Amos Lim

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More Than 2,000 Days Trying to “Figure This Out” – Eric and Jon’s Story

By: Amos Lim Wednesday March 6, 2013 9:29 am
On June 29, 2006 I boarded a flight to New York’s LaGuardia Airport that would completely change my life. It was not my first trip to New York, but it was my first solotrip. I thought that I may be a little crazy for arranging this trip, but I’m a scientist and a bit of a planner. There is always a Plan B and I will always find a solution.

A few months earlier, several months into my Match.com membership, I had entered a friend’s New York zip code in the search window. One of the very first profiles caught my attention—Asian guy, blue eyes. I have always been drawn to those things that are out of the ordinary. I quickly sent a message, probably something about they eyes, but I don’t really remember.

Later that day, much to my surprise, the blue-eyed Asian boy had replied to my message. We struck up a correspondence that soon moved to video chat – where I learned that the blue-eyed Asian boy looked EXACTLY like his profile!Well, except the eyes…it never occurred to me that people wear colored contacts, but it did not matter.We were finally talking, not just typing, and our first video chat lasted several hours.

Valentine’s Day 2013 marked more than 2,000 days since Jay’s work visa expired and he had to leave the US.

Over the next few months our friendship grew and we began planning a visit. Being a teacher, I had two months vacation, but Jon had just two weeks. We decided to spend a week together in New York at his apartment and I made the flight to LaGuardia. We had agreed to meet at his job, my Plan B being I would go stay with friends if our first meeting in person turned out not to be all that I had anticipated from the months getting to know each other online.

Standing on the sidewalk, in front of Jon’s office building, I nervously dialed his number.I saw a familiar face approach the revolving door, he walked down the steps, gave a big hug, and we had our first kiss. Everything was strangely familiar — we knew a lot about one another from our daily conversations, but had never so much as touched. Nonetheless, I felt as if I had come home after a long trip — my heart felt a great sense of comfort.

The week went by quickly and comfort grew into anxiety as the 4th of July approached—I was going home the following morning. I often wondered how I would know when I fell in love. Although there are many people that I love and care about, what I experienced with Jon was different. Being with him was home. I had found my life partner, and there is no other way to explain it, I simply knew it.

Throwing all caution to the wind, I confessed to Jon that “. . .this may sound completely ridiculous, but I’m falling in love with you.”Thankfully, he did not run! We have been together ever since.

Over the next year and a half we scheduled trips between our respective cities every three weeks.Our daily video sessions grew to include watching TV together, just like my parents have done for the last 40 years. The only difference was that our recliners were in different cities.

One year later, the day before my birthday, I had boarded my flight back to Miami when my phone rang. It was Jon and he was devastated. “I just received a letter and it says that my work visa was not renewed. I have 30 days leave.”

My heart literally sunk.

I quickly shifted into survival mode, calmly responding that we would “figure this out.” That flight to Miami turned out to be infinitely longer than any of my 24+ hour flights to Asia would be over the next several years.

Valentine’s Day 2013 marked the 2033rdday that we have spent trying to “figure this out.” The only thing that stands in our way is a law that does not consider our seven-year commitment equal to my sister’s two- year marriage to her husband.

We are thankful and very fortunate to have two loving and fully supportive families. We have three nephews and a niece that do not know of time when Jon and I were not together. They know that Uncle Eric and Uncle Jon love them and spoil them every chance they get. Our relationship is not odd or unusual to them. What is odd is that we cannot live together—try explaining that to an eight year old! They know that I will be in Asia during the summers and oftentimes we will miss holidays and birthdays while we travel to be with one another.

Well-meaning friends often ask “Why don’t you get married in [New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, Vermont, Washington or Washington DC]?” Few realize that marriage in those states will only resolve a few state issues. Unfortunately, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) exclusively withholds 1,138 federal rights from same-sex couples, including immigration.

We are hopeful that comprehensive immigration reform will include binational LGBT families. Including the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) would simply acknowledge us as a family and provide the means for us to finally live together. The alternative is to live in exile and leave my family, friends, career, and life that I have built over the last 39 years behind.

