Our Immigration Journey


immigration

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:

  1. 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)
  2. 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!)
  3. 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.)
  4. 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

So many prayers, tears and cashier's checks went into the making of this photo!

So many prayers, tears and cashier’s checks went into the making of this photo!

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?

The Worst Engagement Story Ever

The Worst Engagement Story Ever

We’ve been told that we have the “worst engagement story” ever.  It’ s so true.

But it’s also the best, because it’s ours.

Karlos was living in Mexico while we were dating. I was in California – transplanted from New England after college on a whim to stretch my wings and be just a tiny bit closer to mi amor.

Because of the distance, anytime we wanted to see one another, a 24 hour bus trip or flight was required. So, for our one year dating anniversary, we planned on meeting in a US-Mexico border city to celebrate and see one another after a six month stint of separation.

On the night of our anniversary, we headed to the fanciest restaurant we could find – L’Applebees. I know – jealousy ensues when I mention both sports bar and fine burgers.

We shimmied into our booth and our unsuspecting waiter grabbed our drink orders. We chit chatted and then the conversation took a pretty serious turn. Karlos started asking some tough (albeit, necessary) questions…

“Do we know each other well enough to get married?”

“Do we have enough money?”

“What if I’m not granted a visa to move to the US?”

You know – all the important questions every couple gets to talk about over the course of months. Here we were processing them within an hour in Applebees. My heart started beating a mile a minute.

What’s he getting at?? I flew all this way…and invested all this time…and fell madly in love with you…just for you to break up with me over some endless fries?!

Then it got worse: “I need to tell you something…but I can’t tell it to you while looking you in the eyes. Can you please close your eyes?”

I close my eyes and clench my fist.

“I don’t want you to be my novia anymore…

…abre tus ojos…”

I open my eyes ready to cry/scream/faint/slap…all the crazy things…

and see him holding a ring box.

“Quiero que seas mi esposa.”

“I want you to be my wife.”

And with that, fear & anger was replaced with joy & celebration. All the big scary questions remained on the table and we continued to process them through our engagement, but the course was set and we journeyed towards the altar together.

 

What’s your engagement story? Did you or your spouse almost get slapped?