Holidays and Religion in Intercultural Families

My husband’s religion has basically the same roots as mine. He is Orthodox (Christian, not Jewish Orthodox), so his religious traditions are somewhat similar to Catholic. I grew up Presbyterian. We are pretty flexible and accepting of each other’s beliefs. I never thought that we’d have religious differences–but it turns out there were a few surprises like these:

  • All of our holidays, including Christmas and even some New Year traditions, occur on different dates. Plus, my husband’s country celebrates a new and old New Year’s, as well as a new and old New Year. It gets confusing–but it’s always interesting! Also we have to leave the Christmas tree up for a REALLY long time (as one of the New Year’s celebrated in his country is a few weeks after January 1.)
  • We don’t know a single holiday song in each other’s languages. I listen to my favorite Christmas albums, but my husband doesn’t even know the song “Jingle Bells”! Also, I no longer sing hymns in church on Christmas Eve every year–my husband would go, but it doesn’t have the same meaning for him. It’s ok though–instead, we spend the evening as a family at home, which is also warm and wonderful!
  • I can’t baptize my children in the church I attend. He wants his children baptized in a church of his religion in his language. There is one church like that in the US! We baptized our first child there, as we lived close at the time. But now the church is far away, so 2 of our 3 children are still not baptized. I am not comfortable with that.

Even though the right answer isn’t always clear, I am so glad that my children get to grow up knowing that even deep aspects of life differ everywhere–religion, culture, and traditions.

But these are just the minor details–we LOVE learning–and teaching our children–about holiday traditions in each other’s countries. So do our children. I will never forget the pleasure on my husband’s face the first time he saw the boys and me putting cookies and milk out for Santa.

Holiday traditions are meaningful and a great bonding experience for families. My husband and I were lucky that we both felt pretty flexible about religion, and that our religious beliefs are similar. If he would have tried to force me to change, attend his church services, or force our children to attend those rather than mine, I would have refused–he would also have refused if I insisted on doing things “my way.” We have exposed our children to both, and for us, that has worked well–though it doesn’t always feel natural, logical, or easy!

Foreign Spouse and Learning English

Ugh, English almost caused our marriage to end! My husband refused to learn English for several years. This baffled my family, made it very hard for my husband to find work, and to be honest–it just really felt unfair to me–not only did I have to work full-time, plus study in the evenings, but I also had to pay all the bills. So my husband could sit around and not work? It felt like he had all the choices, but I got none. It was infuriating and unfair, but looking back, I realize it was really hard for him too. My husband refused to learn English for several reasons, which I understand now, but did not understand then:

  1. He was afraid he couldn’t learn English.
  2. He felt embarrassed trying to speak English–he didn’t know words or how to put them together.
  3. He couldn’t accept reality–he tried to hold onto hope that he didn’t NEED to learn English. (Eventually he understood that this was wrong–but only after he’d learned the language!)
  4. He hates studying, always did, always will.

So how did he learn? He learned on the job. He had very difficult jobs, and there he had to communicate in English all day. At first, he could barely do it, but each day over the course of four years, he spoke each day and learned. I also tried to speak with him–but he always answered me in Russian. (Neither of us speak Russian natively but it’s the language we use together). So I gave up…

It can feel really hopeless when a spouse can’t speak the language around you–it can be embarrassing for you and your spouse in social and professional situations. The temptation is usually to pressure the spouse to learn the language. But remember–your spouse wants to learn the language around him or her much more than you want this! It’s very difficult to be unable express oneself or understand what people are saying due to a language barrier. I’ve been there. I experienced this in both Russia and Spain–it was very stressful for me, and I LOVE language learning! I like the phrase “When in Rome…” In Italy, you need to speak the language to find Italian jobs–it’s the same here and everywhere else.

