Marriage visa limbo
The story of Terence Flannery and Fu Zhen sounds more than a little familiar to me.
On Nov. 23, 2005, Fort Myers resident Terence Flannery married his girlfriend Fu Zhen in Chengdu, China.The petitioning of an alien spouse is done by the US spouse via an I-130 petition. I did this in order for my wife to immigrate to the US in 1989.
What he didn’t know then is almost two years later, he still wouldn’t be able to bring her home.
The problem: Fu is stuck in visa-processing land. It can take an applicant weeks, months, if not years, to get a visa that will allow him or her to get to the United States, even if the person is married to a U.S. citizen.
Last year, 30,575 visas were issued to fiances of U.S. citizens, and 339,843 spouses of U.S. citizens were given green cards, or permanent residency, according to the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of State.
Generally, a visa interview can take from three to six months, but if it’s approved, the visa will be in hand within a few days of the appointment. Statistics aren’t kept on average wait times for fiance visa approval.
My own experience- Dear wife and I met in 1988, we married approximately a year later on May 30, 1989. We had two wedding ceremonies(not unusual for couples marrying in the Philippines), a civil and church wedding, the second of which took place on June 17, 1989. In the interval I readied my wife's documentation for the I-130 form. Somewhere around June 25-July 1st I mailed the petition, and the required paperwork, to the INS processing center in Dallas Texas. My petition was approved in mid-September, then it was sent to the Philippines. My wife Leonita was contacted by the embassy in late October of 89 and told to come to Manila for her medical examination on November 27th. Her embassy interview was to follow on December 5th.
Back to the Flannery-Zhen story.
This isn't all that unusual a way for spouses to meet in parts of Asia. Older American men looking for Asian wives by first becoming penpals, has created a cottage industry cottage industry. Groups who publicize catalogs of eligible women. The American, Australian or European men pay a fee to get the mailing addresses for those listed in the catalog.
In 2005, Flannery, who was previously divorced and lives with his 21-year-old son, signed up with an online dating site to find a mate in China.
In the summer of 2005, while on vacation in China, he was introduced to Fu, now 38, and spent time talking with her through a translator.
“I saw my wife’s age and I had my doubts and thought she wouldn’t be interested, but she apparently was,” he said. Still, he returned to the U.S. before deciding to visit again in the winter. The two were married within weeks.
My wife should know. She was listed in one of these herself(A friend talked her into doing it.) but that wasn't how we met. Leonita has a female cousin who met and married an Australian this way. They've been married even longer than our marriage, twenty years or a little more.
Fu wanted Flannery to move to China, but because his work is here, the couple decided to live in Fort Myers and to keep an apartment in China.Once a couple marries, getting a tourist visa to the US is almost impossible for a foreign born spouse. Including those married to US servicemen. This often leads to families being separated while the couple waits out the Immigration process while in the meantime the military member has PCSd to his next duty station.(Or separated from the military like I did in October 1989.)
By January 2006, Flannery had turned in the necessary immigration forms to bring his wife to the United States.
Fu filed for a temporary visa that would allow her to come to the United States and then apply for her green card.
After more than a year, a visit was set for May at the U.S. consulate in Guangzhou, China.My mother-in-law had a similar experience, but when she was applying to be a US citizen. ICE told Nanay had application needed more processing even though she successfully passed her citizenship test.
It wasn’t an easy process, Flannery said. The couple stayed in Guangzhou for more than a week, making sure paperwork was in order and getting Fu’s medical tests and criminal background checks.
On May 23, the visa was denied because a financial co-sponsor was needed. Even though Flannery said he met guidelines that required $21,462 annual income, he added his son’s name and income to the next application.
It also was denied, although not for financial reasons.
The latest notice, dated July 3, read: “Your case needs additional processing.” It said Fu should contact the consulate in three months if she has not heard anything by then.
What causes this to happen I don't really know. My mother-in-law got her citizenship after a few more months further wait. ICE sending her a letter telling Nanay when her swearing in ceremony would be. No explanation was ever given for the additional processing.
My guess is some kind of paperwork snafu, or Flannery's admitted problems with the affidavit of support. The wife and I had some of the former when going through her I-130 process. At one point we were told the embassy lost her paperwork. I immediately contacted Congressman Harry Johnston's office and things got resolved fairly fast.(It was probably a miscommunication, not a loss of my wife's paperwork)
The more interesting difficulty I had in getting Leonita to the US, was when a coup attempt started in part by this man, caused Manila airport and the US embassy to shut down for four to six days. The coup began on the same day as my planned arrival in Manila, Dec. 1st 1989. Instead I spent 3 days in Seoul South Korea before having to turn around and return home.
My wife's embassy interview and December 6th departure for the US were postponed. Leonita did manage this on her own, first at the embassy on December 7th and then by flying to LAX on December 17th. There we were re-united.
Hopefully Terence Flannery and Fu Zhen will have a similarly happy ending.
Linked to- Bullwinkle, Pirate's Cove, Third World County,