I log into the immigration New Zealand website for probably the 15th time this week. I check the status of my work visa application lodged on the 15th of February. Alas, the words PENDING on my page burn into my brain as I glance at the calendar and see that I have roughly 3 weeks left until my existing working holiday visa runs out. A nervous feeling returns in my chest that I have not felt in quite some time. I sense an uneasiness flow through my veins that extend to the ends of my extremities. I take a glance out the window onto the lake and the mountains, wondering how many days left I have to enjoy this view that I admit I have begun to take for granted.
Interestingly enough this is how I felt about this time last year. Because I had applied for my working holiday visa from within New Zealand as a tourist, I had to wait some time before my visa was approved. I remember checking my email and the immigration website constantly and eventually calling daily to see when I would know. Back then it was annoying but I took it all well. Back then I had nothing to lose. Now I do.
His name is Steve. I met him at work. We knew from the beginning that things would be different for us. I moved in with him a week after I started seeing him and we have been together since, 11 months later. The complicated part is that Steve is from England, I am from America, and we live in New Zealand. Our time together hangs on the validity of our visas and how long New Zealand decides they will allow us to stay in its beautiful country.
Steve’s work visa was approved almost instantaneously last month, being that it was a simple renewal of the existing sponsorship that he already had. Mine was more complicated. Boldly I applied for a partnership visa this time instead of having my work place sponsor me. I did this because I heard the partnership visa was relatively easy to get and I didn’t want to restrict myself to working at the same place for the following year. We felt so confident when I first applied for the visa, only to have our hopes crushed 3 days later with a memo from immigration indicating we did not have enough proof that we were in a relationship. We furiously gathered all that we could think of, creating a chronology of our relationship with photographs, submitting receipts of gifts we had given each other, copies of emails and face book conversations, and presenting copies of our bank statements over the last few months indicating that we had gone on a holiday together. We even supplied cards written to each other and from family and friends to both of us. This was in addition to the original evidence we supplied of our names on the same lease and bank account and a letter from a coworker attesting to our relationship. I knew that we were together and serious but I was at a loss of how I could show others. I realized how important it is for us to keep everything sentimental between us, given the situation that we were in. This was also a lesson for the next time that we will have to go through this again. I submitted the over-stuffed file to immigration as further evidence, and now we sit and patiently wait.
Having a partner from another country can be very exciting and rewarding. You get to learn about each other’s backgrounds and struggle over understanding what the other person is saying sometimes. You have the opportunity to visit family from different parts of the world. The accent is a turn on. But being with someone from another country can be quite frustrating as well, especially if you are not married and living in a third country that neither of you can claim home. Steve and I love each other, and we have talked about long term plans together. But we aren’t going to get married for the sake of a visa either. Our options are quite limited. As an American and not a recent graduate I can only get a working holiday visa in Australia or New Zealand. I have exhausted both of these visas. English people cannot get working holiday visas in America unless they are recent university graduates. You can get a partnership visa in England after living together for 2 years. You can get a partnership visa in America after living together for 7 years. Hmmm. Guess we need to try our best to stay in New Zealand then.
I am often jealous of couples of the same country that are living here temporarily in Queenstown. They often will decide to go traveling for a few months, and then get settled at home. Steve and I are ready to do this but unfortunately our home countries won’t let us be together. We have had extensive talks about how the one person could work at home while the other depended on them and tried to see if they could find a job that would lead to a visa. We talked about being separate for awhile to figure out what we wanted to do next. We entertained volunteering/teaching abroad to keep us together but in another country longer. The happiest option we could think of would be to stay in New Zealand for at least another year as we prepare for what we will do next.
If this partnership visa does not go through for me I will try to get one through sponsorship at work. But time will be limited at that point and it makes me worried. A part of me is kicking myself in the ass for not doing this in the first place but I didn’t realize things were going to turn out this way. A year and a half ago I was nervous but excited about packing up, leaving everything behind and going to see the world. Now I have my reservations as I don’t want to leave the most important person in my life.
If this visa does get approved I will appreciate my time I have with him here. I will make sure to keep all future evidence that we are together. I will do more things like put him as an owner on my car, put us both on an insurance plan, and anything else I can think of so that we leave a paper trail that we are together. I know that this puts off the inevitable of we where we will go once this visa runs out, but at least it gets us time.
I know that there are other people in the same boat as us. I know that they will understand. Regardless, I know that I am not meant to live a traditional life, not yet. Even if that means having to go to the ends of the world to find a place to be with the love of my life. To do things I never thought I would have to do.
I really hope the next time I check with the immigration visa website it will say APPROVED next to my visa application. I have learned my lesson.