Language learning will happen as long as your spouse is exposed to English (or the native langauge of whichever country you live in). Try to be patient and encourage your spouse to be in situations where he or she can hear and speak the language. Also, examine why you have this dynamic in your marriage–I never did this because our situation changed; however, if unchanged, it could easily lead to a burdensome, unbalanced marriage even for two people who are very in love. People need time to adjust to a new culture and accept the reality that learning what they need to might be hard. If all else fails, try putting yourself in your spouse’s place. What if you suddenly had to move to Brazil, adjust to the culture, and find Portuguese jobs? It’s so hard adjusting to a new country.  However, it’s important that the patterns change at some point so that responsibilities are shared–it’s too much for one person to do everything.

Foreign Spouses and Employment (or Unemployment)

One of THE hardest times of my entire life were the first years of marriage when my husband was unemployed. He was miserable. We were so poor. Each month, I wondered how we would pay the rent! We wanted to have a normal life–a house, a car, new clothes sometimes–nothing special, just normal. But even these things were impossible!!! I was depressed, he was depressed, and as time went on, it began to seem as if life would never get easier. But thank goodness, it did. My husband trained in a new job industry–it took a few years. His English improved as well.

Now my husband has a good job. It took a long time, but eventually he learned English. He also trained in a new career. This took years. But it paid off. If you are having hard times with your spouse’s unemployment, these are my suggestions:

  1. Don’t give up hope!
  2. If your spouse needs to improve his or her English, consider private tutoring. This will do more for his or her job search than any other factor. Even if he or she can speak Spanish, to qualify for most Spanish jobs in the US, individuals need English skills too (in most cases). As a teacher who did classroom lessons and tutoring, I can say for certain that tutoring helps a lot! The most important thing is to find a tutor you like working with, and preferably one who doesn’t know your language–this way you will use English.
  3. Remember that as much as you may want your spouse to find a job, he or she probably wants this even more than you do. It is incredibly hard to find a job in a foreign country. When I have job searched in the US (my native country), it isn’t too hard for me because I know what the job interviewer expects to hear, what to wear, and of course, I know English. When I looked for a job in Russia, the process was a complete mystery to me. If your spouse is from China, rest assured he or she is probably quite good at finding Mandarin language jobs at home–but here, it’s another story. Once he or she is used to the culture and language here, finding a job will happen more quickly.
  4. Help your spouse with a resume and job searching–it is unlikely he or she knows how this is done in our culture. In many cultures, job searching is done through acquaintances and connections. Explain how it is done in the US, and help your spouse search. Some family members or friends may say “Your spouse should do that himself/herself. He/she is just being lazy.” I totally disagree with this viewpoint–I’m very hardworker and not at all lazy. I lived in two foreign countries and needed a lot of help figuring out how to get a job. Same story with my spouse in the US.
  5. Help your spouse write a GREAT resume. If it stands out as being foreign (like including a birth date or photograph as in many foreign cultures), it will be hard to get an interview. Also, no matter what the language skills of the applicant, companies expect resumes and cover letters to be completely clean and edited–no grammar, spelling, or other types of errors!
  6. In job searching, find sites with foreign language jobs. One example of a job board with foreign jobs is the one at Foreign Language Jobs. You will find everything from private tutoring in Spanish, English, and most other languages to jobs for ESL teachers in other countries. You can browse the jobs or search using a keyword (such as “Spanish” or “ESL”). If your spouse has experience in the medical field in his or her own country, search using the keyword “medical,” and you will see links to foreign language jobs in the medical field. (You can also look for specific boards for only one foreign language, such as Russian jobs.)

Children of Multicultural Families Are Not Always Bilingual

In some families, children automatically become bilingual. When a child interacts with one or more caretakers (whether parents, other relatives, or a non-family member such as a nanny) in one language, and interacts in a different language with other caretakers, the child will automatically learn both languages. However, many families speak two or more languages at home, but do not interact with their children in each language. If children do not interact in a language, they will not learn to speak it or understand it!

