Love & Canada: My Lesbian Immigration Marriage Feelings, Part 1

Feature image is of a poem by Jacqueline Suskin.

I am impatient.

Every day for the last six months almost exactly, and often more than once, I’ve asked Shannon to marry me, or she’s asked me. Sometimes it’s been when we’re driving and the stars are coming out and sometimes it’s been over dinner and sometimes it’s been in bed and sometimes it’s been over text and a few times it was on a mountain and once it was when I was drunk in the parking lot of a Trader Joe’s just outside of Disneyland, and every time she’s said yes or I have, and every time but one it has not counted and it has also counted more than anything.

The time that counted most was just a few weeks ago. We went to the top of a mountain at sunset and she pulled a ring out of her bag and I pulled a ring out of my bra and she asked and I asked and then we cried and then we made out a lot. It was perfect, because every moment with her is perfect, and because even if something is going horribly wrong we’re still together and fucking in it and it’s going to be okay.

we got engaged here

we got engaged here


Shannon lives in Los Angeles and when we met I lived in Montreal. It wasn’t a good time for either of us to invest in a new person and 4,591 kilometres is so many kilometres and anyway DOMA had only recently been declared unconstitutional, so we obviously weren’t going to date. We were just going to be really good friends having the best sex of our lives together who talked and sexted all the time and maybe we would visit each other sometimes and that would be fine, right? That would be enough.

The first time she flew to see me, it became immediately apparent that that was never going to be enough.


I never thought about getting married, and Shannon never wanted to get married again. But we’ve been talking about getting married, both in general and also specifically to each other, since way before it was probably appropriate. We were walking in the sunlight in spring in Toronto and talking about how there’s never enough time and how when we are together it feels like home, and she pushed me against a wooden gate with plants everywhere and said maybe we could figure out a way to be together, even if it meant trying to get me to America one of these days, even if it meant getting hitched.

The thing about my future immigration marriage is that it’s an immigration marriage but not an immigration marriage. I have no judgment for how other people do things but that is not what I am up to, so get on board. The part of immigration I want is the part where I get to be with her forever, in her city, in her bed. I’m not using her to get a visa — and it’ll be a K-1 fiancé visa, which means I enter the country as her fiancé and we have to get married within 90 days, just so we’re clear — I’m using a visa to get (keep) her. Her work is tethered to Los Angeles and mine can be anywhere and anyway Los Angeles is beautiful this time of year and all times of year. Isn’t the great Canadian dream moving south? I think I read that somewhere. I love Canada, but my heart is in LA.

she is just so handsome it's fine it's totally fine

she is just so handsome it’s fine it’s totally fine


So here’s where we are now.

My immigration interview is in Montreal at the end of July. Assuming it goes well — and if you think I haven’t become a gloriously compulsive knock-on-wood-er since this process started, you are mistaken — I’ll get my passport back with the visa in it a week or two later and move after that. After my visa is approved — and I’ll find out whether it is or isn’t right there in the interview — I have six months to enter the United States and 90 days from whenever I enter to get married. I don’t have a way of being insured in the States until we get married, and I can’t legally do paid work until I get a work permit some time after that, so this thing is happening as efficiently as possible.

I am, like I said, impatient.

After my visa is approved, we’ll tell Shannon’s family what day we’re actually getting married. (Mine already knows; our relationships with our families, and the ways our families react to things, are different.)

I ditched my Montreal apartment in March to save money for this whole situation, so right now I’m “living in Los Angeles and just visiting my parents to sort out some immigration paperwork long swallow of wine.” I’m cat-sitting in Ottawa for a week at the beginning of August, and ideally moving right after.

We’re getting married at sunset in September, in front of at most 26 people, assuming all the Canadians and far away friends can get their tickets and time away from work on short notice. The actual marrying part is going to happen on the front steps of a house under a beautiful public art piece that feels a little like magic made real. We’re going to serve champagne all the way through, and go to dinner at an aesthetically similar nearby restaurant afterward.

