Published on October 19th, 2018 | by Rebekka Laird0
A glittering Franco-American union: An American bride and a French groom…
When my husband Loïc and I first met, I never expected to fall for a Frenchman. I didn’t speak the French, had never visited France, and couldn’t bear the thought of a long distance relationship, especially one with a six hour time difference. Six years, countless visits, and a maddeningly complex Visa application process later, we have successfully overcome the challenges to create our own Franco-American union.
We met in 2012 as many Millennials do these days, on an online dating site. It was so easy for us to spot one another on OkCupid, and shoot over a digital message. Technology has been a great equalizer in recent years, making it as easy to meet someone down the street as across the world. Our relationship depended on technology, as we used Skype to video chat in the evenings as we both studied for our exams, and WhatsApp during the day to send messages. We still rely on these tools to communicate with family and friends in Europe at the click of a mouse.
Three days after graduating university, in the spring of 2013, we met in person in Paris. I had traveled alone to meet a stranger, in a country where I felt foreign and more than a little lost. In retrospect, this was crazy! But I had developed a bond with a person I spoke to every day, and through the nervous feelings, there was anticipation, and love. I ended up living in Austria for a year, seeing Loïc for major holidays, and I met his family, where we encountered a few new challenges.
As I’ve mentioned, I didn’t speak French at the time. I was working in Austria, focused on improving my German, not really ready to learn another language. When I visited his immediate family, I was usually okay, but his extended family didn’t speak any English. While Loïc and his sister often served as translators, many of my interactions with his grandparents consisted of smiling at each other nervously. To this day I feel nervous about my French, and am very shy about speaking in front of them.
In the fall of 2014 when my contract was up, I moved back to the US. Again, we relied on technology to keep in contact, and began to set aside funds for travel. Being apart was unbearable for such a long period, so we began to look at all possible avenues to reunite. Should I live in France and apply for a work permit? Should he apply for jobs in the US? We asked these questions of ourselves constantly, until October of 2015, when he proposed.
In 2015, there were over 35,000 K-1 visas issued. Known as the “Fiancé(e) Visa,” this document allows an American citizen to bring their partner to the US to get married. Using websites such as VisaJourney.com, we quickly joined the other applicants to build a package of proof that we were truly in love. This included screenshots of conversations, scans of plane and train tickets, statistics of our Skype calls, and numerous photos of us together across Europe. We each had to sign a “Letter of Intent” to marry one another, which may have squashed a little of our romance at the time, but helped build our case. Since 2015, many things have changed. More couples are applying for the K-1 visa, and more are being denied. We were successful, but a recent article by the Center for Immigration Studies states that, “In FY 2016, USCIS approved 90.5 percent of the petitions it received; then in FY 2017, which was mostly under the Trump administration, that figure fell to 66.2 percent.” If you’re considering applying for such a visa, it may be worthwhile to hire a lawyer to shepherd your case through and ensure you aren’t missing anything critical.
If you’ve ever seen the show 90 Day Fiance, you’ll know the timeline we were working with. We had 90 days from his arrival in the US to get married. We had a quiet courthouse wedding and followed with a dinner at a nearby French bistro. In September 2018, we celebrated in France with many of our loved ones, at a two-day affair, which is typical for the culture. I taught friends and family La Bise, celebrated with champagne and mini-galette, and danced until dawn.
What’s next? Well, if we ever decide to have children, we want them to speak French. If that means sending them to a French immersion school or to their grandparent’s house every summer, we will. In the meantime, we’ll keep working on my French and making crêpes on the weekend.
This article was translated in French by Sandrine Sweeney.