Editor’s note: Diego Calderon is a journalism student from Peru. He shares some of his own experience in this story to illustrate the challenges that international student couples face when they try to marry in the United States during the pandemic.
International students at BYU who want to get married are facing many of the same challenges their U.S. peers are dealing with, but restricted travel across international borders and immigration status are adding to their headaches.
Many international students who have married a U.S. citizen also have to invest time and money to obtain a green card to remain legally in the U.S., and airfares not only swing wildly from day to day, some scheduled international flights are suspended without much warning.
Gerardo Villar, an immigration paralegal at Weber Law, said the adjustment of status has always been complex.
According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the adjustment of status is the process that students use to apply for lawful permanent resident status (also known as applying for a green card) when they are currently residing in the U.S.
“There is a legal fee of $1,770 to submit the application with all the forms,” Villar said. “The process takes a year approximately.”
On top of the legal fee, couples usually have to pay attorneys who charge thousands of dollars to give aid in this regard. But with the pandemic, most of those processes have been delayed.
As a BYU student, my dream is to become a human rights attorney to provide protection to journalists around the world. Since I met Samantha Curnow, my very supportive girlfriend, I feel the support I need to achieve my dreams.
I am a senior in the journalism program. My student visa expires this upcoming November, and my I-20 expires in December. The I-20 is a file that provides information that an international student can remain legal in the U.S.
As an international student, I need to renew all my documents before then, but with school and work it was impossible to go back to Peru in the middle of Winter Semester. But since our plan is to marry this upcoming summer, and I’m marrying an American citizen, I won’t need to worry about renewing my visa, according to the paralegal.
In addition to renewing my documents, I will have to wait more than a year and pay thousands of dollars in order to be able to apply to a law school in the U.S. and start supporting a family in a more self-reliant and sustainable way.
But the issue that concerns Samantha and me the most is whether my parents will be able to attend our sealing on July 29 in the Mt. Timpanogos Temple.
My parents just planned to come to visit my sister and her husband to congratulate them on their graduation. With all tickets purchased since last year, my mother was told by the flight company that her flight was suspended because too few passengers had purchased tickets for flights on that date.
I know there are many other students with the same kinds of challenges at BYU, whose plans rely on a flight company or the immigration process in order to remain legal in the country, plan a wedding and sealing, or pursue further education.