In many intercultural families, children do NOT become bilingual–but there are reasons this happens. If you want your children to be bilingual, they can! Just don’t assume it will happen magically. Your children must use each language you want them to know, and they must continue using it as they grow older.

We really wanted our children to learn English (my native language) as well as my husband’s native language. My eldest son spoke both languages until age three. Then, my husband went on a six-month long business trip. When he returned, my son could not understand their language. He would have regained the skills quickly, but my husband could not bare the gap in communication. He began speaking English (thought I begged him not to!). He thought they would resume the native language later. They could not. To this day, my husband’s family believes my children will somehow just “catch on” to their native language. I know from my career experience in language acquisition that this will not happen without a lot of work!

Here are a few myths that people believe about children and bilingualism–if you want your children to be bilingual, you really must not believe these myths!

  1. Myth: As long as my child hears us speaking our language, he will learn it.
    : Hearing a language will do nothing for the child’s speaking skills, and little to help him understand a language if he isn’t required to respond by speaking in the language. For a child to be bilingual, he or she needs very frequent practice hearing and speaking a language. Many people can passively understand languages they cannot speak. (The linguistic terms for this are receiving comprehensible input in a language and producing comprehensible output. There are many ways to practice new languages, but these two activities MUST occur for a person to learn to understand and speak a language.)
  2. Myth: Once my child has learned a language, he or she will never forget it.
    : Children often lose languages they do not continue to practice. This happens all the time. To be bilingual for life, be sure your children continue to practice their languages either with you, playmates, other family members, or in close and frequent social circles like church or community groups.
  3. Myth: My child will always feel proud to know and speak a second language.
    : Many adolescents go through a stage when they reject all languages except the mainstream language, or the one spoken by most of their peers. This is painful for families, but it is a normal stage of growth. Families should continue to use the native language with children. There are gentle methods parents have used successfully to keep children speaking the native language should this occur. As an example, a child in the US may tend to temporarily reject his or her native language of Spanish. He might say “Mom, can I have $10 to see a movie with a friend tonight?” The mother can gently refuse to answer until the child repeats the question in Spanish.
  4. Myth: My child can speak two languages with me. We’ll just switch when we want.
    : In almost all cases, children will eventually speak one language with each parent, and other languages will feel uncomfortable to speak with that parent. A child may speak one language with the mother and a different language with the father. There are exceptions to this, such as a parent with two native languages (such as a regional language and Hindi for a parent from India), or a family that speaks three languages–one all together, plus each parent has his or her own native language. In these cases, a parent can develop a clearly established pattern in which he or she uses both languages with the child, and the child will follow this pattern.
  5. Myth: Some children are confused by speaking more than one language in the home.
    Truth: Children learning more than one language at home may speak later than others, and they may do things such as insert a word from one language into a sentence they are speaking in another language. This is just because their brain is developing pathways monolingual children do not need (and will also not benefit from later!). Of course, some children have hearing problems or issues which would cause challenges in communicating in a single language (such as autism). In these cases, seek a specialist to determine the right course.
  6. Myth: My child can always learn my native language later. For now, I will help him or her learn the language of the community where we live.
    Truth: As an ESL teacher in the United States, I can tell you for certain that children learn the language of the community in school and from friends. They often lose or reject the minority language of their parent–so this is the language to enforce if you want your child to learn it. It is a great idea, of course, to help your child practice the community language too–but this can be done by enrolling him or her in a playgroup, attending social functions (such as religious services) together and using the community language there, reading stories, playing vocabulary games, and so on. Using the community language as your mode of communication with your child is not necessary for him or her to learn the community language–and may result in your child not learning your native language.
  7. Myth: My child will learn my language when he’s older because he’ll visit my country.
    : First, if a visit is the bulk of the child’s experience in the language, he or she is unlikely to develop fluency in the language, even if the visit is a long one. If language practice continues after a visit of two to three months during which the child is hearing and using the target language each day, then this may help the child to develop fluency.

