How One Piece of Paper Can Change Your Life

“We’re getting married!” we announced, slightly giddy and giggly… you know, like two people in love and about to share their life together. 

The lawyer was polite, but didn’t ask any follow-up questions about the proposal or wedding plans. No, instead he asked about our employment, places of birth, and if he could see our passports. 

He combed through Billy’s paperwork: Visas from the past and entry and exit stamps. He found the latest entry to the States (you remember… the singing competition).

“Where is your I-92?” he asked us. I looked at Billy in panic.

“My what?” Billy questioned in return.

“Your I-92. It’s a piece of paper they give you when you enter.”

Billy shuffled through a folder of documents. “Um… I don’t know?”

Our lawyer slid Billy’s passport back across the desk. “Well, we really can’t do anything until after you get married.” This was a disappointment as we were hoping to apply for a “fiancé visa” we’d heard about that might speed up the process and allow him to have proper documentation.

“But I will tell you,” he said. “No I-92 is a problem. Basically, right now the story that your paperwork is telling is that you entered the country legally with a tourist visa, but then you snuck out of the country and snuck back in.”

“Why would anyone who has a visa do that?”

“Well, of course. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, but that’s what your passport says you did.”

“What does this mean?” we wondered.

“It means that you may have to get married, and then return to Guatemala for anywhere from 10 months to 10 years and apply for the visa from there. That is the process for individuals who entered the country illegally… like your passport says you did.”

The role of class in the immigration system is glaring. Billy comes from a family with the ability to obtain passports and visas. Many farm workers and rural immigrants do not have access to these same resources.

There is such a radical difference between filling out forms and paying fees (albeit large fees) and being required to return to your home country for an undisclosed amount of time with the hope that the paperwork is then approved. The latter requires moving costs, job leave, uncertainty and insecurity and leaves little option for families from different backgrounds.

We left the lawyer’s office stunned and deflated. It was certainly not the promise of a ready-made visa soon arriving in our mailbox.

But that is the beauty of love. You are at home with that person.

With my own nervousness and doubts swirling about me regarding engagement and marriage, I was comforted by the fact that I did not freak out. I found myself thinking, “Well, if we move to Guatemala, we move.” Billy was becoming my family… the country we lived in was irrelevant.

After an intense day, worried about the future, we naturally headed for an amusement park in the afternoon. I mean, what else were we supposed to do? We even went into one of those photo booths that took our individual photos and spit out a prediction of what our future child might look like. 

If you think the thought of being banished from the States for ten years was scary…. Whew! We are just thankful Gabriella bears no resemblance to that photo!

This post is a continuation of the "How I Met My Husband" series. You can start at the beginning or view all the posts. Or keep on reading the next post, Groomzilla and the Visas.


  1. Where's the baby picture!?

  2. hehehe I'd also like to see it ;o)


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