Jan and Vari

Posted on February 10, 2010. Filed under: Stories - from other sites |

Jen (U.S.) & Vari (Honduras)
Vari and I met in New York through mutual friends and immediately found we had things in common and a definite attraction. Just as other relationships develop and run their natural course, we followed suit, spending time with one another, moving in together, envisioning our future together, with one exception, Vari was not a citizen of the United States. She was in the U.S. on a tourist visa, which meant she would have to leave every six months on her 10 year visa.

So, six months had passed and we decided to go to Honduras, Vari’s native country and visit her family. We returned a week later to the U.S. and continued life once again as before, with the biggest dilemma of where we should go every six months.

As the other six months passed, we decided on a trip to Europe, landing first in Portugal. We spent the next two weeks exploring Spain, arriving in Barcelona the day the U.S. went to war with Iraq, and continuing on to France and Italy and returning to Spain/Portugal for our departure.

We arrived at Newark Airport, New Jersey a half day later to what would be the worst day of our lives.

The flight we were on had been flagged by immigration as other passengers on the plane looked to be out of place. All foreign women were asked to go to a separate room, where they were to be questioned. Varinia was a foreign woman and went to the room. I preceded through to the immigration checkpoints and waited for Vari. One by one, passengers exited the door where she had gone into. Another immigration officer assured me that my friend would be out shortly.

After an hour, or what felt like an eternity, I began questioning immigration officers of Vari’s whereabouts. Finally, seeing my desperation, they informed me that she was being “denied entry” because it was believed that she was living and working in the U.S. and that they reserved the right to deny anyone that they felt a suspicion.
I was in shock, as I am sure Vari was too!

Not only would they deny her entry but they wanted to send her back where we had come from (Portugal).

Luckily enough, she had a return ticket to Honduras that had not been used because she meet me and was allowed to use the ticket back to Honduras the following day.
Some officers allowed me to write a note to her and give her money, they also returned my car and house keys (the initial items that sparked the suspicion) back to me so I could go home and leave the airport.

When I reflect back on this event, it should be pointed out that the Immigration officers (with the exception of the interrogator) were kind, professional, and were put into a position where by law they had to do their job above compassion. The officer who took Vari’s fingerprints even asked, “Why did you leave in the first place? Why didn’t you just stay?” The answer to this question is that WE ARE NOT CRIMINALS. We are law abiding and educated human beings. On the contrary, I am also not judging others for their decisions regarding this issue.

The next day, I waited desperately for a phone call that Vari had arrived home safely. The phone finally rang and we knew this was the beginning of a painful new step for the both of us.
The hardest part is acceptance. It means, the comfortable life you are accustomed to, career, friends, family and yes, Starbucks, must be sacrificed, so you can be with the one person that you love. (Assuming you decide to go to your partner’s native country.)

In order to go to your partners’ country, you will most likely go on a tourist visa, which means you cannot work. Without work, you have no money, so prepare yourself. Priority number one should be the investment of a vonage phone and modem. Ship, the modem and phone to your partner (they will need a computer and internet connection). For less than 30 dollars a month you can speak to your partner on phone as long as you want. We often look back at the small fortune we wasted on discount phone cards and direct phone calls and wished we had discovered this wonderful service earlier. Next step, set a time frame that will allow you to save enough money to last you the time given on your tourist visa and look for a job that can sponser a work visa. I actually quit my job and sought out another higher paying job and moved in with a friend to save money on rent.

Vari and I spent 9 months apart, with visits every three months.
During this time apart, I sought out some of the best immigration lawyers in New York, researched immigration laws, and looked desperately for couples in the same situation to offer advice or solutions. Needless to say, I came up empty handed.

I flew into San Pedro Sula, Honduras, a country that I was unaware of just two years prior. During our time apart, Vari began working at a major hotel chain and was able to convince the GM to hire me and sponser my work visa. There are two main outlets for Americans wanting to work in a foreign country: teaching English or the Hospitality/Hotel Industry.

We lived together for a year and 3 months in San Pedro Sula, before I decided work was not challenging enough for me, did not speak good Spanish, had no friends to hang out or communicate with, poverty and violence overwhelmed me with fear, and I missed home.
I was completely torn between the person that I loved and wanting to go back to my life in the U.S. I fell into a deep depression.

Little by little, faith and boredom motivated me to search the internet for jobs in countries that would allow for same-sex immigration. But they all had an organized process to qualify you as a skilled immigrant, which meant a lot of paperwork and more time. Then I found an ad for a job that fit Vari’s line of work in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. We took a chance, packed our bags, sold our belongings and left for Mexico. We have been here now for three years, just opened our own business and living happily with our two dogs, Bella and Chai.

Our story does not end here; we would ultimately like to come back to the U.S., but as legal citizens. We are grateful to be where we are and wish to the other couples out there facing the same pain to be strong, be smart, and be patient. Every sacrifice has its reward.

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