Note also that if your child speaks a widely used language, even during a visit to your native country, people may use the more common language with your child rather than your native language! For example, let’s say your family speaks Spanish and lives in Ecuador, but you live in Canada with your children. You dream of visiting Ecuador with your children so that they can learn Spanish. You may be surprised to hear your relatives using ENGLISH with your children, even those who know almost no English. Grandparents figure they can more easily say “apple” in English than they can teach your child to say “apple” in Spanish. This is a common scenario that happens because communication is important to family members like grandparents who rarely see your children, while language learning is important to you!

Take it from me: if you want your children to become bilingual, begin using both languages with them at an early age and continue using each language. Do not switch the language you use randomly! Do not think children will learn a language that they hear you speaking with your spouse. Unless you speak it with them and require them to respond, they will not learn to use the language!

Foreigners and Life Insurance

Please Note: I am not an attorney. This is not legal advice. Do not take this post as legal advice, as each case is unique. This post is a story about my experience with my spouse during the process of getting my husband’s marriage-based greencard in the US.

For foreigners who have life insurance through their jobs in the US, there are no issues. BUT for foreigners who try to get their own policy (not through work), it can be difficult, even for permanent residents (or foreigners who have a greencard)!

My husband applied for an individual life insurance policy at age 26–the insurance companies generally like young, healthy applicants, so we assumed he’d have no trouble.

During the interview, the agent kept asking, “Now you aren’t planning to go back to your country to live are you?” My husband was definitely NOT planning on that–first, we didn’t have $1000 for a ticket. Secondly, his career is in the film industry, and his country was having huge economic problems–there was no film industry there except pirated DVDs!

So we got the letter. He was REJECTED on the basis that he was from a country with dangerous living conditions!!!

I called the agent and told him that this seemed like a clear case of discrimination based on nationality, despite that my husband is intent on staying in the US. I said that I planned to pursue action against the company unless they would reverse the decision. The problem is that once you are rejected from one company, you are “blacklisted,” and other insurance companies also will tend to reject your application for life insurance. (Plus, I was about to have our first child at the time–we NEEDED life insurance, and there was simply no logical reason my husband shouldn’t have been able to get it.)

To make a long story short, the company reversed their decision. Plus, another company offered him life insurance. We went with the second company.

TIP: If you need an individual policy, work with an agent who has had many foreign clients or who is a foreigner himself or herself. Ours had not, and that was very obvious–I think it made him paranoid, so he may have “heard” our responses differently from how we actually gave them.

When Intercultural Marriage Feels Strange

When my husband and I got married, I worked at a very conservative office in the Washington DC area. That area is so multicultural and full of people from all corners of the world. When you walk down the street, you hear so many languages. I LOVED this aspect of the area.

Yet the moment I got married, I felt this strange isolation–from coworkers, family, and friends. Family started commenting constantly on how urgently my new husband needed to learn English. Coworkers and managers made really dumb comments, such as “Wow, your husband said ‘hello’ to me. HE ACTUALLY spoke English!” Some of my friends just found it really puzzling that I had actually decided to marry my husband–they thought that because he was foreign, this wouldn’t last. And I guess they figured I was crazy for taking this path! And my husband’s family and friends felt the same way–why on earth wouldn’t he just marry a NATIVE girl, rather than an American (like me)???

Then, I changed jobs. I became a teacher of ESL (English as a Second Language). I’d worked on my master’s degree in TESL for 2 years. With this job change, my coworkers changed (obviously). Plus, I had sooooo much in common with all of my fellow ESL teachers, I developed new, really strong friendships quickly. My students, all immigrants and foreigners learning English, saw nothing strange or risky about being married to a foreigner. Suddenly, I was normal again!!! WOW.

My new environment completely changed my life and made me feel totally normal again! Most of my coworkers were married to foreigners. Almost all of them, like me, had lived in at least one foreign country and spoke foreign languages in addition to English. They ALL felt very comfortable around my husband, despite that he knew no English.

