The Reality of Falling in Love With A Foreigner
Falling in love with a foreigner may seem like the ultimate rom-com backstory, with endless opportunities for a fairy tale ending. But let me tell you, it isn’t always hugs, kisses and dreamy airport reunions – you know, the ones you see on YouTube all the time that make you ugly cry?
In fact, it’s really fucking hard.if
A bit about me – I just so happened to be one of the lucky (or maybe unlucky?) ones who fell in love with someone from another country. An American girl, I was living back home in the US when I met an Australian who had been overseas attending uni. Fast forward about eight months of dating, he’d asked me to go to the land down under with him and I happily obliged, equipped with a Working Holiday visa and excited for my first overseas adventure.
Moving to another country isn’t quite as easy as it seems. And I don’t mean that in the obvious ways, like missing your friends, family and the readily available Dunkin’ Donuts drive thru. After going through (and continuing to go through) the immigration process ourselves, I always snicker to myself (often followed by an eye roll) when people casually mention the prospect of migrating overseas – as if it’s as easy as buying a plane ticket and, voila, you’re in.
Well here’s a reality check. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a beautiful experience and if you ever get the chance then jump in with both feet – but be aware, it isn’t all fun and games. Sorry to be the one to crush your dreams, but moving to another country isn’t at all like being on vacation all the time.
The reality is, it’s struggling to find a job because no one wants to hire you unless you’re a permanent resident. It’s never sightseeing because you’re too busy working full time and trying to build a new life from scratch. It’s struggling to pay off your thousands of dollars in student debt because of an awful little thing called the exchange rate. It’s suffering two to four weeks of jet lag and acquiring a horribly weak immune system (and a whole lot of money out of your bank account) each time you visit home. It’s choosing the lesser of two evils – either renouncing your citizenship or paying double (yes, double!) taxes on your foreign income earned, because the good ol’ US of A believes they’re entitled to your hard-earned cash regardless of where you call home.
Needless to say, my first year in Australia was pretty rough. Imagine being in the furthest possible place from home, virtually broke, car-less, friend-less and just trying to find where you fit in, in this entirely new place. It was never easy, but what came to the forefront as my Working Holiday visa’s expiration date crept forward proved to be even tougher.
My visa options were limited and it was a long and gruelling process – a notion I quickly learned once my partner and I began our application for a De Facto visa. You know that terrible feeling you got when you were young and your sibling snooped in your diary? When it seemed like the prospect of privacy was merely a myth? Welcome to the De Facto visa process, except that it’s a loss of privacy that’ll last nearly three years.
Handing over call and text logs, pages upon pages of bank statements, mail, paystubs, photos and all of the intimate details of your love life becomes the norm. This could be a play-by-play of how you first met, when and if you’ve slept together, written statements from friends and family, providing information on past relationships, your family history and criminal background.
Get used to being poked and prodded by doctors, smeared in fingerprint ink, justifying any and all time you’ve spent apart and having to prove in every way possible that your relationship is legit. It sounds ridiculous, but we were actually instructed to compose statements explaining how we divide our household duties (like laundry, vacuuming and unstacking the dishwasher) and why we do it that way. So, like, I did the laundry on June 17th because… I don’t know, I ran out of clean undies? It’s crazy!
It’s a constant game of wondering if you’re doing the right thing. Are you explaining things enough, or are you giving away too much information? Will 125 pages of text messages suffice – or is it too much? Does that make us look guilty? Like we have something to prove? Do we take enough photos together? Will we be punished because we’re in our early 20s and can’t afford our own place yet because of aforementioned student loans?
I’ve even heard stories of people getting called in for interviews with immigration where they had to answer questions like, “Which side of their mouth does your partner brush first?” And that worries me. Because every time I think about it I curl my hand up in a fist (imaginary toothbrush in-tact), tilting my head from side to side until I realise I’m not even sure what I do – let alone my partner!
We spent seven long and stressful months gathering this so-called “evidence” for our application which we submitted last July. An application which has so far cost over $7,000. It’s been over half a year since we mailed that ginormous stack of folders off to those intimidating folks at immigration and we’ve just received news that our application has progressed in the queue which means we should receive our acceptance or denial soon.
And that’s only the first stage. Stage two will be in another two years when we do this whole thing all over again.
And after all this hard work, guess what? We want to move to the US.
Cover by Peter Hershey