We ask all our friends, family, colleagues and allies to help us and other same-sex binational couples. Call the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121, ask to speak with your senators/representative, and encourage them to include the UAFA as part of comprehensive immigration reform. If it is easier, you can email your senators at http://www.senate.gov and representatives at http://www.house.gov.

Forward this story and the others on the Out4Immigrationblog to your network and ask that they do the same.  

Are you a same-sex binational couple? Do you have families / friends affected by this issue? Please contact us at http://bit.ly/O4ICountMeIn if you are interested in sharing your story.

Doctors with Borders – Amanda & Pallavi

By: Amos Lim Tuesday March 5, 2013 9:00 am

Pallavi and I met in 1999 when we were students at Whittier College in Whittier, CA. Pallavi was on a student visa. She was a nerdy international student and I was a jock-ish college athlete. We may never have met at a larger school so perhaps our union was destined (cue Pallavi rolling her eyes at me). We were friends at first and kept in touch over the years.

After graduating in 2000, I pursed a naturopathic doctorate degree in Portland, OR. In 2005, I graduated from medical school and shortly thereafter took a research position in the psychology department at the University of Denver (DU), where (coincidentally) Pallavi was earning her Ph.D. in clinical psychology. We became a couple in March 2006 and were married in August 2012 in San Diego, joined by 60 of our closest friends and family.

Pallavi and Amanda are same-sex binational couple forced to make the heart-wrenching decision to live apart due to DOMA and unjust immigration laws.

We legalized our marriage in November 2012 in Vermont.

For the past six years, we have lived together in Colorado, and although Colorado does not recognize our relationship in any way, we have been lucky enough to be spared many of the trials faced by same-sex binational couples. Pallavi has stable employment as a researcher at a Denver-based non-profit institute and her employer has filed for a permanent residency application on her behalf. However, despite living in the U.S. since she was 18 years old, and earning her bachelor’s degree and Ph.D. in the U.S., Pallavi’s permanent residency application will not be processed and approved for another 7 years. Employment-based permanent residency applications are subject to per-country quotas and the backlog for India will take nearly a decade longer to be processed.

This year I was offered a post-doctoral research fellowship at NYU Langone Medical Center. Due to the fact that our marriage is not recognized by the federal government Pallavi’s status in the U.S. is solely dependent on her current employer. Thus, we are preparing to move apart from one another for an indefinite length of time so that I can pursue the very best option for my career and so that she remains “in status” in the U.S.

If we could file a permanent residency application through marriage, Pallavi would have permanent residency in the U.S. in a matter of months and could more easily switch to an employer in New York City. Yielding to the current laws of this country is threatening our marriage by forcing us to sustain a long-distance relationship living 1,700 miles apart.

I look around at our heterosexual couple friends (some of whom are binational as well) who must make difficult decisions about work and careers and none of them are forced to experience the indignity of separating from spouses because their country doesn’t deem their lives and loved ones to be valid.

I am American. My life’s work (and that of my wife’s) is devoted to improving the lives of other Americans. If being a good citizen means we take care of ourselves, each other, and our communities, then we are good citizens and we belong here together.

Please help ensure that comprehensive immigration reform includes LGBT families – like ours – as proposed by President Obama.

Are you a same-sex binational couple?  Do you have families / friends affected by this issue?  Please contact us at http://bit.ly/O4ICountMeIn if you are interested in sharing your story.

Holding Hands and Praying for Change

By: Amos Lim Saturday March 2, 2013 9:00 am

Richard and I met in February 2002 in Calgary Canada. I am Canadian and Richard is American.

Initially, Richard was going to move to Canada to be with me, Canada has same-sex marriage and gay couples have all the same rights as straight couples. But Richard wanted to keep his job in the U.S., so he was “commuting” between the U.S. and Canada. This became very stressful, especially in the winter, when flights to and from Canada are often canceled die to the weather.

In 2005, I found a job in Sacramento, California. I was under the TN visa (North America Free Trade Agreement). While I worked for this company for 7 years, the company had no intention of sponsoring me for a green card. While I was able to travel in and out of the U.S. on the TN visa, immigration officials often informed me that I should get permanent resident status because they told me that the TN visa could be “dismissed” at any time.

“I don’t think the U.S. government and its current immigration system even understand how forcing us to separate at a time like this is
damaging our lives.”