Changing my environment really made a huge difference in my peace of mind. If you are feeling isolated because your spouse is foreign–OR if you are an expatriate and feeling isolated because YOU are the only foreign spouse among friends, I strongly recommend that you seek places where you can meet other couples like yourselves. This might include language classes, expat social groups, churches with diverse congregations. Seek SOME groups, because you are definitely not alone. Why feel like you are?

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Cross-Cultural Issues in Raising Children

I am not really sure how to contain all of the issues in one post. Marriages like mine–in which the wife (that’s me) is Western and the husband is from the Middle East or East–will tend to have the most conflict as far as child rearing. This is because even though men from these areas can fall deeply in love with a Western woman, but the moment he realizes she will be the MOTHER of his children–and she was not at all brought up with the mothering ideas of his country–FEAR takes over.

This is extremely frustrating, frightening, and sad for both spouses. The good news is that mothers and fathers from all countries love their precious children dearly, and eventually, this helps tear away at any mistrust caused by cultural differences, beliefs, or bias. Here are some things I have learned:

  1. Parenthood can bring out a person’s worst fears about his or her spouse. My husband dearly loved me and treated me with a great deal of respect until the day our first child was born. On that day, he began to blow off all of my opinions, ideas, and basically thought most decisions I made about our child were very stupid and needed to be changed. Basically, he suddenly became convinced that a Western woman could be as good a mother as a girl from his country.
  2. These fears can cause unexpected, odd behavior. When my husband realized that our child wasn’t being raised exactly as he was, he freaked out. He became controlling and demeaning. This nearly ended in divorce when my son was 3. But slowly my husband began to return to normal–he saw how dedicated and loving I was, despite some cultural differences in the way I cared for our child. Now, years later, all is fine and we’re very excited about our third child who will be born in a few months!
  3. Mother-in-laws can make a bad problem MUCH WORSE. My mother-in-law came to “help” me with the new baby. This is the #1 worst decision I have made in my entire life. She felt she needed to TEACH me, a dumb Western girl, how to be a GOOD mother. They have many beliefs in their country that I just couldn’t agree with, such as covering my baby even though it was 90 degrees and he was sweating. Please. But because I refused to do some of these things, she felt I was a STUPID and HORRIBLE mother. Of course, this rubbed off on my husband, as to him, she’s the child-raising master! She could have helped, but because she was so close-minded, her visit had reprecussions that lasted 3 years.
  4. Cultural differences in child-rearing theories can lead to divorce. Learn to be open-minded and respectful while there’s time! My husband and I almost divorced over child-rearing issues. I was willing to compromise. Many of the beliefs my husband and his mother (and most people from their country) held about babies seemed strange to me. But they weren’t HARMFUL, so I was okay with them. But I still wanted to do many things my way, my doctor’s way, or per the advice of my family–things like feeding schedules, routines, limits, clothing, and so on–but when I tried, my husband would treat me like I was so stupid…eventually my child began to copy him. That was the end–I could not bare for my child to grow up disrespecting me. We almost divorced, but several interesting events happened, and my husband changed. To make a very long story short, now he’s very proud of my mothering–as I always was!
  5. Here is a short list of issues you may want to discuss before you have children with a foreign spouse. Some of these were very unexpected to me, and caused many, long-term spats!
    • Giving a child medicine for pain (some countries don’t like doing this)
    • Religion in which a child will be raised, or even only baptized
    • Age when a child should go to kindergarten (many countries go sooner than in the US)
    • Age when a child should go to pre-school
    • Whether babies should have an eating or sleeping schedule
    • What types of limits to set for toddlers (some cultures believe in almost NO limits–as my husband’s)
    • Activities mothers should do with toddlers
    • Who will stay home with the child? Is it okay for the mother to go out by herself while the father watches the child and vice versa? (It seems logical that this will be fine–sometimes it’s NOT!)
    • What role the father will have–change diapers, take walks with the child, give baths, or nothing
    • What role will the mother-in-law have–will she be expected to adhere to the mother’s ideas? If she fails to do so, what course of action will the husband and wife each take?
    • What languages do you want your child to speak at home? Is it important that they are bilingual?
    • Where will the child sleep? (in some cultures it is very important that the child sleep in the parent’s room or bed, while in others, children may have their own room much sooner)
    • What will you do about dating when the child is older? (in some cultures girls are strictly forbidden to date or even go out near the evening with female friends)
    • How often will the family visit in-laws? (this will be a consideration due to finances, plus families in some cultures will expect long visits of 2 months or more, both to your home and theirs)

