A Frustrating Part of Dating Someone from Another Country.. VISA’s

visasI’ll start this with a brief recap of who Dave and I are.  I am an American girl from South Florida, and Dave is a British guy from Cornwall.  We met online while Dave was working near my hometown in Florida in January of 2018.  If you care to read our story from the beginning, click here.

Since then, our life has been full of happiness, adventure, and so much traveling throughout Europe and North America.  We have lived in 2 different self-converted vans together to make this happen.  We have hiked so many mountain ranges, swam in many oceans and seas, drove throughout 12 countries in Europe followed by driving 12,000 miles from South Florida all the way to Alaska and (almost) back.  Our relationship works because we both desire the same things from life.. which actually means not owning many “things”.   We have been so fortunate to go all these places, and have done it with very little.  We make fun of each other’s lingo and teach each other a lot.  But despite all this goodness, we still have typical arguments and annoy the crap out of one another sometimes, what relationship doesn’t?..  But we also deal with that fact that we are from 2 different countries.

It’s been relatively easy to travel around together majority of the time, but it can also be confusing because the length of time we can spend in certain countries is different for both of us.  Because we move around so much for both work and pleasure, this has never been an issue for us before.  We are always well-aware of when we need to leave a country and always make our future plans around those dates.  However, this month we had our first frustration happen while in North America.  I have shared the progressing story of this on a daily basis on my Instagram @KellyNicoleTravel.. but there is only so much I can write in a caption or say in a 15 second story clip.  I have received so many messages, questions, suggestions, etc. about our situation on there, so I thought it would be best to just write it ALL out here for you in a blog.  Every detail of our personal situation.  I hope it answers your questions and possibly helps someone else in a similar situation to ours.  I hope it helps ya’ll understand why some of your suggestions (that I very much appreciate!!) don’t work in our certain circumstances.

So, here we go:

VISA Basics: As of today (August 2019), I don’t need a VISA to travel to UK or EU as an American.  But there is a limited set amount of time I can spend there before I have to leave and return, and it is very specific (can spend 6 months out of any year in the UK, and 90 days out of the last 6 months in EU).  However, Dave requires a VISA to be in the USA… and the terms aren’t quite as black and white.

His personal VISA: Although there are so many different VISA’s a foreigner may obtain to enter the USA, Dave personally has a 10 year B1/B2 VISA.  Basically, B1 is for business and B2 is for tourism.  Meaning he can enter the states for work or for pleasure.  Sounds great right?  But here’s the {many} catches.  The B1 is very specific as to what he can do for work.  It specifically says on the VISA he can only work on yachts.  Furthermore, he can only work on yachts with foreign flags that are registered outside of the US.  So technically, he’s not even working “in or for” the US, just on boats that happen to dock in the US for awhile.  So that alone can be tricky.  The other issue with VISA’s no matter what type you have, is you have to leave after a certain amount of time.  Even though its a “10 year” VISA, he still has to leave the country every 6 months no matter what reason he is here for, even when he’s working.  Basically it’s a multiple-entry VISA that lasts 10 years.ORG_DSC01978

If you caught all that in the last paragraph, then keep reading.  It gets even more complicated. I always get asked “ok well how long does Dave have to leave the country for?” and I don’t have an answer.  That’s because there is no set amount of time he has to be out of the country after 6 months.  Isn’t that dumb?  Like nowhere on US government paper does it state an amount of time he must leave the country in order to legally come back in.  (When I go to Europe, I know exactly how long I must leave until I may re-enter. It specifically says how many days in a year I can be there, etc.).  But for him it’s literally anywhere from 24 hours to a few years.

So, then it is suggested to have Dave just “fly out and fly back in”, which yes, that can work in certain circumstances just fine.  And it might’ve been fine this time too.  Especially while working, this is usually no problem.  But it is completely up to the border patrol officer upon his re-entry to allow or deny his re-entry.  If someone thinks he’s trying to stay here longterm or work here illegally or move in with me permanently, or any reason they make up in their mind, they can deny him.  If someone questions why he is coming back to the US so soon after just being here for 6 months prior recently, they could deny him.  It’s completely up to the officer and all unknown until it happens.  YES it will probably be just fine if he came right back.. but you never know so don’t we really want to risk it. It’s a  nerve-wracking and scary thought having someone I love so much possibly be denied access to me by another human.. even when following all laws.  So lawyer friends seem to always recommend leaving for a longer amount of time to avoid questioning upon re-entering, at least when he’s not working.

