My goodness. What a time to be in an international long distance relationship! Everyone knows that 2020 has been a right pig. Weddings have been cancelled, visa processes have been temporarily suspended and borders have been closed for travel. Some people have missed out on holidays but for others it’s meant that they’ve been trapped miles away from their loved ones for months. Current expats and future expats are struggling right now.
My situation is a little different because of where I am in the ‘process’. I have a British passport and US residency. That has opened the doors for me in both countries. I could travel to the UK and I would still be allowed back into the US, even with the EU/UK travel ban (I spent 14 days doing the UK quarantine on arrival). Without the US residency, I could still get back in because I am a spouse of a US citizen. My biggest concern was if there were flights still operating rather than I’d actually be able to cross borders.
But what about those that are in relationships and have been for years but aren’t yet married? Even fiancés have been ‘blocked’ out of travelling to the country of their partner, because they lack a piece of paper that makes their relationship ‘official’.
I know during lockdown there have been boyfriends and girlfriends that haven’t been able to see each other, even living in the same country. But with lockdowns and restrictions being lifted there’s a light at the end of the tunnel for domestic relationships. However, those in international relationships still don’t really have an end in sight…especially with the US spiralling out of control…
It’s sad. If this had happened to me back in 2015-2016 at the start of my relationship, it would have been really tough. When you’re that far apart, you need to have goals to work towards. For example, planning trips to meet up every 3-4 months. We got engaged, then had to plan our marriage visitor visa in order to give notice of marriage, then we had the wedding a few months later to actually get the spouse visa rolling so we could even live together in the same country. That took 3 separate international trips alone.
Without being married, we couldn’t live in the same country. The only other option was to go through the K1 fiancé visa. That way you can move to the US as a fiancé but you have to get married within 90 days…with weddings being restricted… many immigrant visas were completely put on hold. Those that had them granted had to somehow get across before they expired. But those in the middle of the process were just out of luck. The US embassy in London even stopped in-person interviews.
The US visa process is stressful enough as it is. There’s a lot of sitting around waiting. We spent ONE WEEK together as a married couple, before we were back in our separate countries to start the process. It’s not unusal to submit the application and hear absolutely nothing for MONTHS on end. But to start that endless wait…and then have it frozen would just be unbearable. Once processing starts up again, you still have the usual wait time to then continue with!
There’s a bit of a grey area as to if you can enter the US during this time, in case you try to sneak across the border before the visa has been granted. We decided not to risk it and so just like these current times, it felt like a never ending wait of not being able to see each other with the situation being out of our control. However, we did have the option to travel and meet up somewhere else. Even though I couldn’t necessarily enter the US, we were able to fly and see each other across the border in Mexico. But even that isn’t really a possible option at the moment!
I understand why a lot of countries in the world currently aren’t interested in travellers from the US. I witnessed how they were dealing with this thing first hand and in all honesty it’s not been great. But I do believe that exceptions need to be made. Like I mentioned earlier, even with the UK/EU to US ban, there were people that still were about to travel, such as spouses. But it should be extended to those in relationships too.
There are a couple of hashtags going around on Twitter, such as: #LiftTheTravelBan and #LoveIsNotTourism. People sharing their stories of how they are separated from their partners around the world. Some are due to give birth soon and are being kept apart. But it’s true, international partners aren’t like a standard leisure traveller. Half of the time we stay at our partner’s home and eat home cooked meals etc. It’s not like we’re staying in hotels, eating at restaurants or visiting tourist attractions…well we could, but don’t HAVE to. I can only imagine how frustrating it is when you see how it’s being dealt with in the US (it’s their ‘rights and freedom’ to not be quarantined or wear a mask), the selfish decisions being made by some people are literally ruining the lives of others.
I flew and went into a 14 day quarantine, so if the flights are going is there any harm? If it’s travel from a high risk country requiring a quarantine on the arrivals. I’m sure a quarantine would be welcomed with open arms for those in a long distance relationship, instead of the alternative being kept apart. At least there’s then a choice, rather than nothing. The only problem is, I don’t know how you could regulate it as there is no ‘official bit of paper’. Maybe it would require flying with timelines and evidence that you are in a proper relationship, but you wouldn’t want people mis-using it and then spoiling it for everyone else…which is partly why the visa process is such a pain in the butt already.
For those that are currently experiencing a separation from loved ones, please try to stay positive and know that this won’t last forever. It’ll be over at some point and you’ll come out the other end (hopefully) stronger than ever, knowing you were put through a highly challenging time and you over came it. Being in an international long distance relationship takes A LOT of patience at the best of times. If you can get through this, you’ll be able to get through so many other things that life throws at you too. 🙂