'There is someone out there for everyone' is a phrase that many romantics and optimists firmly believe in and of course, hope to find. However, with 7.8 billion people in March 2020 around the world, is it that impossible to think that there is not one person out there that is perfect for us? Statistically speaking, the larger the focus group, the more chance we have of success, so looking at home and abroad would likely increase a person's chances of meeting that special someone. The internet, smartphone apps, and social media services have all made it possible to speak to and make real connections with people all over the world, often thousands of miles away. Then take into account that in 2019, it was estimated that over 1 billion people traveled overseas, and with affordable airfares, many are venturing further than their parents or grandparents ever did. Next factor in gap years, backpacking and studying overseas, meeting that special someone happens a lot more frequently than it ever did in the past. However, once you have fallen in love, practical matters will need to be discussed, such as where will we live? What are routes, or potential obstacles for us living together? And when is the right time for us to put our plans into action?
The first important matter to consider is whether barriers do actually exist that would prevent a couple from being together. The barriers will typically fall into one of two distinct groups; financial and legal. Financial barriers are difficult; however, legal ones usually take longer, cost more, and will most often require the involvement of professionals and specialists. The legal rules regarding entry requirements, visas, and residency vary by country, and how they apply will also depend on where the person who intends to live in that country, originates from and their residency status. The restrictions and requirements imposed by a government might be financial, specific to a person's education, or simply the length of a relationship. For example, if a person lived in the USA and fell in love with someone from a different state, then the barriers would only be financial. Legal obstacles exist more when two people come from different countries where immigration restrictions apply. Any partners with previous criminal convictions may have further complications when applying, as most countries have strict rules around the treatment of felons; however, the restrictions will often be based on the severity of the crimes committed. In addition to the immigration laws, members of the LGBTQ+ community have to also consider the laws and rights in any given country. Especially how that country treats the community and whether same-sex relationships are recognised within the law.
Assuming that same-sex relationships are recognised, typically, the available routes are: -
- Visitor Entry Requirements – any given country will outline whether visitors from certain countries are required to obtain a visa or not, usually before their arrival or specific terms of permitted entry, such as how long a person is allowed to stay. For example, an American citizen can remain in the United Kingdom (UK) up to six months without a visa in any given twelve-month period. The visit; however, can only be for personal travel, meaning they would not be allowed to work whilst in the UK. If money is not a significant obstacle, then this route would be most likely for those in new relationships, spending time together without having to go down the various paths that require a long-term legal commitment
- Temporary/Working Visas – nearly all countries around the world publish a list of skills or professions in demand within that country. If a person's professional background and skills match with any of those listed, then the chances of applying and obtaining a working visa will significantly increase. Finding an employer in the chosen country who is willing to sponsor a visa application could also be another route. One potential downside to a working visa is that often they are dependent on the area, region, or state where the demand is needed. For example, one partner lives in Sydney, Australia, and the other partner whose skillset is in demand is in say, Perth, though they will be living in the same country, they might not be able to live within the same city using this route. If the partners can support one another financially, many countries offer both a short and long-term dependents visa option; however, the length of the relationship will be a significant contributing factor. Lastly, if a person intends to live in a country where the spoken language is different from their own, then the student visa route could be a viable option. Student visas can be granted from a few months to three or four years. For example, in the UK, there is a prospective student visa where an individual who wishes to study in the UK, can come for up to six months, while they research and select their chosen course
- Residency or Citizenship through marriage or via a civil partnership - once a person is sure that they have met 'the one' and want to make a formal commitment, they would need to decide what country they want to live in, whether in the short or long term. Also, whether these types of same-sex unions are recognised, if so, then the marriage/civil partnership route is a viable option for most couples. In 2020, 68 or 29.2% of all countries around the world recognise some form of same-sex marriage or unions. Again, the rules will vary by country; however, for many, there will be a minimum amount of time individuals must have been in a relationship before they are able to apply. The minimum length of the relationship could be anything from twelve-months up to five years, and even if a person is eligible, they are not always guaranteed an indefinite right to remain in that country. Some countries will grant a temporary visa, say for two-years and after that time, the married partner is then able to apply for a more permanent status
- Asylum – if one of the partners originates from a country in which it is known to be hostile towards members of the LGBTQ+ community, and they are fearful for their life, then seeking political asylum is another option. There are many risks and factors to consider when going down the asylum route, such as knowing whether your chosen country accepts asylum applications based on those grounds, when to apply (especially for personal safety), and most importantly, that once a person makes an application, the reality that it will be difficult for them to go back to their home country to visit friends and family in the future
Whatever the preferred route, it will likely take time, often be somewhat intrusive, and require a financial commitment from both partners.
