How Do Cross-border Couples Meet?
The term “cross-border couples” may be defined as a relationship in which the two parties are from different countries. This is a growing trend and an interesting development in our society. For example, the relationship can start as simply as an American meeting a Canadian in an internet chat room on the web. At first they just chat, and then they exchange emails. This may be followed by telephone conversation and finally a meeting in person. Many marriage websites have been set up to accommodate internet relationships, these are sites where individuals are allowed to open their own accounts, describe their ideal partners and matches. An increasing number of such relationships blossom into romances and in time the couples marry.
Such cross-border couples are often very successful because their values are compatible and chemistry does not impair their initial judgments and only comes into play only once they have met face-to-face. Unfortunately, unlike other couples, cross-border couples face the added challenge of making immigration applications in which, due to the increasing number of fraudulent marriage cases, they have the added burden of proving that their relationship is real. To address this extra burden, such couples turn to the internet to find answers to questions such as: how do I get my spouse a visa to the U.S., how do I get my spouse a visa to Canada, what are marriage visa requirements for the U.S., what are marriage visa requirements for Canada, how do I get a spouse visa, etc. The aim of this article is to address this problem.
My name is Andy J. Semotiuk and I am a legal advisor to the wedding industry and to cross-border couples on immigration matters. In the course of the last thirty years of practicing both U.S. and Canadian immigration law, I have helped hundreds of cross-border couples with their immigration problems. I have obtained immigration for spouses to the United States, immigration for spouses to Canada, visas and work permits for spouses and various related immigration benefits. In this article I would like to provide some insights into the immigration process for cross-border couples, highlight certain issues that may arise and show how they can be overcome.
Getting Things Right
It is not worth having your matrimonial happiness destroyed because of bad planning regarding your immigration status. That is why it is important to make sure everything is done correctly and accurately in a spousal sponsorship immigration application from the very start. You need to get a spousal visa in advance. For example, in an extreme case a few years ago, a woman was traveling to attend her wedding in the United States with her wedding dress in her luggage. To her disappointment she was refused entry into the United States because she did not have her immigration status in order. Her wedding was destroyed. This could all have been avoided if only she had looked on the internet for the answer to the question how do I get a visa for my spouse and contacted a U.S. immigration attorney? But that is not what was done.
This left the bride devastated. When this client came to visit me to assist her with this issue, we had to work hard to straighten everything out for her. If you are in a cross-border couple situation you can avoid a similar problem by making immigration planning part of your wedding plans. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. Talking to an immigration attorney about spouse visas for the U.S. or spouse visas for Canada as well as marriage visa requirements is important.
How Most Couples Learn About Immigration
Most couples learn about immigration requirements by talking to friends and family or by searching the internet under topics like spouse visas or marriage visa requirements. Eventually, they realize that they can go to an immigration lawyer or other advisor to handle the paperwork, or they can try to do their own immigration application.
Getting a spousal visa is not easy and is much like driving a car. When you watch someone else drive it looks easy, but when you first sit in the driver’s seat to drive it is not that simple. The same is true for applications to get immigration status for spouses.
What Skills Do You Have?
Not everyone is good at paperwork. For example, I have a friend named Ron Wince who lives in Phoenix. He is a contractor and one of the best builders I know. He is a true handyman and can fix anything. But he is weak when it comes to paperwork. We compliment each other well because I can’t fix anything, and the message “some assembly required” is the kiss of death for me. But I am good at paperwork. Ron has helped me in the past and I have helped him. It’s not that one is bad and the other is good, it is just that we are all made differently and that is why we need each other.
Do You Need an Immigration Lawyer?
Just like someone can sell their house without a realtor, or do their income taxes without an accountant, there is no denying the fact that a young couple can prepare their own marriage immigration application. You don’t have to go to a dentist. You can slam the door with a string tied to a bad tooth on one end and the string tied to the doorknob on the other. But this may not be the best way of dealing with the problem.
If you lead a busy and demanding lifestyle, have a low tolerance for paperwork, are not good with computers, or are easily frustrated, you may want to offload this task on to someone like me. My competitors may work in the U.S.A. or in Canada, but few are able to work in both jurisdictions. I can, and what is more, I have done so for over three decades. That’s important because often in these cases there are spousal immigration issues that involve the laws of both countries. An example would be a conviction for a minor criminal offence, or a health issue that might complicate a spousal immigration matter.
When it comes to a spousal sponsorship, a spousal visa for the U.S. or a spousal visa for Canada, particularly involving a U.S. – Canadian couple, I am the right guy for the job since I am one of the very few lawyers in the world who has actually practiced immigration law in both those countries.
Process of Cross-border Spousal Sponsorship
Everything about marriage based immigration is constantly changing. New amendments to the law on spouses and spouse visas are applied, new regulations and new policies are effective daily. Individuals in the immigration business full time have a difficult time keeping up with the changes in law, regulations and even the forms that are a very important part of the spousal immigration process.