The thing about never thinking about getting married before is that I don’t really have any ideas of what a wedding should look like, let alone a wedding at which I will be one of the people getting married and also ideally having a good time. I know I am gonna fight to keep it tiny. (This is why we’ve already booked the house.) I know I don’t really want to engage with save the dates or decisions about napkins and that I don’t really want to know about the hundreds of tiny traditional details of which I am not presently aware. I have a dress that’s almost ready, and Shannon has a suit that’s almost ready.

But a lot of the details, of the wedding and of my immigration, are still up in the air. How do you find an officiant? What do officiants do? How will my stuff, which is mostly a few boxes of books and sex toys, get to LA? Will I end up hiring a lawyer at some point? Do we need to decorate? When will Shannon give her family the details? What will we do about music? What if [insert interview anxiety here]?

This miniseries, clearly a direct relative of Laneia’s Wedding Feelings I’m Powering Through but with a twist, will answer all these questions and also any questions of yours I am able to answer and more.


My Lesbian Immigration Marriage Feelings, Part 1

1. I’m not going to be Canadian any more.

I mean technically I will always be Canadian. Dual citizenship is allowed, and even though I think America makes you swear an oath to give up allegiances to other countries and such, I’m pretty sure Canada doesn’t care.

But I’ve spent most of my whole life imaging that the rest of my life would take place in one setting and now it’s going to take place in another, and that’s pretty weird. When I’m in America if anyone talks to me in metric it feels like a warm hug of familiarity but when I’m in Canada I sometimes speak in imperial by accident. Also I call it “America” now instead of “the States” or “the US” like a proper Canadian and I don’t know what that’s about.

I will always be outraged you guys still have pennies though. Pennies are garbage.

(A lot of my feelings also involve politics but a wedding feeling post is hmmm maybe not the place to discuss them but they’re also playing a role.)

2. I don’t know about traditional wedding things, will this be a problem?

As I wrote above, I hadn’t given much thought to weddings before my own started to be a thing that was going to happen. I’ve been to four total, always as the guest of a partner or tbh in three cases my parents, none of my closest friends have gotten married, and I was too busy planning to be abducted by fairies as an eight year old to think about it.

Hopefully this won’t stop be from throwing a good party but I am worried it will somehow offend someone who is expecting something to happen that I don’t know should happen or do not want.

3. Do I need to decorate?

It’s sort of a pretty setting, will anything we add just be clutter? Would a few strings of lights improve things or look messy? If I just like flowers, is it okay to have a single bouquet on the table with the booze and leave them at that? If we won’t really get to hang out in the space until the day of, is it okay to sort of figure this out the day of? I want things to look pretty, but also for the vibe to be less “this is a formal celebration of love” and more “let’s hang out and all be cute to each other” with a little bit of “we are going to dinner an hour after the ceremony and need to be totally cleaned up by then.”

4. Immigration involves so much paperwork.

You guys it involves SO much paperwork. And then you have to carry that paperwork around with you sometimes, so if you try to travel and you visit one of the fun little rooms in the airport you have paper on you that will help you make your flight. I have to prove there is no reason I should not immigrate and Shannon has to prove she can support me financially when I do and we have to prove our relationship is real and then stuff like police background checks and vaccination records and divorce records and medical exams and trying to convince the drug store that no, you really do want twelve passport photos printed, you did not misspeak, and there’s more. Related: what if I forget about some of the paperwork.

paperwork

so much paperrrrr

5. Immigration also involves a lot of legal and financial stuff.

What will be my deal, getting-paid-by-my-current-clients-all-of-whom-I-would-like-to-keep wise? I haven’t found a lot of information on my specific work situation and potential work situation and even though I’ve done a good job of avoiding professional legal advice so far it might be time to find a lawyer to ask.

Also I need to figure out what to do about my finances. In that I have no idea how taxation works in America except that the other day I learned my tax-free savings account will be taxed up to 50% if it’s still open when I enter the country to move there and then I heard that my credit rating might not exist in America and so I need to research.

