LDR to SDR? Transatlantic edition
January 26, 2015 7:01 PM   Subscribe

So – I met this wonderful person! And we would very much like to NOT be on the other side of the Atlantic from each other one day. Your advice (and even experiences) on how to make that happen would be appreciated.

I’m a UK arts grad, who’s worked various admin assistant-type jobs; she’s a US soon-to-be graduate due to go into publishing, with a track record of work and internships in that field. We met online, talked for about four months non-stop, wound up dating for three, and I spent a very happy long visit with her.So, in the long run, what next? As far as I can tell, the only option to come over to the US for a while would be a student visa. Are there opportunities to do work-study as an international student? How stellar do your marks have to be to get in? And...how *do* you parlay an obscure arts grad degree into work? GF has EU citizenship, but her professional network is back in the US.

And, finally, do you have further advice for us on the LDR to SDR transition? (Anything from timing to decision-making to the emotional side!)
posted by MarianHalcombe to Human Relations (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The other option is a fiancee visa. I've been down that road, and can talk you through that process if you're interested.

Frankly, if she has EU citizenship, that will be one million percent easier on the immigration side. US Immigration is...yeah. Totally suck.

I've been in tons of LDRs, and generally I've found that it's tough no matter what. You don't realise how much is cultural (even between the UK and US...ask me how I know this!!) and what a big divide there can be between how you live and how she lives.

Not to dissuade you...I know it can work out amazingly well, and I have some experience there too. Just know that you really don't know what you're giving up until you're living somewhere where your SO is your entire social network and gateway to the culture. That's a ton of pressure to put on someone, especially so early in the relationship.

Everything changes. That can be really good. And it can be really Not Good. Memail me if you want to talk.
posted by guster4lovers at 7:16 PM on January 26, 2015 [4 favorites]

Hello! I'm a UK citizen who married an American. We went the fiance visa > FLR > ILR > citizenship route (if your relationship blossoms, you will become familiar with these acronyms) with my now-wife moving to the UK to marry me.

You have a huge advantage in your partner's EU citizenship. This means she can get a passport from the EU country where she has citizenship and thereby live and work anywhere in the European Union, including in the UK.

You going the other way will be a lot more difficult and expensive.

I'd suggest checking out UK Yankee, which is a fantastic US expat forum frequented by a lot of people who have been through the same processes as you are considering.

If you're under 30, you may be able to do a working holiday visa, although I know these are a bit harder to come by than they used to be. I also know friends who went over to do post-graduate courses, but this is a) obviously very expensive and b) requires strong qualifications and enough enthusiasm to convince a US institution to admit you. It's a very expensive way to get a few months or a year in the US, basically.

As a UK citizen, you're able to enter the US and stay for up to 90 days without a visa, but you can't exit and come back in to 'reset the clock'. More than a couple of long trips a year will probably start flagging you.

LDRs are really, really hard. But if you can make it through a couple of years of visiting each other and build up evidence of a relationship, you can take the next step towards moving to the US, which might be a post-grad, or a working holiday, or trying to get a job with a US company (all difficult, all expensive).

Or your partner could take six months or a year and come to the UK to see what she thinks of it. With EU citizenship and a budding career in publishing, that would be insanely easier for both of you.

Good luck! I've been with my wife for nearly a decade now, married for nearly eight of those years. It's been a long, complex, expensive, emotionally taxing process but it was totally worth it. MeMail me if you'd like any pointers on UK immigration or citizenship, although it changes all the time and my knowledge of the system is at least four years old now.
posted by Happy Dave at 11:35 PM on January 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

Is there any chance of her finding some kind of transfer across the Atlantic? Any of her publishing contacts that may be able to recommend her to a company in the UK/Europe?

You're options in the US are MUCH more limited than her options in Europe, purely due to visas. If she can find a way to move, it will be a much easier process.

If that's not possible, then you're looking at several 90 day visits and perhaps a working holiday if you can make it work. Do you want to work in a particular field, or are you happy to get any sort of job if it gets you there? Any chance she could find a contact who could sponsor you?

Unless you want to get engaged now (I wouldn't recommend it until you've lived together in a non-temporary situation), you're options are somewhat limited. Could you study some more and do an exchange year? Masters or a PhD?

Really though, I'd work with her to see if there's any way she could try out a move to Europe first.

