We’re engaged!! That’s it – right? He asked and I said “¡Si!”
The rest was meant to be “happily ever after” (or at least just overwhelming guest lists and cake flavor choices). But alas, for us, and any couple that come from different countries, engagement sets in motion the big questions of WHERE do we live and HOW do we make that possible?
Though we met in Mexico and love that country, we knew that starting our life in the United States (and tackling our immigration journey head on) would open up more doors later on in terms of giving us a choice in where we could live. The short-term sacrifices would lead to more long-term opportunities.
Most folks are taken aback when they learn that marriage ≠ automatic citizenship.
For us, the journey to citizenship lasted nearly six years – from submitting our first application to receiving his naturalization paperwork. Even just typing that one sentence makes it feel like a nice and neat process.
What we learned in those six years of mess, anguish, fear, and countless prayers made us grow up quicker – and closer. Here’s what it looked like:
- Fiance visa – 1 year wait (If you are engaged and plan to live in the United States, this visa allows your novio(a) to cross the border and then you have 90 days to get married #reallife90dayfiance)
- Temporary permanent residency – approx. 6 month wait (SUPER fast in immigration standards – BUT during that waiting period Karlos wasn’t allowed to drive, work, or leave the country. It was the most stressful step of the process!)
- Permanent residency – 2 year wait (If you become a a resident based on marriage, your first step is “temporary permanent residency”. You have to reapply after 2 years to have that temporary status removed and prove that you’re happily, legitimately married.)
- Citizenship – 1 year wait (If you became a resident based on marriage, you can apply for citizenship after 3 years of being a permanent resident. So you basically pay for the non-conditional permanent residency and then immediately pay for the citizenship process to begin).
Total cost: $2,680*
*That’s just the total to file the correct paperwork. It does not include any lawyer fees, travel costs to get the in-person interviews, required medical exams, loss of income during “wait times”, etc.
We could not have made it through those first six years without nuestra comunidad. The folks that…
…cheered us on and double checked our paperwork
…moved all our earthly possessions and filled our fridge when we were on our honeymoon
…hired Karlitos when he was finally able to work, but still just learning English
…let us sleep on their living room floor when we moved across the country
…(parents that understood that) we did not want to start a family until Karlos received his citizenship for the very real fear of deportation that so many families face on a daily basis
…church families and our CSM family that prayed over us for years – speaking truth, calming fears, and giving encouragement along the way
From the moment we submitted our first round of paperwork to the moment Karlos received his US passport, three things have become glaringly clear – we are grateful that mi amor had a “line to wait in”, our current immigration system is broken, and we pray for reform of that system.
Throughout this journey, our paths have crossed with some amazing families, each having their own unique immigration story – whether having come to this country this generation or a few back.
What’s your family’s story?