Also in order to afford my move and the wedding and the unknown length of time in which I can’t work I’ve been working three times as much as normal which leaves me so much time to research and do all the stuff I need to research and do!

6. I don’t know the best way to move my stuff to LA.

Suitcases? FedEx? Driving over the border and using media mail?

7. I don’t know what shoes to wear.

My dress is clinging floor-length black velvet with a plunging neckline and a short fishtail and when Shannon saw me in it she fell over onto the ground. It needs to be hemmed and it lives in LA so I can’t take a picture of it yet but it’s amazing and peeing and stairs will be a challenge.

Even though I tromp around in three inch heels all the time, those are thick and on boots. Originally I had a shorter dress in mind and I was going to wear black thigh-high leather boots, but this dress is too tight for that so now I have to figure that out. Also I kinda want them to be sparkly and gold or else red and dyed to match the lining of Shannon’s suit and I want them to look like heels but feel like and offer the stability of boots. The last time I bought elegant formal heeled footwear was 2012 and before that it was 1999 (those shoes lasted) so I don’t really know how this works or what will look good.

8. What if.

Obviously the thing I am most worried about with this whole thing is something I can barely put into words in case, like Voldemort, they give it power, but there’s a reason we’re not telling Shannon’s family what the wedding date is yet and there’s a reason no one can book their flight yet and there’s a reason I’m up working at midnight instead of eating an orange and going to bed. What if what if what if. Please send me anxiety videos of cats.


Do you have advice? Do you have immigration or wedding feelings? Luckily Crystal is also planning an immigration and a wedding; Ali is also planning a wedding; Laneia, Mari, Rachel, KaeLyn and Whitney are already married; and Nikki used to be a wedding consultant so we have a lot to talk about if you want to hash anything out! Email us at youneedhelp @ autostraddle dot com or leave a question/feeling in the comments!

Carolyn Yates was formerly the NSFW Editor (2013–2018) and Literary Editor for Autostraddle.com. Her writing has appeared in Nylon, Refinery29, The Toast, Bitch, Xtra!, Jezebel, and elsewhere. She lives in Los Angeles by way of Montreal and Toronto. Find her on twitter or instagram.

Carolyn has written 958 articles for us.

61 Comments

      • THIS IS MY REASON OF PANIC most of the time anyway. I was going to move back to California but now, drought, only now Seattle where I live is ALSO in a drought. Nowhere is safe.

        That being said, LA has always been in a drought and it’s survived so far, so that should feel promising!

  1. Just my short 20 immigration interview to go to camp with a waiver visa form was enough to make me cry. I cannot imagine how stressful it would be to actually have a sit down interview with my home riding on it.

    Just to check, you couldn’t just rock up to Vegas, get hitched, then skip the half the paperwork?

    • I can’t really imagine a world where visa interviews aren’t terrifying? I will probably either a. cry during it or b. cry immediately after, and also sometimes now I cry thinking about it, so.

      Also nah – and all of this is based on my understanding and also based on my circumstances and based on Canada and I cannot give anyone advice but – first because then I would have entered the country under false pretences (you always have to prove you’re going back to Canada until you enter on the right visa, and “I am engaged to a US citizen and gonna get hitched to her” does not really help that case, which would probably mean sneaky shit, which does not fly), and then we’d have to wait/be married for two years before starting a different visa process, and then we’d have to wait for that to go through anyway. (And in the meantime I’d be married to a US citizen, which would make proving I was going to return to Canada after each visit even harder.) I think there are some visas/situations where it makes a difference? but for me it wouldn’t.

  2. i love this so much i am so excited for this i am all-in for this series BLESS YOU CAROLYN AND I’LL CROSS MY FINGERS FOR YOU 24/7 and also let me know what you decide re: moving your things across the country, perhaps a pod? feels very space-age to use a pod.

