Legal documents, the solution to marriagePublished 1:15pm Friday, January 3, 2014
Column: Things I Tell My Wife, by Matthew Knutson
“I like how often we celebrate with cake,” I said to my wife, taking another piece from the cake she made. This week marked four months of us being married, and though I told her we would not be celebrating monthly anniversaries, she’s still made a cake each month. I’d like to think it was a coincidence, but when she starts calling it anniversary cake, you can’t keep ignoring the signs.
This week’s cake came with extra cause for celebration as Sera’s employment authorization card finally arrived. Speaking about the immigration process can be a bit taboo for some, but it’s something that impacts far more people than you would think.
Because my wife is currently here on a student visa, she hasn’t been able to work for over a year. Her employment has always been tied to where she’s attended school, and since she’s been attending graduate school at a college that doesn’t have work-study for students at the master’s level, her ability to work has been nonexistent.
If anyone reading this thinks we don’t need immigration reform, please consider the financial complexities that come with living day-to-day with no income while attending graduate school. Certainly Sera didn’t have to choose to pursue additional higher education, but I would hope most people would see how illogical it is to make it illegal for someone pursuing a master’s degree to work at a local coffee shop. Needless to say, our life for the past year has been filled with blessings from family and friends because the system in place is incredibly limiting.
This thankfully all changes with the visa we’ve applied for following our marriage. Nearly four months after filing for permanent residency, my wife can now work. That doesn’t mean we’ve been granted the visa, but it does indicate that we’ve done a lot of things right so far in the process. Soon we will be scheduled for an interview that should complete the complex process for her to receive permanent residency, also known as a green card. Note: While the term “permanent residency” sounds everlasting, it actually expires after 10 years. That’s a bridge we’ll cross when the time comes.
This process is nothing like what is portrayed in movies. “The Proposal” is probably the most popular movie about immigration, and it would be my sweetest dream if Sera and I could walk into the immigration office and have our interview completed the same day, let alone avoid all the paperwork that comes months prior to the interview.
While visiting my in-laws over the Christmas holiday, I was able to hear firsthand just how complex this can get. My sister-in-law is attending seminary in Michigan and hopes to participate in a cross-cultural internship overseas in Egypt. The visa required for this will likely involve three countries: Madagascar, her home country; America, the country where she attends seminary; and Egypt, where this study abroad trip will take place. Even countries that gladly welcome immigrants would find this difficult to process.
The world is becoming a smaller and smaller place, and immigration reform is needed simply to remove the many kinks from the system. I certainly think people should enter and stay in this country by following the proper channels, but at a certain point I can see why many people become too discouraged and begin breaking laws. Still, it’s not acceptable and gives a bad name to others who are legally immigrating.
Being halfway through this experience, I’m tempted to wish it upon all other married couples. If you had to spend countless late nights preparing legal documents with your future spouse in order to be married and live in the same country, perhaps people would take it more seriously. Add in the cost of the forms, the unnecessary worry of being denied, and collecting evidence to prove that you are truly in love and living together, and I think you’d see the divorce rate go down. You have to really love someone to go through this process.
Thankfully Sera is more than worth it. Her anniversary cakes alone make the process worthwhile. Hopefully we’ll have another immigration milestone to celebrate soon.
Matthew Knutson is a marketing specialist at Waldorf College in Forest City, Iowa. Find him online at thingsitellmywife.tumblr.com.