It's hard, but it's possible.
posted by twirlypen at 12:04 AM on January 27, 2015 [3 favorites]

Any chance of both of you moving to a third country?
posted by Gotanda at 2:48 AM on January 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

As a UK citizen who moved to the US to marry a US citizen I just want to say be careful.
We hadn't known each other long and our only option to be together was to get married. As someone said above, the culture shock is overwhelming and much more shocking than you will realize. I wanted to move to this city my entire life and it was still incredibly hard and depressing for the first 6 months. It didn't help that I knew no one and relied on my husband for his friends, his money before I could work, everything. I didn't know him well enough because we hadn't spent long enough together and we didn't live together until we were married. He was not the person he led me to believe he was. Once I moved here, the pressure to support me was too much and he just withdrew and basically acted as though I weren't there. I spent 2 years trying desperately to make it work but eventually I ran out of steam and my self esteem was destroyed. If I had lived with him for a few months before the marriage and move, I would not have gone through with it. But I couldn't know that. I had to go through the entire thing without my family or support network because my entire life revolved around his and I was over 3000 miles away.
It took 2 years to get over it all and it's still something I occasionally deal with.
Immigration alone was scary, overwhelming, confusing and very expensive. I 100% recommend an immigration lawyer. And mistakes when filing mean the loss of all applications fees. A lawyer and filing cost $3500. The divorce was a horrible process also.

Despite all that, I love my life now. I can't foresee moving back to the UK in the future but who knows. It was the hardest 4 years of my life, and if I were sent back in a time machine, I wouldn't do it again but I also can't regret it now because I love my life.

Just be careful and don't make rash decisions because you're in love. You have no idea what your relationship/life will be like without the actual move. But it's a catch-22.
I could only suggest she move to Europe to allow you both to test things out. That way, you're not married and if things don't work, you can back out without legal ramifications and thousands of dollars lost.

I really wish you the best of luck! Any questions just ask!
posted by shesbenevolent at 8:55 PM on January 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you so much for all these thoughtful responses - it's really helpful to hear from people who've been in the same boat. It sounds like in terms of being able to live together without major financial/legal pressure the UK is the best option to start with, and that was the first option we discussed. It's really good to hear about the longer term options here, and just to feel that there's a set of blueprints and options, and to get to a BE SENSIBLE ITS HARD place rather than worrying its impossible. In terms of longer visits, I am indeed under 30 and will look into a working holiday visa, thank you! The UK was indeed what we originally discussed - it was just that visitong US for the first time made me realise it was an Actual Place and Option, and that I didnt want to be selfidh about this. Being able to do six months/year with both of us employed here would be lovely in terms of learning to work as a team and figuring out what next. (And for me to save up and pull my academic socks up - i have a good ba from a very good uni but my confidence is shot right now, and I am not a career professional work visa style). Oh! And if it makes a difference to any of your answers/the legal stuff, we are both women. Thank you again, seriously.
posted by MarianHalcombe at 10:57 AM on January 28, 2015

MarianHalcombe: "Oh! And if it makes a difference to any of your answers/the legal stuff, we are both women. Thank you again, seriously."

You're very welcome!

This used to make a difference in the UK, as the only method of spousal entry for same-sex couples to the UK was the unmarried partner visa which a) required evidence of two years continuous cohabitation and b) had a higher burden of proof than the fiance visa. I'm not sure if there's an equivalent going to the US (fairly sure there won't be, given the multiple different legal statuses within the US of same-sex partnerships). On a quick Googling, looks like unmarried partner visas don't exist in the US system.

However, as your partner has EU citizenship, you don't need to think about that coming the other way at all, and even if you did you'd just follow the regular ol' marriage process (should you wish to get married).

The gov.uk pages on EU immigration are pretty mealy-mouthed. I don't believe member states are permitted to require any documentation apart from a passport to work in another EU country, but they can make paid additional documentation the smoothest route, which appears to be what they've done with the EEA registration certificate. But unless you are accessing government services, that looks to be pretty optional.

So, if you want to try out a longer period living together, your partner needs to get an EU passport and fly over. They can stay as long as they want and work if they want to. I'd advise a bit of research on getting bank accounts set up etc, but a major pillar of the EU is that it should be no different moving from Hamburg to South London than it would be to move to Berlin - pack your stuff, find a new flat, drive or fly or take the train, arrive and find work.

Good luck again!
posted by Happy Dave at 11:27 PM on January 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

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