My husband and I had been in a long-distance relationship for the first 2 years we were together. And by long distance, I don’t mean New York- Atlanta.
I mean: New York- Israel.
I was bouncing back and forth between the two countries, but at a certain point, I needed to finish up my college degree. We both decided that he would come to New York and move in with my parents and I.
Great idea- huh?
The stories I can tell you about that.
alas, that is another post for another time!
So he purchased a cheap ticket to NY with a one week return date. We did this because we knew he was going to stay in New York for longer than that (but the price was dramatically diff than if he would have purchased a month long ticket).
Anyway, I asked him to bring a long some things for me in his suitcase, that I had left behind in Israel.. you know, like my cake pan.
I was sitting in the airport waiting for him to walk through the gate… and he didn’t.
Everyone else on his flight walked right past me.
I started to panic.
What I did not know was that he was being interrogated by Security. It seemed fishy to them that he had purchased a ticket for 7 days- and he was requesting a visa for 6 months.
That, and the fact that they took a part his suitcase and found the cake pan.
The looked at him and said ” So, you are coming to America to bake cakes?”
He was detained with a very outright looking religious Muslim man. The Muslim man was sporting a long beard, and long white dress and hat. My husband wondered why they let that guy go, while he was still locked in a room.
Granted, this was a little less than 3 years after Sept 11th- and my husband is Middle-Eastern, but we are Israeli/ Jewish.. not exactly terrorist material.
They finally did let him go- about 2 hours later.
They stamped his visa for 6 months.
2 Months into his stay, we had a very romantic conversation:
Me: “So, what are we going to do when your visa expires?”
Him: “I don’t know.”
Me: “Well, do you think that we are headed for marriage eventually?”
Him: “I suppose”
Me: “Do you think we should go to City Hall and get married-you know, so that you wont be deported?”
Him: “I guess”
And so, this is how we came to be engaged.
We got married on September 13th at City Hall.
My dad was our witness.
That week (BY CHANCE) we stumbled across an ad in our local Israeli paper by a lawyer that promised that whoever was married to an American before September 20th, could apply for a quick green card.
Usually, people wait for Green cards for YEARS.
This ad promised you could have it within 3 months.
But were we to trust this “lawyer”?
We drove to downtown Brooklyn, and walked into a shady building with no elevator. When we go to the suite number, there was a hole where a doorbell should have been… but no doorbell.
We knocked on the door and walked in.
It was messy, paperwork all around.
It was so bootleg we wanted to turn around and walk away.
We were greeted by a husband and wife team- the wife being the lawyer. They were religious Jews, which made me breathe a sigh of relief. They wouldn’t pull one over on us, I thought.
Lena (the lawyer) promised that if we filled out all the paperwork, and paid her $1,500 ($500 on the spot) my husband would have his green card by January.
Just like her ad said.
We stepped outside to discuss .
What if she was pulling a fast one on us? What if she would take the money and run? Mind you… this was the only money we had.
We decided that for $1,500 it was a chance we were willing to take.
Plus- she was a new mother with a little baby in her office.
She couldn’t be the root of all evil.
Lena told us to bring pictures of us together, to show the immigration officers- which we had.
She also asked for engagement pictures and wedding pictures.
That’s where it got complicated.
We weren’t “actually” married. I mean, yes- legally we were. But we didn’t have a big white wedding. It wasn’t officiated by a Rabbi. No one really even knew we were married.
So where would we get these pictures?
We thought fast.
The first set of pictures was some we took at a Turkish Restaurant.
My parents and cousin Betty were there.
Lena was not happy.
“Not enough people there. It looks staged”
So off we went to plan an “Engagement Party” or as we called it “Immigration Picture Party”
Every time someone would yell “cheese” we would say “Immigration”
My friend Rebbecca held the party in her apartment, there was food, gifts, and good friends.
Lena still didn’t think it was great, and shrugged her shoulders.
A few days before the party she called us and said “Listen, you need REAL wedding pictures. White dress pictures”
So off we went to our local mall to have a “professional” (scoff) photo shoot at Riva Studios.
I purchased a long white dress, my husband put on a suit and we took a picture up against super fake backgrounds:
Of course, this made me laugh since I knew that my REAL wedding would be nothing like that. You know, not located on the Titanic and all:
The day of our appointment arrived and we walked in, armed with our “Wedding Scrapbook”
We sat in the office, with the interviewer : who turned out to be very nice.
She asked a lot of questions and grilled us about our relationship.
Did we have to bend the truth?
We couldn’t admit to have been dating for 2 years (or knowing one another since we were babies… techinically I could have pulled out a picture of us at the age of 3&5).
That would mean that he came to the US with the intention of staying.
That was a no-no.
That would mean he would have needed to fill out an engagement visa first.
So we stuck to our story and told her that we were family friends, but only fell in love when he arrived in July. That would mean we got married within 2 months of dating.
I suppose some people do that- but we alas, are not Romantic like that (see above: How we became engaged)
The interviewer complimented my mad scrapbooking skills, and stamped his application.
He was now a greencard holder:
3.5 months after we “got married”… JUST LIKE THE AD SAID.
Everyone who heard this said it was unheard of to get a Green card so quickly.
In the end, Lena was NOT a scumbag (even though her office was questionable) and he got to stay.
A year after our September 2004 wedding, we had a HUGE 400 person wedding in Israel. You know, with the white dress, the family, and the drama.
Just what I always dreamed of: