Jennifer and Ellen

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

Jennifer (U.S.) & Ellen (Taiwan)
Jennifer and I met in an internet chatroom in 1999. After exchanging a few emails and cups of coffee, we knew we were meant for each other. Unlike most new couples, we immediately faced a harsh reality. Would we be able to stay together and have a chance to develop our relationship?

My “Practical Training” (a one year training work permit issued after college) was about to expire. I was up against my non-profit employer. After numerous rejection letters, I finally persuaded them to sponsor me for an H1-B visa (a special skills working visa, renewable only once with a total limit of six years). A brief sigh of relief before more hurdles arose.
Soon after I renewed my H1-B visa and began the process of becoming a permanent resident, I was shocked to learn that the Department of Labor would require my employer to pay me 50% more or else the process could go no further. The Department of Labor has fair wage standards for each type of job and my wage did not meet that standard, even though I was the highest paid in my organization for my job title.

After more negotiations and a final, awesome lawyer, I received a work permit and travel document. I could finally visit my family in Taiwan after 8 years, which I could not do under my H1-B visa as mine was not a re-entry visa. Jennifer met my family and saw my home with me.

Even when we were hanging by a thread, we were not willing to give up and we became activists. We agreed to be in a short film for the HRC Town Hall Meeting, as well as a feature documentary in order to educate others about our issue.

It took five lawyers, lots of money, numerous negotiations, sleepless nights, and sometimes emotional outbursts, but it all came back to the main purpose: we were not going to be forced to separate, no matter what we might be up against.

I finally became a Permanent Resident in the U.S. Even though our story of hardship has a happy ending, we will continue to fight for this cause. Hopefully, in the very near future, we will see all binational same-sex couples have their stories end happily too.

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