So, fully aware of his VISA expiring in August, how did we end up in our current situation? Well, there’s one more catch we learned the hard way.  NOT EVERY COUNTRY COUNTS AS LEAVING THE USA.  When he crossed a border into Canada for a few weeks, got a stamp in his passport as proof of clearly leaving the US and entering a new country, he assumed he’d legally be fine coming back into the USA.  This is what we had planned and relied on.  But we assumed wrong, and when re-entering the USA from Canada we were told that Canada didn’t count as leaving the USA. {And either does Mexico}.  Like, what?  3 completely different separate countries, but they “don’t count” as leaving the country. I can’t stress enough how weird this is to me.  Passports are required to travel between them, they aren’t a state, heavy border patrol at the borders, but it’s not leaving in the VISA world?! — Anyway, so this is how we ended up in the situation we’re currently in in August 2019.  He thought he would get a fresh 6 month stamp after returning from Canada, but he did not.  Which means his prior 6 month stamp was only good for another 3-4 weeks before expiring when he re-entered in Alaska. And there isn’t a cheap or close flight out to another country from Alaska.  Which is why we quickly drove down to Seattle and he had to fly home to England from the van so suddenly without much of a plan.

So what WAS our plan?  Our plan was for him to work on a boat in Alaska. After a few more months here he planned on leaving (with me though ha). We budget our travels to last to a certain time and then work again and then travel again. and sometimes get lucky enough to travel and work at the same time.   We had planned on topping up the funds starting in August.  But that didn’t happen because of this situation.  He now couldn’t work on the boat in Alaska because the boat wasn’t leaving the US waters before his prior stamp expired. ORG_DSC02465

Side notes:  We’ve never ever overstayed a VISA.  We have always done things by the books, how the law says to.  He works legally and will continue to do so.  We know full well in advance when we need to leave, move, or go.  If we had known Canada didn’t count as leaving the USA, we would have had made other plans way in advance for him to leave or work elsewhere.  We probably would have made plans to go somewhere together for a bit. But because we learned the hard way, I was then left with needing to stay with our van alone (since its currently far from my hometown) and needing to save money by not going with him.  We are left on opposite sides of the world.

It’s definitely only temporary! & This may only be for a short time. He may be back within just 2 weeks! Or if he ends up working elsewhere now it could be 2+ months.  If I were rich I’d pay to put the van in storage and fly over to where he is.  But unfortunately, I am not ha. If I felt we were finished traveling in this part of the states I would sell the van and start planning our next adventure elsewhere.  But I don’t feel finished on the west coast of the USA yet. And neither does Dave.  In a few months from now, probably. But not quite ready to move on yet.IMG_4494ORG_DSC01896.JPG

We will prevail and we will be fine, it’s all just frustrating to have to deal with.  I know we’re not the only ones dealing with it, so many people are in international relationships around the world.  We are choosing to be together despite the challenges,  and that at the end of the day everything is just fine.  It’s just frustrating at the current moment in time and thought this would answer some of your questions 🙂ORG_DSC02134

One more thing I get a lot – “Here’s an easy fix: GET MARRIED!” — I hear that so much from people.  But it really wouldn’t fix anything fast.  The process and paperwork isn’t easy and the fees aren’t cheap.  It would probably fix the aspect that he would not be denied entry ever regardless of border patrols opinion.  But he still couldn’t work anywhere he wanted here until he got a green card, but that’s also complicated and a blog post for a later time.  But want to know another thing? I was married in my 20’s and divorced.  Although I love Dave with all my heart and believe he is my soul mate here on this earth, I don’t want to rush into marriage again for this sole purpose.  Maybe soon.. just not quite yet 😉

So here I am. Sitting in a campground alone in an unfamiliar state on the complete opposite side of the country as my friends and family.  I could use what little money we have left to store the van and fly to him, but thats not a smart option.  I could drive home to family, but I am not finished exploring the west coast of the US yet.

I’m going to take this time to catch up on a lot of writing that I’m behind on (this blog being first), refocus on my personal goals, and go for some short solo hikes to remind myself how strong, brave, and independent I can be traveling and living solo on the road.   I need to face my challenges and fears and conquer them.  Be a warrior and not a worrier.  Face everything that’s being thrown at me and rise up a stronger braver person with an even stronger relationship in the end.  As the popular quote goes “you are braver that you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you know”. We’ll get through this.  We always do.

*And our 2020 plans are already starting to get underway.. and it does not include being in North America (we know Dave has to get the heck out of here since I’m not quite ready to be married haha) so stay tuned! But be sure to follow along with our daily updates and adventures on Instagram @KellyNicoleTravel


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