During this time we tried to live our lives as normally as possible, Richard retired from his job and we bought a house. I kept looking for employment that would lead to a green card and in 2012 I thought I had found this. I started a new job in Southern California working on a project that seemed to have a lot of potential. We put our house up for sale and planned to move to Los Angeles. But – after 5 months, the project ended – and I was without a job and the promise of a green card.


I have now been told that I must leave the US in 30 days, if not I will become undocumented.

My plan is to return to Canada, re-establish my residency and then come back to the U.S. as a visitor in order to complete the sale of our home.

Meanwhile we are living off Richard’s retirement income.

It is a very difficult time for us right now. I don’t think the U.S. government and its current immigration system even understand how forcing us to separate at a time like this is damaging our lives. We have been together for 11 years, overcoming many obstacles, but this is by far the most difficult.

We are holding hands and praying for change – the inclusion of same-sex binationals in immigration reform – which would allow Richard to sponsor me as his partner and keep us together in America.

Are you a same-sex binational couple?  Do you have families / friends affected by this issue?  Please contact us at http://bit.ly/O4ICountMeIn if you are interested in sharing your story.

The Happy Ending Has Yet to Be Written

By: Amos Lim Friday March 1, 2013 9:00 am

Helen and I met through a fan-based message board for a British television show. At the time I was living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Helen was in Perth, Western Australia, neither of us knowing that the other existed. Through the message board, Helen and I started e-mailing. At first our e-mail conversations were very polite with the usual “What’s your favorite movie?” and “What do you do for a living?” but then it quickly grew into so much more.

Helen and partner

"The stress of having Helen on a work visa here in the States is constant."

After a few weeks of e-mails Helen gathered up the courage to call me (her words, not mine) and from the first “hello” our lives were forever changed. After months of long-distance telephone calls we finally planned to meet in Sydney, Australia.

Our meeting in Sydney was the most amazing experience, it was exciting and comfortable, it was like we had known each other for years, yet there was still that feeling of meeting someone new. After our time together in Sydney Helen came to the U.S. for two weeks and after that visit knew her life was here with me in America. Although it would be hard for her to leave Australia, she flew back and made the arrangements to move to the US.

At that time we had no idea how hard it was going to be getting employment, arranging visas, selling Helen’s home and so forth.

It took us 12 months, a lot of money and a lot of stress to finally get it all sorted. The only thing that kept us both going was the fact that we were in love and that we had each other.

Nothing else mattered.

Helen and I married in a Civil Partnership ceremony in London, England on August 8, 2008. The reasons for choosing London were because of our connection to the British television show that brought us together and also because Civil Partnerships are legal in England and we wanted to be recognized as a married couple. This day was the best day of our lives and every day since has been even more amazing – although we were about to discover how hard it is for a same-sex binational couplet o stay together in America.

Helen had to find a company that would sponsor her so she could stay in the U.S. on a work visa. We investigated student visas, but although my income may have been enough to sustain us, it was not enough to sustain us both and pay for her schooling.

Australia has an E-3 visa, the first visa is good for 3 years, but then you need to have it renewed every two years.

Helen was able to obtain employment from a company willing to go through all the paperwork and expense involved in sponsoring an employee. Her first 3-year visa was approved without any problems, but 3 years goes by quickly and before we knew it, it was renewal time.

An Experiment in International Living

By: Amos Lim Friday February 22, 2013 8:44 am

crossposted at Out4Immigration’s Blog

July 1987, an “Experiment in International Living,” that’s what they called the homestay trip that I took as a 16-year-old girl from the United States. I stayed with my Irish host family who immediately paired me with their 16-year-old niece, Karen. We became fast friends and found it impossible to say goodbye after my three short weeks in Ireland.

Karen and Joy when they first met, as students in Ireland in 1987. Years later they met again and have endured years of complicated visa restrictions to stay together in America.

However, life moves forward and time passes. We kept in touch through snail mail for years, finally reconnecting in person in 2001 when I returned to Ireland for a brief vacation. Karen soon followed me to the U.S. for her own holiday that same year, just after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Learning through that horrible event that life can be short, I returned to Ireland for another visit in February 2002 to explore exactly what this relationship was all about. Two full weeks of inseparable bliss; by the time my flight home landed for the layover from Dublin to Shannon I had decided I couldn’t live without her. I moved to Ireland to be with Karen in July 2002.