  3. This is amazing! Like you were reading my mind, my gf and I are getting ready to start this process for her to move from England to America so all this information is amazing!!!

    • My fiancee and I are doing the same – she’s moving from England to California at the end of September WE HOPE because we have a case number and she is trying to schedule the medical exam and interviews. This process is the worst. And she is worth it.

    • I just wanna wish you luck in all caps and hug you all. It’s so good to know there are so many people out there doing this sort of thing too (I mean I know there are, but it’s one thing to know it with your brain and another to know it know it, you know?)

  4. Good luck on your new adventure!

    My wife and I are going through the immigration process now. We have our interview on Monday! My wife is already in the U.S. on a student visa, so our situation is a bit different. The paperwork is a lot, but manageable. We did not hire a lawyer, although many people do. Hopefully it’ll still work in the end.

  5. congratulations! this is really exciting! your dress sounds so fucking fab and i’m sure you’ll find the best shoes. what if you wear like an ankle boot situation? but also elegant footwear would look killer.

    i look forward to reading the rest of your ~wedding feelings~!

  6. I’M SO HAPPY THERE ARE MORE WEDDING POSTS, also congratulations! You guys are the freaking cutest. And I’m sure it’ll all work out. Other people have managed it, so I’m sure you guys will too. Also I don’t know much about LA but California is legit the best so that’ll be awesome.

  7. Congratulations! Your wedding ideas sound lovely. Please know that its ok to go simple and leave the beauty focus on you two and the venue you have chosen instead of a bunch of little things that will end up being thrown away (napkins). And I have to just point out that I also pulled an engagement ring from my bra when proposing to my wonderful fiance (we get married on July 25! i still have to finish my dress!). Bras are basically pockets. As for shoes, have you tried wedge heels? I used to think I hated them, but it turns out that they are wonderful – they look fancy but I can jump, run, dance, and feel stable in even 3″ heels (just like boots). Have fun!!

  8. Congratulations and magic sprinkles. I’m not the marrying type – I wouldn’t recognise ‘the one’ even if they came with signage. Which is why I’m awed and envious of those who manage it – finding the person to be with for the rest of your lives, that is. Your wedding should be yours – decorate or don’t, but whatever is there, becomes an aspect of your joined life together. So what do you want that to seem like and feel like … when you close your eyes and travel back to your wedding day? Like the place you chose to propose at (the last time), travel back and remember the sounds, the smells, the things you see and sense.
    IDK, but to me places are special because there is something intangible, almost ephemeral about them: they imprint in many ways. Places that are set up to be ‘special’ just seem, beautiful, but not intriguing in that deeply memorable way.
    That said, the process of decorating could be its own adventure.
    Like I said – I don’t know – but I’m sending out all the positive vibes I can spare. 🙂

  9. Hey there! I rarely comment here, but since I am currently existing between the US and Canada for work purposes (literally I am crossing the border 4 times this week), I thought I’d volunteer to try and answer questions if you have them. I am currently dealing with US and Canadian visas, US and Canada taxation and finance issues, AND with the logistics of moving a lot of stuff across the border.

    Full disclosure: I am a US lawyer, not a Canadian one, and I am not an accountant. My experience is mostly related to work visas and to operating a Canadian company while based in the US.

    That said, a couple of suggestions right off the bat: if you have access to a FedEx account, use that to ship your stuff. It’s cheaper if you have an account. Otherwise, checking a couple of giant suitcases on the plane is actually not a bad deal in comparison, and there’s not as much customs scrutiny. Also, the credit rating thing is true. I’ve had the same problem in reverse – not having a Canadian credit history has caused problems for getting a cell phone, etc, but in that case it was fixable with an additional deposit. I’d have to know a little more about your business and clients before I could reasonably address the question of how you can keep working for them, but that is something I deal with.

    And finally, congrats! Immigration isn’t as scary as it looks – it will all go smoothly and you’ll be happily settled in LA. (Though I have to say, as an American who loves Montreal and can’t move there, I am jealous of your ability to give it up.)

