The USCIS (U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services) has been the third person in my relationship from the get-go. And let me tell you, it can feel scary even when you’ve done nothing wrong.
I know this seems crazy! But the sensation of giving your life’s fate over to a government entity to decide on whether or not it’s worth validating is nerve-wracking as all get out. Not to mention, you’re not even people. You’re just words on paper. It feels like they try to do all they can to avoid actually meeting you.
Now, we’re no strangers to the anxiety-inducing encounters that the USCIS can cause. In fact, we’ve dealt with this 3-4 times over the course of 8 years together. And I’ll preface this by saying that we have played by every single rule. However, the topic of immigration is so riddled with negativity that you can’t help but feel scared, stressed, and bad as you go through the process.
My husband came to the U.S. as an 18-year-old kid on an F-1 student visa. He worked his tail off to earn excellent grades and graduated as an Electrical Engineer. He participated in internships so that, coupled with his grades, he could stand out in the job market even as an international student who would require sponsorship at some point from an employer. When he graduated, he had 90 days to find a job. We almost thought he wouldn’t find one. We even talked about how we would ultimately have to break up if he ended up going back home. But, as people of faith, we knew God had a bigger plan.
He got a job, which felt like the biggest relief. This job brought us here to Baton Rouge. He worked his tail off earning his position and proving day in and day out why he was worth all the extra effort. His company agreed to sponsor his H-1B (work) visa and then extend it when it was set to expire. He has fought tirelessly to be the best version of himself every day and take advantage of every opportunity. He has never shied away from hard work and I couldn’t be prouder to be his wife.
As we were dating, we never felt a sense of urgency to get married so he could get a green card. It wasn’t even something we thought about. His company had supported him in the work visa process and we had a lot of time until his work visa was set to expire. We got engaged after 5 years of dating, got married, and then most people would go ahead and get the green card paperwork rolling at that point, but… I got pregnant. We were so focused on the pregnancy and the baby that we put the green card paperwork on the back burner. We knew we had plenty of time and we wanted to spend our energy preparing to be parents.
Finally, after our son was born, we realized that time was ticking away and my husband’s work visa would expire. So this meant we had to apply for the green card or pack our bags and head out of the country as a family. My husband’s immigration status had never held weight in our relationship. We are two people who met basically by accident and were destined to be together. We just had a feeling that things would work out and God had a plan.
I remember walking into our attorney’s office for the first time feeling nervous. I’d never worked with an attorney before. There were stacks of paperwork to be filled out. The government wanted pretty much any information that could possibly be found about me except my bra size. Gathering everything together felt so weird…almost like we were in trouble even though we hadn’t done anything wrong.
We finally got everything filed and sent off. That’s when the waiting game ensued.
All of our paperwork was filed in late January of 2020. The timing was perfect…or so we thought given the current rate at which cases were being approved and we had a good 6-7 months before his work visa expired.
Then, Covid-19 happened. And this rocked the freaking boat.
At first, we thought immigration would be canceled altogether and we’d be packing our bags, selling our house, and leaving the U.S. It was a reality that we weren’t prepared for. Although things took a brief pause, we’ve overall been very fortunate. Plans have changed and timelines have been adjusted, but the process is moving along and we are nearing the finish line!
These experiences are emotionally brutal. We’ve been very fortunate to never receive bad news, but the emotional toll it takes to prepare for the worst is no fun at all. When I hear all the negativity and divineness surrounding immigration, it hurts me inside because it is part of my everyday life.
Finding myself in this situation has allowed me to be a better citizen, mother, wife, and teacher because it’s caused me to understand the world from another perspective. Although the experience isn’t always fun, it has opened up my mind and my heart to see how beautiful the world and this country can be, especially if given the opportunity to learn from and live life alongside those from other cultures.