For a year I tried unsuccessfully to get a job in Ireland, while Karen had been laid off for months. With money running short and a job offer waiting for me in the States we decided to give it a go back in my home country. In September 2003 Karen moved to the U.S. to be with me. Yay! Or so we thought.

Successful U.S. Businesswoman Forced to Commute to Los Angeles While Family Lives in Exile

By: Amos Lim Thursday February 21, 2013 5:59 pm

crossposted from Out4Immigration’s Blog

American Rita Boyadjian and her German life partner, Mara, met in Cologne, Germany at a European Gay Pride celebration in 2002 while Rita was touring Europe on vacation. They fell madly in love and began a long-distance relationship. After 18-months of flying back and forth every 3 to 4 weeks while visiting on a tourist visa, Mara was able to obtain a student F-1 visa that allowed her to live legally in the U.S. for a four-year Bachelor’s degree program in Los Angeles.

From 2004 to 2008, Mara lived in the U.S. on her student visa. During that time, Rita and Mara bought a five-bedroom home to start their family and had a baby girl. Rita’s entertainment marketing business was thriving, and she created jobs for 20 Californians. The federal government and the state of California also enjoyed Rita’s business success, as Rita paid well over $1M a year in income tax; $250,000 in payroll taxes; $25,000 in City of Los Angeles taxes; and $30,000 in property tax each year.

But the American Dream was about to allude Rita and Mara. Mara’s student visa expired in August 2009, which was also the due date month for their second child. The couple was forced to interrupt the wonderful life they created in Los Angeles, and move to Germany in summer 2009 since the U.S. does not extend immigration rights to American citizens and with same-sex, non-U.S. citizen partners.

Mara (left) and Rita (right) now live in Germany. Rita's Los Angeles-based business created more than 20 jobs for Americans, yet she has been forced into exile to keep her family together.

While Mara tried to pursue another student visa and a work visa, it was simply too difficult to raise a small child and be in the middle of a second pregnancy while going back to school or working full-time.

“I guess you can describe us as a non-traditional family with very traditional family values,” says Rita. “When we decided to have children together, we were committed to raising our children ourselves and not raising them with nannies or putting them in a daycare every day. We did not want other people raising our children so Mara could go to school or work full-time in order to fulfill visa requirements to remain in the U.S. I was earning enough money so that Mara could stay home with our children.”

Rita, who was born and raised in Los Angeles, had no other choice but to sell her L.A. home at a $250K loss and leave her thriving L.A.-based entertainment marketing business, her entire family who all live in Southern California, and three decades of friendships, in order to keep her family together in Germany, because Germany provides immigration rights for same-sex couples. Rita and Mara got married in Germany, and Rita was able to obtain a resident visa to live legally in Germany.

It is now 2013. Rita and Mara live near the city of Cologne, Germany and have three children. They have lived in exile since Mara’s student visa expired.

Kathy And Ana: Four Weddings on Two Continents, But Still No Recognition by U.S. Government

By: Amos Lim Thursday February 7, 2013 2:35 pm

Ana and I “met” in 2008 while we were both participating in an online book club. Although Ana is a Portuguese national, she currently resides in the United Kingdom. We quickly became friends in the book club and in November of that year, I was fortunate enough to have a business meeting scheduled in London. It was during that trip that Ana and I met face to face for the first time. Although we considered ourselves to be “just friends” for approximately a year after that first meeting, we never went more than two or three days without corresponding with each other. At first it was only by email, but we were soon spending hours on the phone together learning more and more about each other. We quickly realized that our “friendship” was taking a turn and knew we had to meet again. This time it was in New York, where I live. It was clear to both of us that we were falling in love.

In early 2010, Ana flew over and we spent four beautiful days together. It was then that we just knew we were meant to be together forever.

A romantic moment between the couple
Two years after we first met in the book club, on May 6, 2011, Ana and I celebrated our love for each other in front of more than 100 friends and family with a formal commitment ceremony on Long Island, New York. Then in July 2011, we entered into a legal civil partnership in the United Kingdom, celebrating with Ana’s family, who had flown in from Portugal to be with us on that special day.

