We’ve seen how American immigration laws have broken apart families, such as when some arrive illegally and have children in the U.S., and then the parent is deported back to his or her country. For authorized immigrants, though, there’s another legal hurdle that often causes heartache: obtaining a visa to visit the U.S. for weddings, the birth of a child, or other special occasions, which is often a very difficult process.
This week, Fran Romano went to Florida NBC affiliate WFLA with the story of how her future daughter-in-law’s parents, who live in China, have just been denied visas to attend the wedding from the U.S. State Department.
“She wants to dance with her father. She wants to dance … because I’m going to be dancing with my son, and she wants to dance with her father,” Romano told WFLA of future daughter-in-law Yili Lin. But as of right now, they can’t, because the U.S. State department decided that there was not sufficient evidence that they would return home after their 30-day visitors’ visa expires.
“Of course, they’re going to return,” Romano argued. “They have their parents that they take care of. They need to get back to China. They would be coming here for their daughter’s wedding.”
Sadly, this is a common occurrence for family members of immigrants who hail from certain countries. While the citizens of some countries, such as France or the U.K., don’t even need a visa to come to their children’s weddings in the United States, others need to apply for a visa.
“There’s a presumption by law that anyone applying for a visa needs to show that they’re not immigrating, and in very poor countries it’s harder for anyone to overcome that, especially if an American son or daughter can sponsor their parent for a green card,” Anastasia Tonello, president-elect of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
To get one of these visas, would-be visitors have to show that they have a life anchoring them to their home country — other children and grandchildren, a good job, a spouse with a good job. If they have children and grandchildren in the U.S., or a marketable skill that would get them hired easily in this country, that might make it seem as if they’re more likely to try to stay here instead.
Tonello has seen a lot of visas denied to families from India. “Their son is marrying an American; mom can’t come. They’re having a baby; mom can’t come see the baby,” she says.
This was a problem even before Donald Trump came into office, Tonello points out, but it might be getting even more difficult under the current administration’s immigration policies.
“We have the month-to-month visa issuances from the Department of State, and if you compare this year to previous years, visa issuances are down,” she says. “We could speculate that fewer people are applying, but I know denials are up.”
The frustrating thing is that these would-be visitors can’t do much to help their cases, because the denials are based on fundamental facts of who they are and where they’re from.
While Romano said her son and his fiancée have taken their story to U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., for help, Tonello said that doesn’t usually get a denial reversed. “If a senator or representative makes an inquiry on a case, [the State Department] has to at a minimum tell them what section of law the person was denied under,” she says. “In most cases it’s denial overcoming immigrant intent. The only way senators can help is if there was a mistake.”
A glimmer of hope for the family members abroad is that their circumstances might change — if they have a daughter back home who gets married and has a child, for instance.
Tonello says that if Yili Lin’s parents don’t make it to the wedding, she may have another option to have them visit later if she becomes an American citizen.
“[Children] end up having to sponsor their parents for green cards only because that’s the only way they can get their parents to come,” Tonello explains. “They can’t get visitors’ visas, so they go through the green card process.” Ironically, that’s what this whole process was meant to avoid in the first place.
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