So you know that trip to Patagonia? The one I’ve been super-excited about for
ages? The one which begins this coming Wednesday? Well, it’s off.
I’m not leaving the country, because I’m married to a US citizen. If I wasn’t
married to a US citizen, my plan would probably work fine: pop into the US embassy
in Lima on the way back from Patagonia, pick up a new I visa, and come back
to New York. But an I visa is a non-immigrant visa, and if you’ve been living
in the US for many years and are married to an American who lives in the USA,
you don’t look much like a non-immigrant any more.
It’s a bit counterintuitive, but it’s actually much, much easier to enter the
US if you’re not married to an American than if you are. Most people,
especially from countries that are part of the visa waiver scheme, can come
in as a tourist, or on one of any number of visas. If you get married to an
American, however, you basically have to go through the laborious green card
The one real weirdness I’ve discovered: the famous H1-B visa (I had two, in
my time) is a "dual intent" visa. That means, according to the wonderful
definition at this
website, that the holder can have "the intent to immigrate and nonimmigrant
intent". Most other visas, however, including my I visa, don’t allow such
a useful impossibility. I’d love to know the historical reason for this special
dispensation for holders of H1-B and L visas.