Miss Information

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My boyfriend's getting sent back to New Zealand! Would we be crazy to marry for the visa?

by Cait Robinson

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Dear Miss Information, 

About two years ago I met a wonderful guy from New Zealand. He was smart, funny, and caring. Plus, the Bret-and-Jermaine accent didn't hurt. I fell hard, and he genuinely seemed to feel the same way about me. Then disaster struck:  fearing he was about to go back to New Zealand due to an unfortunate situation with his visa, he broke it off. He said he cared about me but didn't want to make his problems my own. I was brokenhearted but understood, and I respected him for being honest. 

Flash forward to last December. I received an email from him out of the blue telling me he was able to stay in the country after all, but, fearing I didn't want to speak to him for previously breaking things off, he hadn't tried to contact me. He said he'd finally mustered up the courage to reach out and asked me to lunch. Needless to say, he was still the same gorgeous, smart, caring, funny Kiwi. We hit the ground running, talking if not seeing each other every day. About a month into the rekindled relationship, we were telling each other we were in love, taking weekend trips, and meeting each others' friends. 

Then U.S. Immigration reared its ugly head again. His visa is expiring in ten days (after which he'll have sixty days to either get a new visa or leave the country), which means he won't be able to legally work here. He has a master's degree in several fields of science and is looking for work everywhere, but no one seems to be hiring regular citizens, let alone non-citizens who require much more paperwork. This leaves us with a few options: 

1. He finds a job ASAP, which will add about two years to his current visa (not so likely, given the fact that he has ten days to find this unicorn).

2. He finds a job in the next two months that's willing to pay for a new visa (even less likely… like a mermaid riding a unicorn).

3. He goes back to New Zealand, where we do the long-distance thing until he can get back here.

Option 3 seems the most likely. So here's my situation… 

After some very long talks about what we'll do if he leaves the U.S., we came to the conclusion that, if after a few months go by with no job prospects that will bring him back, we can apply for a visa that will declare him as my fiancé. This would require that, once he gets back here, we get married within ninety days. He will have the ability to look for work with this visa, but I understand it's very likely I will supporting us both for the most part until he finds work. We will also be obligated to remain married for three years, or else back to Kiwiland he goes!

We've been together for three months and I love him very, very much. He says the same to me. He's someone I can see building a life with, but I don't want to skip the dating, get-to-know-you, love-you-flaws-and-all part of the experience. It will be very hard to get this experience when he is (literally) halfway across the world from me. I appreciate the institution of marriage and am not looking to "dupe the system" or make this decision lightly. 

Would this decision totally ruin our relationship? Would marrying him to save our relationship and bring him back to what he considers his home be a huge mistake? I have the support of my family and friends, but I can't help feeling this could end horribly in more ways than one.

 A Lover Is Extra Nervous

Dear ALIEN, 

Uncle Sam gets a lot less avuncular when immigration is concerned. We're no longer living in the warm (lice-infested), fuzzy (TB epidemic), "Welcome to America!" ("assimilate into our culture immediately!") days of Ellis Island. I don't know for a fact that U.S. Immigration has giant guns, but I imagine they do. Proceed with extreme caution. 

Even if you secure your boyfriend a "fiancé" visa, you will most likely have to hire a lawyer to make it through the lengthy, uncertain green-card process. It's an endurance sport, and it requires you be 200% confident in your choice to be together, to be married, and to both be Americans. My friend's Danish husband was inches away from being deported on a fluke once; it made a great cocktail-party story six months later, but it was puke-in-a-trash-can scary at the time. Until you're prepared to handle clerical headaches and last-minute panics, keep the law out of your relationship. 

Also be aware that, if the marriage dissolves and he decides to stay, you may both have to justify the legitimacy of your marriage in court. That has to be the suck-icing on top of the brokenhearted cake. 

Send your boyfriend home to New Zealand, then throw the energy you would have spent on hold with Immigration Services into working out a visitation schedule. If your relationship is worth getting married over, it should be able to withstand some distance while you sort things out. On the plus side, you'll be able to rack up some Frequent Flier miles while you do the whole "getting to know you" thing: meeting his family, watching him hug a sheep, and camping with his Lord of the Rings re-enactment group. (Can you tell I exhaustively researched New Zealand for this article?) 

Really take your time on this one. It's why we have Skype. If you do decide to make the leap, you should do it with no time crunches, no lingering questions, and no binders full of paperwork. 

And pro tip: it's actually Bret and "Jemaine," no "r." That's the answer to #4, #19, and #87 on the New Zealand Citizenship Test, but you didn't hear it from me.

Dear Miss Information, 

I'm twenty-one and my boyfriend is twenty-five. We've been together for a little more than a year. We're committed, happy together and very much in love. I truly feel lucky to have found such a great guy. I've had two serious relationships prior to this, while he's had several and much, much more sexual experience than I.

I graduate in May and we're planning on moving in together. We've discussed marriage at some point in the future. The only problem is that everyone thinks I shouldn't settle down so young and I need to experience life on my own. I do have dreams of living single and carefree, but I'm a realist. I know the single life is full of lonely nights and one-night stands with guys who may or may not have gonorrhea. And besides, I love him and he's who I want to be with. Should I go forward with my plans or break it off to experience life as a single lady?

— Confused

Dear Confused, 

Why are your only two options "move in together, stay on the express train to Marriage Station" and "break it off, stockpile antibiotics?" I suspect the problem is less about your experience level and more about the fear of the unknown. 

If you're having "dreams of living single and carefree," pay attention to them. If you don't, those "dreams" can get tied to lead weights of "commitment" and eventually fester into "seething resentment," which sounds like a line from the saddest Shel Silverstein poem ever. The moral here: you're twenty-one. Now is no time to settle. But you don't need to throw the baby out with the bathwater, either. If you're happy with your boyfriend, you're happy, and there's nothing wrong with that. My point is, there's a comfortable niche somewhere between "alone and crying into my Hamburger Helper" and "holding three babies and crying into my Hamburger Helper."

Your friends' advice to experience life "on your own" is worth contemplating, too. Though you interpret it as meaning "single," I read it as something more akin to "shift your priorities." From your tone, I'm guessing that it's more comfortable for you to use this relationship to define you than it is to figure out who you are or what you want. A relationship may preoccupy you, but it doesn't allow you to get out of answering big, hard life questions. This is a common trap to fall into, but it's a trap nonetheless. 

Maybe the question isn't "stay together or break up?" as much as it is, "what are my goals/desires/needs?" Until you've got a better sense of those things, put the commitment-escalation on ice.

Want to meet someone who won't get sent back to the highlands? Nerve Dating can help you with that.