I remember the day that I figured it out.
It was May, shortly after my birthday, and less than three months until our wedding date. We had been struggling to understand why we hadn't yet received any information regarding our Green Card application and after hours of online research and several phone calls we still weren't getting anywhere.
I remember that I was taking care of some admin while the little girl that I nannied for was asleep. The laptop was open on the kitchen counter and I was browsing yet another immigration advice website when I finally found the answer that I had been looking for. The website explained that the process that we had thought was almost complete was actually going to take another several months, if not years, and that my husband might not be allowed into the United States until that process was complete.
Basically - my worst fear had come true.
For those of you who have had the good fortune to avoid ever acquiring any knowledge of visa procedures, there are several, complicated steps to the the US Green Card application - including a pre-application process during which you must prove the legitimacy of your relationship. The ability to apply for a Green Card depends entirely on the approval of this pre-application paperwork and this first step can take six months or more.
To make matters worse, until an application is processed, applicants are advised not to travel to the United States, because they may be denied entry based on their declared intent to immigrate. In other words, once you have made it known that you are trying to move to the US, you are very unlikely to be allowed in, even for a visit, until your application has been approved, because they are afraid that you will enter early and stay.
I don't know that I had ever before experienced the level of immediate despair that I felt in that moment. I am, generally, quite a rational person and while I am no stranger to disappointment, I am usually able to maintain a certain sense of composure, safe in the knowledge that there will be some way to make things better. In that moment, though, I felt hopeless.
In the past, our visa experiences, while nerve-wracking, had been fairly straightforward and manageable, but this time there was no guarantee and, terrifyingly, everything to lose. There was every chance that in two-and-a-half months time when my husband tried to enter the country, he would be turned away at customs and forced to return to the UK. Everything was ready - the dresses, the venue, the caterer, the DJ - everything. If we cancelled, the deposits would be gone and the signed contracts would mean that we would probably have to pay the remainder of what we owed.
The bad thing - the thing that we are always worried is going to happen, but never actually does - had happened.
I remember collapsing to the ground. Dramatic, I know and I swear that this isn't a normal reaction for me (at least not since I was seven), but I have never felt so suddenly distraught or so utterly alone. I wanted to phone my husband - to share the news and seek reassurance - but the time difference meant I wouldn't be able to speak to him for hours.
So I sat there on the kitchen floor with tears streaming down my face, consumed by this revelation, clutching it to my chest like a terrible secret and desperately hoping that the little girl upstairs would sleep just a little bit longer so that I could pull myself together.
Most of you will already know the ending to this story. Plus it is insinuated by the title, so I won't bore you with all of the details of the in-between or stretch it out as if it were a mystery. In the end, my husband passed through customs essentially unchallenged and the wedding went on, as planned. Our decision not to cancel the wedding wasn't made with any sort of assurance or professional guidance. We simply weighed our options and decided to take the risk. We knew that if we cancelled, we would be bound to the payments anyway, and while we didn't want to inconvenience any of our guests at the last minute, we felt that they all loved and supported us and that if the worst did come to pass, that they would understand.
Despite our confidence in the decision that we had made, the remainder of the time leading up to the wedding still felt like a sort of limbo. We had done everything by the book - always. We had the cleanest of records to prove it and, still, we were left with absolutely no control over something that we should have been celebrating as one of our first ventures together as adults and as partners.
|The day he arrived at the airport.|
This experience is one that I have wanted to write about ever since we made the decision to proceed with the wedding planning, although I don't think I would have been able to go through with it if things had ended differently. I haven't shared this part of our journey with many people because at the time it took everything in me just to get on with things, all the while mentally preparing myself for any possible disappointment.
We knew when we chose to get married that our differing nationalities would always be a factor in our relationship and that our journey would not be without it's own particular bumps and bruises. I'll admit, though, that with all of our careful planning and consideration, this was not an experience that we foresaw.
Although I have always known I would write this post, it has been delayed and delayed for one reason or another, but recently we have been encountering more visa-related obstacles and the timing just felt right. There are certain things that shouldn't be difficult for us that will be simply because we weren't born in the same country. Each time the disappointment is raw and real, but looking back on that experience makes me feel more and more confident that we will emerge from this turbulent time successful and stronger. If we can make it through the uncertainty of those couple of months then we can make it through anything.
I believe in Love.