  10. okay OKAY first I need to finish crying and then I will have advice also CONGRATULATIONS!! <3 <3 <3

    OKAY
    so
    I can't help with any useful visa stuff but question #3 is something I can HANDLE! If you want flowers, you're going to be in LA so you can go to the LA Flower Market and they will be cheap and beautiful and abundant. If you want to borrow my pass/want someone to possibly accompany you to the flower mart if you don't know anyone else who could, that is something I could probably do, but also it's not like it's hard to go wander around a million flowers by oneself, unless you're allergic maybe? http://www.originallaflowermarket.com/

    String lights can look really really cute and festive! If you can, get some of the ones that are just wire, not the green-stringed christmas version. like these! http://www.amazon.com/Eastchina-Lights-30-Feet-Warm-White/dp/B00GUDMO78/ref=lp_15704871_1_3?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1435775645&sr=1-3 so pretty!
    Or the kind that makes it look like you are in a fancy cafe in paris! http://www.amazon.com/Clear-Globe-String-Lights-Included/dp/B00RQHBZVS/ref=lp_15704871_1_2?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1435775645&sr=1-2 yay!

    Your dress sounds SO SO SO AMAZING and I want to second Danielle's wedge suggestion.

    And if you're going to a restaurant, you totes don't have to worry about napkin colors AT ALL! woooo

  11. Whoa, this post speaks to my soul. I have so many immigration feelings (and I’d love to hear your feelings about politics! It makes me feel so strange to be applying for an absentee ballot for the upcoming Canadian federal election, and then to also feel so invested in US politics and not be able to vote). I’m a Torontonian who moved to the Midwest to go to school and pursue a career in the American theatre. I’m currently on an F-1 visa, and hope to be on an O-1 visa post-graduation while trying to get my green card (I’m not sure if I ever want to be a US citizen? This is one of the weirdest immigration feelings I have that none of my American friends can ever wrap their heads around).

    The Supreme Court ruling has certainly brought some complex emotions to the forefront of my mind these past few days. These past few days have been the first time I’ve ever seriously imagined getting married as part of my future, and it’s thrown me for a loop. I’m only partway through my undergraduate degree, so it’s not as if marriage is anywhere on my immediate horizon, but still…I’ve imagined my career in America (I’ve started calling it that now, too) for as long as I can remember, but this weekend was the first time I started imagining a full life there. And it’s a strange thing to consider when being Canadian is as much a part of my identity as being an artist, or being queer, or having a disability.

    Also, I feel you on the strange logistics of being an immigrant from Canada. Taxes are so complicated now that I’m filing in both countries as a student (I’ve come home on my last few breaks, including this summer, to work–although I don’t even know if I get to call Toronto “home” anymore), I’m still trying to get an American line of credit, I have stress dreams about forgetting any of my immigration papers whenever I travel, I don’t know how to answer the question “where do you live?” when I cross the border, I cry when I think about all the immigration hoops I’m going to have to jump through to take an internship in the States that I need to graduate, I don’t even want to think about what I’m going to do when I don’t have universal healthcare, THE EXCHANGE RATE IS ABSOLUTE CRAP AND THAT STRESSES ME OUT… All the money in my Canadian savings account is “Money To Move To Chicago/Minneapolis/DC Post-Grad And Also To Hire an Immigration Lawyer”.

    All that said…You are handling all this way better than I would be, and congratulations to you and your fiancée! Looking forward to reading more in this series/probably feeling more feelings.

    • REGARDING THE INTERNSHIP:

      Look into CPT, that’s the subvisa you need to be able to do your internship to graduate. It’s actually not that much of a hassle – short form, info from your International Students Advisor or faculty member about what you need the internship for, job description, money (I don’t think it was a lot). Quick reply. As far as visas go that’s actually pretty easy. I did this for my MFA project which actually PAID me so that was extra cool.

