The Marriage Visa
Sue and Juan passed their interview with the Department of State. Now they could apply for Juan to become a conditional permanent resident alien. Juan wasn't yet eligible for a permanent resident visa since he and Sue had been married for less than two years.
By October 2006, Juan's conditional resident visa had been approved, pending a waiver of the bar that prohibited him from returning to the United States for ten years since he had once lived in the country as an illegal immigrant.
Sue now needed to prove the bar would cause her extreme hardship. She had to argue her case in a letter, which she says was difficult to do.
Sue wrote about the death of her brother and how hard it was to be separated from her family in the States. She also described her interest in attending graduate school and the lack of educational and professional opportunities in Honduras. Sue submitted her brother's death certificate along with letters of support from friends and relatives.
Sue telephoned the receptionist at the embassy every day for updates. It took five months before she received a response. She never had contact with the person who reviewed her waiver petition.
At Long Last: A Decision
On the day that Sue and Juan were finally notified, Sue had a bad feeling. The couple had become regulars at the embassy and they were there that day to get a tourist visa for Juan's father. "We were already there so I said, 'Let's go in early and ask about the waiver.'"
Sue couldn't help but notice a distraught Honduran woman whose waiver had just been turned down. Sue and Juan started to panic. "The only thing going through my head is they're going to deny us," Sue remembers. After they waited an hour, a receptionist informed them that Juan's waiver had been approved two weeks ago. A notice had already been sent in the mail, they just hadn't received it yet.
Sue screamed when she heard the good news. "I can't describe that moment. You don't realize how oppressed you feel until that's lifted. You're so dependent on one decision that's being made by people who don't know you."
A Normal Life
Juan and Sue returned to the Minnesota in May 2007. All told, it took them a year and a half to secure Juan's green card. Sue estimates the paperwork cost about $2000. Other costs included Juan's medical exams and paying to get documents translated and notarized. In the end, they did not use the services of an immigration lawyer. While in Honduras, they earned little money and used their savings to cover living expenses.
Sue says she and Juan are lucky for a lot of reasons. If Juan were Mexican, Sue thinks their story might not have the same happy ending. Mexico is a bigger country where more people are filing visa applications, which can mean longer processing backlogs.
Sue acknowledges that the U.S. isn't perfect but she's glad to be back here and have her freedom again. Now Juan can work legally. He wants to improve his English and go back to school. "We have dreams that can now be realized," she says.
Soon the couple will sell their furniture, pack up their car and leave Minnesota for Flagstaff, Arizona. Sue plans to start graduate school in the fall. They are both looking forward to being closer to family in Colorado and living in a community where there are more Latinos.
As an illegal immigrant, Juan was dependent on Sue. In Honduras, Sue was dependent on Juan. Now they each have their own jobs, friends and activities. Finally, Sue says, life "just feels normal."
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