When New York’s legislators passed the marriage equality bill in June that year we knew we wanted very much to be married so in August we exchanged wedding vows and became legally married! Finally, in November, I went to the Portuguese consulate in New York City to have our marriage officially recognized in Portugal, one of the 15 countries worldwide with equal marriage laws.

In some sense you might say we have now “married” each other four times and our MARRIAGE is now recognized on two continents. Without question, we have the love and support of our friends and family but not the U.S. government.

Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) for Same-Sex Binationals Introduced in Congress

By: Amos Lim Wednesday February 6, 2013 12:00 pm

Bill with Bipartisan Support Would Give Gay and Lesbian Americans with Foreign Spouses Equal Immigration Rights

Media Contact: Amos Lim, Out4Immigration, 415-742-1626, amos@out4immigration.org

SAN FRANCISCO – FEBRUARY 5, 2013 – The Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), legislation that would provide gay and lesbian Americans with foreign partners equal immigration rights, was introduced today in the 113th Congress by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY).

This is the seventh consecutive Congress in which Nadler has introduced this legislation, which typically garners support from Democrats, but never enough for the bill to come up for a vote. This time, however, the bill has two Republican cosponsors, and comes at a critical juncture with comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) on the table.

“Thousands of committed same-sex couples are needlessly suffering because of unequal treatment under our immigration laws,” said Nadler, a long-time champion of same-sex binational couples and their families. While many of these couples are legally married or partnered, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) bars them from receiving federal rights, such as the ability of an American citizen to sponsor a foreign spouse for a green card.

Nadler called this current state of excluding one class of people from equal treatment under the law “an outrage”. While the constitutionality of DOMA is currently in front of the Supreme Court, UAFA could neatly fit into immigration reform overhaul and solve a problem that affects about 40,000 couples – some of whom have been forced to leave the country or overstay a visa in order to avoid being forcibly separated by the U.S. government.

Inclusion in CIR, however, is not without controversy. While President Obama has said that same-sex binational couples fall under the category of family in his immigration reform proposal, current Senate framework omits same-sex binational couples. A Senate hearing on the matter is scheduled for February 13.

Some Republicans have clearly voiced opposition. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), a member of the so-called “Gang of 8” senators working on CIR legislation, called including same-sex binationals a “social issue” that should not be part of the discussion. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) stated that he would not tolerate Republicans looking for excuses like McCain’s to avoid supporting this legislation.

Reintroducing UAFA with bipartisan support bodes well for the House to support an inclusive CIR bill.

Said Nadler, “Any serious legislative proposal for comprehensive immigration reform absolutely must include gay and lesbian couples and their families.”

Out4Immigration, an all-volunteer grassroots group that works with same-sex binational couples and their families to empower those affected by immigration discrimination to speak out, applauded today’s reintroduction of UAFA, its bipartisan support and the commitment of Rep. Nadler to see this bill become law.

“We hear every day from couples whose lives are torn apart because the federal government refuses to recognize their marriage or permanent partnership,” said Amos Lim, Community Outreach Director for Out4Immigration. “Immigration reform cannot be considered ‘comprehensive’ unless all families are included. All families means just that all families – including those that are LGBT.”

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For more information:


Out4Immigration: http://www.out4immigration.org
Uniting American Families Act, LGBT Immigration Reform, Maintains Bipartisan Support in House: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/05/lgbt-immigration-reform_n_2623557.html
Reid Blasts GOP for Blaming Gays on Immigration Bill Resistance: http://www.advocate.com/politics/2013/02/03/watch-reid-blast-gop-blaming-gays-immigration-bill-resistance
Out4Immigration blog (featuring stories of same-sex binationals): http://out4immigration.blogspot.com/
United by Love, Divided by Law (visual protest by same-sex binational couples separated by U.S. immigration laws): http://unitedbylovedividedbylaw.tumblr.com
Count Me In / Same-Sex Binationals Share Their Stories: http://bit.ly/O4ICountMeIn

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Out4Immigration is a national grassroots organization dedicated to raising awareness about the discrimination same-sex binational couples face under current U.S. immigration law and the difficulties they encounter in keeping their families together legally in this country. For more information, visit www.out4immigration.org.