      Also look into OPT before you look into the O-Visa. It’s a one-year extension of your student visa that’s all about working in your field post-graduation, and what counts as “your field” is super flexible. (If you’re in STEM you get a longer OPT period.) It’ll buy you time!

      • Thanks for the advice! I’d already known about CPT and OPT, but my international students office on-campus is so incompetent (I go to a TINY LAC in WI) that I’m just worried about screwing it up somehow. Also, I’m an actor, so being in a field where reputation matters so much, I don’t want to be the “well, we wanted to hire her, but her immigration situation is too complicated” person and have that precede me wherever I go. I’m just really neurotic!

        • I’m a performance artist too 🙂 Us artists actually get some kind of provision under OPT, in that we can count gigs as work hours, and also volunteer work counts. That’s how I’ve been filling my time 🙂

  12. I’m also planning my own wedding situation, so I’ve been poking around http://www.offbeatbride.com which has helped a bunch of my other queer friends in planning their celebrations. Also: Google Drive. Because spreadsheets. #TypeA #Ravenclaw

    Your feelings about the party itself—on tradition, on what people expect, on what you want, where these intersect or don’t—are so legit. A poly+queer friend of mine married her primary guy boo and wrote about their non-traditional setup: http://gomighty.com/SaraEileen/how-to-wedding-when-wedding-is-weird/. Her wedding was a BLASTY BLAST BLAST. Read: there was a glitter bar, a stage-puppy, burlesque of various gender stripes, me as one of the MCs, and more. Here’s one of my favorite excerpts from her post:

    Attempt to construct a potluck-style, entirely consensual, deeply excellent party. Ask for volunteers for food, performances, photography, set up. Every time a decision comes up, ask myself, “How can I make this easier on my guests?” In every decision there is an easy option that will make most people happy but force a few people to conform in uncomfortable ways. Attempt to never, ever take that option. No gifts. No dress code. As local as possible. Full of love.

    Attempt to construct a ceremony, party, and marriage that is precisely what we want in every single way. Buy $300 of glitter. Plan a flash zine. Book burlesque. Steven makes a music mix. I buy 5 yards of turquoise velvet and enough beads to coat a hemisphere. I make a gown. I spend every day for four weeks before the wedding sewing beads onto velvet. It is the only hard thing in the entire wedding. I spend days cursing the gown, and other days loving it.

  13. pennies are garbage.

    but seriously, congrats! my american cousin recently married his canadian girlfriend but i think they did the other visa thing where they were already married before applying for visa. it took a long time but overall went pretty smoothly. good luck to you guys! we’ll miss you in canada.

  14. ooh, i love reading columns like this. good luck through this waiting period + and after!

    this topic always brings up shoulda coulda woulda feelings for me. i married an english woman quite hastily after we first met, and then we spent the next 3 years trying to find a solution to our 3000 mile distance. i’ve mentioned it here in the comments before, but i experienced the difficulties at airports especially. it all took a toll on the relationship.

    i suppose that’s all to say that though it’s difficult and waiting sucks, it’s much better to do everything smartly and wade through paperwork as it’ll definitely lead to better results.

  15. Oh buddy. I feel you. Come here and let me give you a big hug from one immigration marriage is that it’s an immigration marriage but not an immigration marriage to another.
    I moved to LA for a girl too but that was before DOMA was repealed.
    For our immigration attorney we used masliah and soloway and we were very pleased with the results.
    It will be fine. Chin up.
    Oh and start printing all the pictures that you have from your relationship and write the dates, names and places on the back of the photos. You’ll need it for the interview

  16. Oh Carolyn <3

    I have had so many of these feelings lately and plenty of sleepless nights due to that ‘what if’. I wanted family and friends from Australia to attend the wedding (an exercise that requires lots of notice/time/planning/saving) so we kinda had to roll the dice and set a wedding date and find a venue and pay a deposit etc with faith that everything will work out OK.

