The marriage question

Some people have noticed that on the far right of my blog I have started to follow my K-1 visa process.  (Thanks for noticing Andre).K-1 is the visa needed to bring a foreigner to America to get married.  You may also notice– go on, look over so you can notice– that there are no dates. It is blank.

The marriage question is one that has loomed over me for 10 months now.  When? Where? How? Guests? Party? Nothing but a piece of paper?

Everything is complicated by the fact that S is Chilean and I am American.  Everything is complicated by me not having a job and not being sure where our family will be.  Everything is complicated by the fact that getting married in the US is not an easy thing to do– legally.

The problem is that the visa is very expensive (and takes around 6 months to get).  It also really only matters if we want to live and work in the US. If I get a job someone else, then getting married here makes little difference.  We would be somewhere else. We could just have a celebratory party here.

We could have gotten married in Chile; but we agreed to do it in the US.  We don’t want the hassle of a huge party in Chile, but I want my US family and friends the chance to meet S.  I want a wedding cake.

We have learned that you can’t get married on a tourist visa. We don’t want to break any laws or hurt the chances of S getting visas later.  Or now, if I get a job now.

See how this is difficult?

So, we decided in December to suck it up and just do it (like the Nike commercial, only I don’t endorse Nike, and I hope that this isn’t copy right infringement.  Lawyers out there– do I need to delete this sentence?)

And so we assembled paperwork.  S had to sign things and send passport photos.  When I left on my unexpected trip to Chile, I left my mom in charge of receiving the package and sending everything off.  But…. she heard a hesitancy in my voice when the package arrived, so she waited.  After all, it was only one more week!

When I arrived, we realized that it was the wrong package.  His papers had never come.  His papers had never arrived and I didn’t know, so I didn’t bring new ones home. We would have to send them again.

After lots of arranging, I found another wonderful American to bring them home with her and send them to me from New York.  Once arrangements were made, of course, the originals arrived.


I have all the paperwork. It is sitting on my desk. Right now, I can see it sitting on my desk in an addressed envelope. But I am now not sure if I should send them off.  What if I get either of the two jobs overseas that I might get? What if I don’t get a job at all and end up moving back to Chile to be a housewife? (is everyone who knows me in real life now rolling on the floor laughing, imagining me cooking and cleaning with 8 kids in tow?) What if this is all a waste?

So…. I sit here, papers in hand, empty spaces next to each step of the process on my blog, in limbo.  The same way I have been for 10 months.

However, despite this all, the deepest sorrow, which I carry with me always, is the knowledge that if S were a woman, this would not be a choice.  If he were a woman, we couldn’t get married.  I couldn’t sponsor his(her) visa.  Life in the states wouldn’t be much of an option.

That is the reality for so many friends of mine. It could have been mine. It is a privilege that now that I see, I cannot look away from. It is freedom to marry week?  Have you taken the time to think about the privilege you have or lack this week?



  1. I have a friend whose Chilean husband married her on a tourist visa. They consulted an immigration lawyer before doing it. If you want her contact info let me know. But it is risky and it took him a LONG time to get his greencard.

  2. Mmm… complicated! I say get married. I had a bit of a problem with setting a date for my marriage too. I wanted to finish my thesis first, but of course, I kept getting extensions. So it was neverending. So finally we just set a date because I’d been putting getting married off for half a year or more (can’t remember). I didn’t really like the idea of finishing my thesis and planning a marriage at the same time. Finally I bit the bullet and we set a date. I figured I’d work it out. And, a month or two after setting the marriage date, I turned in and defended my thesis. I think starting to put deadlines on things helped speed up the process.

    Of course you have the added bonus of waiting for the visa. If you don’t get a job soon, I would just go for it. (Or if you have already been waiting forever.) Due to the way energy seems to work, everything always seems to happen at the same time. It’s unavoidable. As soon as you turn in the visa app, you will probably get a really good job offer in Cambodia or somewhere. And ironically, while the visa app. is sitting on your desk, perhaps nothing will happen. The world is a little cruel like that, I find. In conclusion, my advice is go for it.

  3. Hey, I know the K-1 process is a lot more than what it says. I wouldn’t set a date until you actually have the visa, I know, it is hard to plan without a date. I was going to do this process in June and we decided against it. The time and money that would go into it was not worth it for us because the K-1, like you said, is for if you want to stay in the US. It will be all worthless if you decide to live and work somewhere else, and you will have to do a whole different process all over again which involves pretty much the same thing, time and lots of money. Ro, my Chilean hubby and I got married at the Justice of Peace here in Santiago, and we are going to have a church wedding in the US. He is getting a tourist visa. Because it is a church wedding and we won’t be doing any of the legal paperwork stuff in the US, it is legal as far as I know. With this, if we decide to live in the US later when we are more settled and ready, we can apply for direct consular filing. I will be a permanent resident of Chile, and then we can do EVERYTHING from Chile, nobody in the US will have to help us. I hope this helps you. Also, you should go on, there are a lot of people on there that are going for the same thing and questioning ALOT of things about this visa option and others. I hope I have helped you.

  4. Thanks for the advice and input. The nice thing, that we are thinking, is that if I do get a job in the states, he can come hang out with me and work on his English while the visa processes.

    Shannon– If I were in Chile, hands down we would be doing the permanent residence thing. But because of my visa status as a Fulbright, I couldn’t. Then, I came home to help with my grandma being ill. So, sadly, we have been living apart for 5 months now. And, economically, we cant just live in Chile for a while– unless I give up on the idea of career.

    Also, yes, I LOVE

  5. I’m going through the visa process right now as well, and I’m actually really surprised by how quickly it has all progressed. I was expecting it to take 6-9 months, but we started it in early March (I actually mailed the forms to the USCIS while I was with him in Chile) and his interview is already set for the 11th of March. The truth is, it’s gone so quickly that we maight not even be ready for the interview yet. It’ll be close, anyhow.

    But, my point in all of this is that you should really be sure before you plunk down the hundreds and hundreds of dollars that this K-1 thing costs. It’s $455 just to petition, and then at least $144 for a medical exam before the visa interview, and then $131 for the visa itself. And that’s just the beginning. Once you marry in the US, if you plan to stay, the adjustment of status will cost upwards of $1000. But even without that, ~$700 is a lot to spend just to be able to marry in the US and then leave afterwards.

  6. Whoops, I mean we started the process in early November! Not March.

    As for him hanging out with you and improving his English while the visa processes, I was under the impression that he would not be able to be in the US while waiting for a K-1 visa to process. Or are you thinking of going another route then? Good luck, whatever you two decide!

  7. Hi Tashia.

    That is really quick. It would be great if ours goes like that if we go that route. As for travel, my understanding is that you can travel on a tourist visa while the K-1 process. The snag people run into is that they won’t GIVE you a tourist visa while processing K-1. That said, S has a multiple entry tourist visa, so we should be good. Thanks for all the costs. I knew it was a bit more than the initial fee. Ugh!

  8. You know what? You seem a very special person, and I wish you all the best. I like your activist stance on these issues. Do you ever climb? I used to do the bluffs around Devil’s Lake near Baraboo….long time ago : )

  9. K-1 visa is that otherwise known as the fiance visa? I have a friend who has been going through that with her Chilean boyfriend and they have been doing it for about 5 months now. I believe he has his interview with the embassy soon. I will have my fingers crossed for them and you!

  10. keep us up to Date Clare!
    Reading how hard the US makes it to get a Visa makes me sad. I know nothing about this process. If you feel ready for marriage do it 🙂

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