like traumatized victims; it didn’t feel like “fun” at all, it felt like “survival”.
So the question becomes — if you KNOW that everyone goes through this struggle, why not brace for it ahead of time?
Why not accept the fact that 99% of people can’t speed up the process and will have to wait months before reuniting? Accept the fact that there is generally an approval at the end — 80% if you prepare correctly for the K visa interview– and it’s typically no use worrying over small details. Accept that the long, forced separation will create friction in your relationship. You will resent some things; you will argue over others; and your relationship will take a hit… but you will make up again just like a dry sponge placed on a puddle.
Accept that the government will squeeze your relationship’s sponge enough to drip out all the excitement of your relationship, but it’s up to you to reabsorb all that you had once planned and aspired to.