A Cross-Border couple has a choice whether to file the spousal application to be processed (internally) inside the country concerned or whether they want to have the spousal visa processed (externally) through a consulate. The couple determine this by whether they want to live together right from the start but wait for the work permit, or live separately waiting to be reunited once the process has been completed because they need to work or are short of money. We discuss the issue of traveling back and forth and what problems they are likely to encounter and how to deal with them later.
Intake Form And Document Checklist
The initial process begins by signing a legal services agreement. I then provide the couple an intake form and a checklist of documents that are required. While the couple works on gathering the documents, I use their answers to my intake form to prepare all the necessary forms. Once completed, copies of the draft forms are forwarded to the couple for review and corrections. Once the couple has returned the corrected draft forms back to me, I will make corrections on the master forms as required. In addition, I review all the copies of the documents they send me and compile a complete package for submission.
Proof Reading Documents
Once I have all the paperwork together I personally review the entire package to satisfy myself it is completed exactly as I require it to be done. Any errors or omissions are fixed. I then sign off on it and send it to the couple for them to sign off on the application. The couple then reviews the entire package. Once the couple is completely satisfied they sign off on the spousal immigration package. We then submit the package into the relevant immigration office.
Medicals, Police Clearances and Interviews
An immigration application involves the completion of medicals, police clearances and interviews. The whole effort is aimed at scrubbing the would-be immigrant to ensure there are no security, criminal or medical problems involved and that the couple is a genuine married couple.
Assistance all the Way – No Matter How Long
The immigration process is time consuming. If I had my way, I would approve such applications immediately. However, unfortunately, that is not the way government bureaucracy works. The process has a time limit and it may take about a year and in certain cases even longer for a case to be approved. It is my job to work with the couple all the way through the immigration process. My job is not completed until the immigrating spouse gets their landed immigrant status. It is a hard and difficult job. In my entire career over the 40 years I have dealt with more than 10,000 clients. Very few have not succeeded. In certain cases there are delays and sometimes frustrations. But that is the case in virtually anything worthwhile that one pursues.
Completing Your Own Application
I fully understand that not every couple can afford to hire a lawyer to prepare their immigration application. If you have accessed the government web sites and browsed the internet to get an idea of how things work you may feel you can handle your marriage-based application and save yourself some money in the process. An individual who is good at following written instructions and working on computers may be able to do it. For those couples who want to proceed this way, I have a suggestion for them.
Initial Consultation As A Safety Measure
Why not contact me for an initial consultation? Starting a spousal sponsorship application is a lot like sitting down in the cockpit of a 747 jet with a manual to learn how to fly it. It is not impossible, but may prove to be complicated. The same may be applied to a spousal sponsorship application. There is a lot to learn.
For example, as already mentioned at the beginning of this article, the way the law is set up few cross-border couples realize that they will be faced with a cruel choice: they can either live together but will have to wait for over a half a year before the immigrant spouse will be allowed to work, or they can both work in their respective home countries but live apart until their immigration approval comes through. The issue of visiting one another is complicated in these situations because the border officials are concerned about visiting cross-border spouses having immigrant intent and the strong likelihood that a couple will not want to separate once an immigrating spouse is allowed to visit. I wish this area was not so complicated, but it is one of the most difficult areas of immigration law. I can help you decipher the roadmap for how to best prepare your application and make such visits.
Assistance On How To Complete Your Own Application
If you arrange a one-hour consultation with me, I can advise and teach you how to complete the application on your own. I will direct you to where the forms and other things required can be found, such as a qualified doctor for your medical exam and police reports from countries where you lived previously, as well as help you get organized. I will educate you as to what to include in your application as well as what not to include. I will also provide you with advice about what you need to show to attain your goal of acquiring permission to live together in your country of choice.
I have to admit that some couples are so refined and knowledgeable that after just one consultation with me they do their own application and breeze through the application process. They find however, that the one hour consultation with me, either by phone or in person, is very helpful to getting better clarity on what is required, reducing stress and frustration, getting the paperwork right, and preparing them to meet the challenge they face which is to prove that their marriage was real and not a marriage of convenience for immigration purposes. Invariably the spouses find the cost of the one-hour consultation worthwhile. Some couples come back after they have prepared everything for me to take another look at their completed paperwork to make sure they got it right and did not miss anything, but this is not always necessary.
The Most Rewarding Aspect of My Job
The most rewarding aspect of my job is that I help improve the lives of my clients through immigration. My efforts last with them and their descendants forever. I am proud of the fact that there are hundreds, if not thousands of families in this world, who are living better lives because I was able to assist one of their members in getting an immigration status or repairing a life that was not working properly due to an immigration problem. I would be more than happy to assist you as well.
Whether you decide to retain me to handle your spousal sponsorship for you, or you just want some advice on an application you have already prepared, I would be more than happy to speak to you. Call me at (416) 236-3060 or email me at Andy@myworkvisa.com
Andy J. Semotiuk is a legal advisor to the wedding industry and to cross-border couples on immigration matters. He is a member of the U.S. and Canadian bars and practices with Pace Law Firm in Toronto as well as Manning & Kass in Los Angeles. He can be reached at Andy@myworkvisa.com
or by calling (416) 236-3060 Extension 459.