All in all, child-rearing causes conflict even for most spouses from the same country! In my experience, just being respectful can prevent many problems. Also, remember that each spouse will feel a very serious and deep commitment to his or her ideas about child-rearing. You may feel you can be flexible until the moment when your partner wants to do something that you feel will not benefit your child. If this is rooted in culture, it may take time to solve.

All in all, my case was pretty hard. But even mine is fine now! And my husband is SUCH a wonderful father. I would not change any decision. Our family is extremely happy–it just took work and patience.

Challenges in Intercultural Marriages

I just read an excellent article on obstacles for partners in intercultural marriages. The author is Christine Benlafquih. This article is SO true of the obstacles my husband and I had.

If you are thinking about marrying a person from a culture or country foreign to your own, I strongly recommend reading this article. I wish I had seen more information like this in the early days of our relationship!

Cross-cultural Marriage Advice: Tips for Successful Intercultural Relationships

People from any two cultures are likely to face these issues. This author focuses on the issues that form cultures and makes cultures different. It’s these differences that most excite people in the early stages of intercultural relationships, but challenge them in later stages!

Does My Foreign Fiance Just Want a Greencard?

Please Note: I am not an attorney. This is not legal advice. Do not take this post as legal advice, as each case is unique. This post is a story about my experience with my spouse during the process of getting my husband’s marriage-based greencard in the US.

If your relationship shows all the signs of a healthy relationship–communication, each partner likes spending time with the other, interaction with each other’s family and friends, and so on, you probably don’t need to worry over this issue. Remember, people in most countries of the world are very patriotic and would NOT want to live in the US. People in poorer countries where life is a challenge often want to come to the US, Canada, Europe, Australia, and so on to make a living–but they most often do this through student visas, tourist visas, and work visas, not by trying to scam natives into marriage!

However, there are situations when people get duped in relationships for legal permanent residency in a country–like a greencard in the US, landed immigrant status in Canada, and so on. So, it doesn’t hurt to evaluate your relationship for signs just in case. When a partner is getting scammed, there are usually signs. Here are some signs that a partner may be trying to scam you (or that he or she may just be an undesirable partner!):

  1. He or she asks you for a lot of help pretty early in the relationship. Sure, partners ask for help sometimes. However, in the scam marriages, the dishonest partner was asking for WAY too much help early in the relationship–buy me a plane ticket, call me because I just can’t ever call you, I can’t use email because I need you to buy me a computer, I need new clothes, I can’t pay my rent, etc. (Note: My husband needed a little help when we were dating because his visa status didn’t allow him to work. But he LOVED me, so he almost never asked. And tried hard to refuse my help and figure out other ways. And he showed NO other signs below–he was attentive and warm always.)
  2. He or she tries to rush you into marriage.
  3. He or she tries to make you feel guilty for needing time to make a decision.
  4. He or she hasn’t introduced you to friends or relatives, or if they are in a different country, hasn’t even told them about you. If you are really suspicious, see how he or she reacts when you insist on marrying in their country in a ceremony attended by their family and friends.
  5. This person has lied to you about different things. (A liar is a liar and will be dishonest for many reasons, not one.)
  6. This person doesn’t do things a person in love would tend to do–call often, ask you on dates a lot, want to sit and talk to you for long periods of time, hold your hand, act affectionate, try to help you in different situations.
  7. Your friends tell you this person seems rude or seems to be using you. Even if you are blinded by love, your friends and family probably won’t be. A healthy partner in love will NOT treat you poorly. (Of course, it’s possible that a partner is mean, yet does NOT want a greencard. But who needs a mean partner regardless??)
  8. Your “partner” claims to love you but treats you very differently from how he treats his or her friends and family. He or she spends lots of time with friends or family, but barely has any time for you (though lots of excuses!).
  9. Anyone who makes wild promises and gives you too many gifts is suspicious. This person might give you huge compliments one moment, or gifts, especially if you have threatened to leave the relationship. But if the person just wants a greencard, he or she will not want to be with you very often and might act annoyed when you are together. If you find yourself asking questions like “Why don’t you call me more? Why do you always go out with your friends but never with me?” you have some things to figure out.