The next section may seem a bit like jumping the gun, especially when in a new relationship; however, in the long run, following this tip could say a lot of time and stress. So here goes, two people meet, and immediately there is attraction and a desire to see each other again. The moment a person realises that they could be a future in that relationship (probably after three or four dates), it is worthwhile starting a relationship diary. The purpose of the journal is to keep notes of when, where, and how long each meeting took place. Each encounter should be logged, and at the same time ensuring that all supporting evidence is kept. The diary should capture all information from hotels, flight details, and even restaurants. You might not like your picture being taken; however, it is essential that you still take the occasional photograph that has both a date and timestamp. The date and timestamping can likely be achieved by uploading the picture on to one of the many available social media sites. You might be asking yourself that this tip seems somewhat strange and too early in a relationship; however, in the future imagine being asked to prove how long you have been together, how would you do it? Being prepared could save a lot of time and effort, and even if the relationship fails in the future, you still have an account of much happier times. It does not take long, and once you start the process; it quickly becomes second nature. Not all of the documents you collect or photographs you take might be considered evidence; however, the more you have, the more you can support the status of any relationship. When booking hotels, making reservations, whenever appropriate use both names on the booking and when visiting each other, keep booking confirmations, tickets, and boarding cards. Without the diary, you would likely forget many of your many meetings and what you did, leaving gaps, and wasting an opportunity to provide concrete evidence.
When keeping a diary of the relationship, ideal supporting documents include:
- Travel details - flight details, passport stamps, boarding passes, train tickets etc
- Accommodation bookings – hotel, apartment bookings, ensuring that you include both names when making any bookings
- Reservations, attractions parks – any place visited that ideally includes the partners' names
- Photographs, especially ones that are date and timestamped through social media sites
- If travelling abroad, using the "check-in" feature when arriving in your partners country and any places you visit
Any documents kept should be originals and should not have been amended or tampered in any way.
When is the right time to start any immigration process? The question depends on the couple and how they feel about one another. Many long-term relationships were formed after knowing one another for only a few weeks, so there is no formula on when is right, ultimately it comes down to when both partners feel it is the right time for them. The reality is though, the longer you are together, physically and in person, the easier it will become in any of the options outlined in the previous sections. That said, many of the processes can be started early into the relationship; however, it may end up requiring waiting periods or temporary statuses until the required time has been achieved. If the relationship has only ever been a virtual one, then the first step should be to meet each other before anything else. No matter how a person feels or loves their partner, most countries will expect that you have met each other physically beforehand. Though cross-border relationships can create problems, ones that you will likely have never faced before, they can also be amazing, and the benefits will outweigh any of the issues faced. Meeting someone with whom you love and with who you can imagine growing old with is special, so where they come from should be one of the last things you should worry or think about when making any decisions.
Love is love, and even though falling in love with someone from a different country you can be challenging; most likely any obstacles you face will only strengthen the relationship and commitment you make to one another. With planning, research, and a shared commitment to one another, especially to see the process through to the end will result in a positive outcome; however, it will rarely be a quick and easy process.
It may seem daunting, but the first question anyone should ask themselves before considering any of the immigration routes, is, am I able to imagine a world without this person in my life? If the answer is no, then you know you can overcome any obstacles you face. Whatever decisions you take, or process you undertake, I wish you the best of luck and hope to one day learn that you and your partner are living in the same country, happy and healthy.