    And it has, so far! I had my immigration interview on Monday and my visa was approved. It kind of anticlimactic and not anywhere near as formal as I’d built it up to be in my head. They didn’t even do the interview in an interview room, I was just standing at a counter chatting to a dude while he checked that my paperwork was in order. It really is just checking paperwork, ticking boxes, reviewing the stuff that they asked you specifically to bring and nothing else! Some people showed up with binders full of relationship evidence and petition applications etc but it’s not required, showing it to someone didn’t even seem to be an option. If you’d like me to talk you through what documents were required and what the interview involved then just let me know. I can talk about the K-1 process forever, it is my life now.

    I didn’t know about the 50% tax thing on o/seas savings accounts. Wow. The financial and employment challenges are the new things keeping me awake at night.

    • CRYSTAL oh my gosh congrats!! (“Anti-climactic” seems like a great feeling, compared to all the possible other feelings.)

      I am almost certainly going to hit you up on slack but did you really not need additional relationship evidence? (I just looked up the email and realized it didn’t mention any and I think I’ve just been assuming it did. But also my brain might be skipping ahead to steps after the visa? Things have blurred.)

      The tax thing is just for this one type of Canadian account specifically (a tax-free savings account/tfsa). I don’t think it’s across the board, don’t panic yet.

      • I really did not! Did the consulate email you a checklist of documents to bring? I just brought those along. Everyone else had folders of extra stuff but the interviewer only needed the requested documents and my answers to his few questions. (It’s once you’re married and filing for the AOS that you need to submit evidence of your relationship again).

        Just a tip though: check whether your I-129F petition is still valid. It expires 4 months after approval. It’s totally fine if it’s due to expire before your interview – you just need to take along a letter from Shannon. I’ll explain it to you in greater detail if this is relevant to you.

  17. I feel your pain girl. I (an American) fell in love with a girl (a non-American), and we are going through the CR1 immigration process. Only difference is that we are already married (and we got married in Canada – what a coincidence). We are about 3 months away from our interview. Can’t wait to wake up next to her every single day. Sending love to both of you.

  18. Hey Carolyn! Congrats! Great timing on the series as I am about to move to Belgium to be with my girlfriend and am also freaking out about all the immigration paperwork, packing, employment, financial implications, etc. Plus trying to learn a new language!

    Luckily the Belgian process seems to be significantly easier than in the US – we don’t even have to get married and I can apply for the visa once I’m already there. However, we will likely go through American immigration system in a few years, so I look forward to reading about your experience with that too!

  19. IMMIGRATION IS THE ABSOLUTE WORST

    I nearly was in a sorta-immigration-marriage like yours, but for Australia, and with a dude whom I was trying to make things work with anyway despite ZOMG I AM LESBIAN WHOOPS. But I eventually got my PR some other way so whatever.

    I haven’t dealt with the vagaries of marriage visas specifically, though now that my DAD of all people is suddenly “hey now that the Supreme Court has made it legal for you guys maybe you should really look into living in the US, it’d be better than Malaysia” (WHO ARE YOU AND HOW ARE YOU MY DAD) there’s probably going to be an increase of the “why don’t you marry someone to stay here” argument. But I have dealt with way more visas than any one person should realistically have so here’s a few things:

    1. The more paperwork, the better. I know Crystal upthread said they don’t look at it really, but you want to err on the side of too much information rather than too little. I kinda think maybe the fact that I just SHOWED UP with a ton of paperwork made my application easily processed, because it showed that I wasn’t playin’, even if they didn’t read a scrap of it. If you can get stuff on official letterhead so much the better.

    2. TIME. These things tend to run on their own schedule and there’s not a lot you can do to speed it up. They’ll tell you that they need some paperwork from you within like 6 days or something and then take 6 months to get back to you.