If you read this list and feel really suspicious, here are a few things you can do to gage your partner’s reaction:

  1. Talk about living together in his or her country rather than the US. Now, my husband would have said “No, we won’t make enough money there.” However, he would have been calm and respectful. If your partner gets irritable, angry, or acts completely shocked just because you brought this up, you might have a problem.
  2. Insist on getting married in his or her country too, particularly in a place of religious worship with your partner’s family in attendance. It may not be totally necessary if you know you’ll live here–that’s okay. Just ask to see how your partner reacts. But again, if your partner gets really freaked out about this suggestion, that’s a sign of a problem.
  3. Ask your partner for help in ways he or she can help you and see how he or she responds. If you have a fiance in Russia or China, for example, and you know she has NO money, ask her to send you photographs of places from her childhood–her school, her family, her pets, and so on. Ask her if she could send you a letter once a week in the mail because you miss her when you can’t call. If you get tons of excuses and no solutions every time you ask her to do something small and simple, you have a fiance who doesn’t love you enough to even mail a letter. Lose this person no doubt.

These tests will not definitely show you anything, but they may clue you into suspicious behavior and clue you in on the need to think further about possible issues. Also note: Your fiance may just be a less-than-desirable partner, and not necessarily a scammer. ALSO, there are many partners who scam people into marriage for reasons other than a greencard! Bottom line: Don’t marry a person you aren’t fulfilled with–marriage is hard enough even when you find the “perfect” partner. The challenges of intercultural marriage will cause a weak partnership to crumble. The partnership can only be strong if both people are reasonably respectful, kind, and healthy-minded.

How Long Until My Spouse Can LEAVE the US??

Please Note: I am not an attorney. This is not legal advice. Do not take this post as legal advice, as each case is unique. This post is a story about my experience with my spouse during the process of getting my husband’s marriage-based greencard in the US.

When my husband and I processed his permanent residency documents, we had to wait over two years before he had his greencard–and we were afraid to travel until then. Please note: I am NOT an attorney, and this post is NOT legal advice! It has been several years since we processed our documents, so laws and processes may have changed. Check the USCIS website or with an attorney for the most current information.

For the spouses of US citizens in the USA who have filed paperwork, it can take a long time before the spouse can safely leave and return to the US depending on the status and visa of the foreign spouse.  If you have filed your paperwork with USCIS, try calling their hotline at 1-800-870-3676 to see what the estimated wait time will be. (For information on various types of cases, browse immigration discussion boards on the sites of law firms or ask an immigration attorney online–but remember the information posted often comes from members of the public, only sometimes from attorneys. )

My husband had overstayed his B-2 visa when we were married. Therefore while his documents were processing, had he left the US without permission from USCIS, he would have been barred from re-entering the country. At that time, we could have used Advanced Parole to get permission to travel while his documents were processing–however, we heard of families how had trouble re-entering even WITH Advanced Parole. For us, it was a very easy decision to stay in the US until my husband had his greencard in hand.