We had always planned to be apart for one month.
Pete’s H1B visa allowing him to work in the U.S. expired on October 1st, 2017. Passing on the option to extend it when we decided to move to New Zealand, Pete booked his flight home for September 28th.
I would stay behind for a few extra weeks in October to tie up some loose ends. When I submitted my visa paperwork in June, applications were taking up to 4 months to process. Based on that timeline, my visa would come through by early October so I booked my flight for October 28th.
When I called the the immigration support line in July, I found out that applications were now taking 4-9 months. I could be stuck in the States until May!
Pro Tip: If you book on United Airlines using miles it costs $175 to change your reservation within a month of your flight. Mention a visa related issue and they may waive this fee.
The hardest part of saying goodbye to Pete was the uncertainty. I don’t know when I will see him again. Without my visa in hand, I can’t get on a plane. New Zealand Immigration won’t allow you to enter as a tourist and then transition to permanent residency while in the country. Basically, to come as a tourist would nullify my visa application. I will have to wait in the United States until I am granted NZ residency.
We spent the day he left doing some of our favorite things in the Bay Area; bouldering in Dogpatch, eating at some of our old spots, and taking every opportunity to be close to each other.
Pro Tip: If you’re going through something similar, stay busy. I can’t imagine how much worse that day would have been if we had stayed home feeling sad for ourselves.
At the airport we continued our longstanding tradition of dinner in the International Terminal. This time felt different than all the others. A weight hung over us and we both tried not to think about the ticking clock. We wanted more time together but not being sure when to say the final goodbye was torture. Eventually Pete realized he’d have to be the one to call it, and said it was time for him to go through security. I’ve never hugged him harder.
Over the next month Pete will be busy settling in. He will buy a car, find us a house to rent in Christchurch, and scope out the wedding venue we’ve been eyeing. I’m sad to not be there with him, but I’m so grateful for iMessage and Facetime so we can still talk all the time .
I recently found out that my case manager has completed her review of my application. It has been handed over to someone else for an audit and I’m hopeful that it may come through in time.