    3. Double-check any requirements for paperwork that involves contacting another agency. Australia placed me in this weirdly stupid situation where they required a police clearance from both California State DOJ and FBI (since I had lived in the US more than a year), but Cal DOJ said that it was ILLEGAL for police clearances to be used for immigration purposes. Essentially Australia wants me to break the law to prove that I did not break the law. I emailed DOJ about my situation and they gave me a special form to fill out, which was good. Also Australia Gov’s instructions for FBI clearances were woefully outdated; had I followed them blindly rather than looking them up on the FBI site my request would be destroyed.

    4. Prepare lists of every international trip you’ve taken (dates, countries, reason), every address you’ve lived in, every passport you’ve had, every job you’ve had, etc etc. A lot of visas like these want 10 years of information out of you. Google Docs is your friend.

    5. Have contact details of everyone in your nuclear family (names, addresses, countries, phone, email, relationship, birthdates, deathdates) as well as some for references. I haven’t really been asked about my references that much but I have been asked about family information – also my parents keep a master log of everyone’s details since my dad in particular has a zillion siblings.

    6. See if any other residencies you have, especially permanent residency (what the rest of the world calls their version of Green Cards) might make things easier on your end. For example, as an Australian PR, I can now apply for US visas by post even with a Malaysian passport.

    7. Keep copies of everything! You never know when you need it!

    8. Re credit scores in the US: yeah, recent immigrants won’t have one, and since we’re generally ineligible for credit/loans there’s no real way we can build one just yet. What happens then is that we get charged a lot extra for everything: for example, I’ve had many places I’ve wanted to rent from try to charge me double deposit because I’m a security risk. If you can get a guarantor or team up with a local (like your spouse I guess) that’ll make things SO MUCH EASIER.

    Good luck!

  20. Congrats from one Montrealer to another! I am also in LA now and married to my love and had to go through the same process. First things first, get a videographer and photographer! You will want to watch the speeches, etc. over and over again! Otherwise, simple or grand, the wedding is whatever you want it to be. I am sure it will be lovely!

    I would also recommend getting an attorney as you sound like you have a lot on your plate and are nervous about the process. An attorney is not essential but there is a lot of paperwork and their experience provides invaluable knowledge about the procedures. The adage “someone who represents him/herself has a fool for an attorney” sometimes holds true. For example, one piece of advice that the attorney gave us was to bring photos of us travelling outside of California with monuments (or other touristy things) in the background. This would demonstrate to the officer that we were truly a couple in love going everywhere together.

    Bonne chance! A bientot a Los Angeles! Avant que vous viens ici, n’oubliez pas de acheter les bagels a Fairmont ou St.Viateur…les bagels ici ne sont pas bagels.

  21. I love everything about this but most of all I feel validated that I am not the only one who constantly proposes marriage even if I might not actually have a “time that counted most” in the end. I’m excited for you both and looking forward to the rest of this <3

  22. Thank you for this, Carolyn, and best of luck to you both.

    I’m part of a multinational couple too, and my girlfriend moved to my country a few months ago. Thanks to freedom of movement in Europe, not an ounce of paperwork was involved.
    We are planning to relocate in her country someday and similarly, things should go smoothly wrt immigration proceedings. Which is not to say that everything is easy. But at least, it feels like we (rather than an anonymous public servant) are in control of the whole process.

  23. Gosh between this and talking to @crystal last night about her experiences I am having major flashbacks to when I immigrated to Australia!

    It’s so fucking daunting and awful to have to sum up your beautiful relationship with an amazing human being to a bunch of forms and letters of recommendation and printed photographs.

  24. CAROLYN! I am also doing this right now. Right down to the K1 visa interview in Montreal at the end of July. It’s SO much.

    I don’t know how the heck I am going to move my stuff either. Also, taxes. Ahh.

  25. Thank you so much for sharing your story and experiences! My Quebecoise gf and I are hoping to get her a work visa so we can move in together when I graduate college in a few months and hopefully marry a few years down the road. Immigration is scary and complicated, but love makes the struggle worth it. Hearing your experiences give her and I courage and hope; we’re thankful to know that we’re not alone in this journey. Thanks again, and much love and support to you and your fiance! 🙂

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