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I moved to New York from the UK to marry my partner using a K-1 visa. The process was so difficult that we had to sue the government.

Dan Gooding   

I moved to New York from the UK to marry my partner using a K-1 visa. The process was so difficult that we had to sue the government.
  • Dan Gooding, from the UK, met his partner, an American, on a short vacation.
  • Gooding decided to move to New York, so he married David. They applied for a K-1 visa.

It all started with a Grindr message: "Hey handsome, how's it going?"

I received the message during my two-night stay in Seville, Spain, in November 2018. I had booked my little getaway from my home in the UK. This guy, David from New York, told me he was visiting Spain, too. It was his first time out of the US, and he'd arrived in Seville the day before me.

"Going to explore and try to find cake," I replied. Wild, highly romantic stuff right there.

David suggested getting some dinner and that if it didn't feel right, we could go our separate ways. There was something about him that I couldn't put my finger on. Maybe it was how friendly he seemed, so I said, "Sure. I'll pick a place."

We sat down at a corner table in a quaint backstreet restaurant. I distinctly remember the blue floral tiles on the wall, the view out to the street, and the raw beef I somehow convinced myself I would like and absolutely did not.

David translated the Spanish menu for me, and from there, the conversation just flowed. There was never a moment of, "Maybe this isn't the best idea." Instead, we wandered the city afterward, grabbed a drink, and just talked and talked. We spent the entire next day together, too. That second evening ended with us promising to visit each other in England and in New York.

That Grindr message led me to my husband — and a journey through an arduous immigration system that seemed determined to keep us apart.

Those 24 hours in Seville became so much more

I remember walking back to my hotel thinking if that was it, then it was a truly incredible 24 hours that I'd always treasure. David, meanwhile, had already messaged friends to say that he'd just met his future husband. We spent the next few months chatting nearly every day. Despite that and the time we'd shared, there was part of me that didn't believe this could be anything official or big.

We did fulfill our promise to each other, though. David flew to visit me in the UK from New York, and I realized then that this was more than a friendship; this really was something special.

We visited each other pretty much every six weeks in 2019, crisscrossing the Atlantic. I fell in love with him and New York City. My friends asked when I would be moving, and initially, I brushed it off. How could I leave my job, my friends, my family, and my home for a guy?

The goodbyes got tougher, though, and we knew we had to make a decision.

In February 2020, we went to see an immigration lawyer in NYC

We went to an immigration lawyer. My main option was a work-based visa. It would cost us well over $5,000, with no guarantee it would work. The other option was to get married. My gut reaction was that it seemed wild, but it quickly dawned on me that this was the best route. I mean, David had already predicted this would happen.

We submitted our K-1 visa application the day before the city's COVID-19 lockdown hit. We couldn't have picked a worse time to do this. A combination of travel bans, immigration-service cutbacks, and the Trump administration's policies ensured that nothing happened for months. We were dealing with not only a pandemic but also the uncertainty of when our lives could move forward.

We sued the US government

In late 2020, another couple in a similar position started a class-action lawsuit, suing then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the US government over allegations that it held up cases and kept couples apart. But at that time, without our first approval from immigration, we couldn't join that suit.

Let's take a step back. I want to explain the process a bit. First, the US fiancé applies for the K-1 visa on their international partner's behalf. Once that first application is approved in the US, it should automatically get sent to the foreign fiancé's local embassy so they can be interviewed for final approval. But for all the reasons I mentioned, that wasn't happening.

But in early 2021, the US finally approved our initial application. This meant we could join hundreds of couples on the third round of that lawsuit, and our names being on that list forced our case to the embassy in London for an interview — nearly 18 months after we first applied.

In August 2021, I finally moved to New York City, and the clock started ticking

As if moving to a new country weren't enough, in August 2021, we had a countdown of 90 days to get married as part of the K-1 visa requirements.

Honestly, I wasn't thinking about that next stage just yet. I was overwhelmed by being in a new home and finally being with David. The first day after moving, we visited the Brooklyn neighborhood of DUMBO. Looking at the Brooklyn Bridge, and I could not believe this was my home now.

We finally got married with about 30 days of our 90-day countdown left. It was a City Hall ceremony, with masks on and a protective screen in front of the officiant. We had one witness — a good friend of David's. She took us for brunch afterward, and we went for a very fancy dinner later that day to celebrate.

Unfortunately, the immigration journey still isn't over. Even now, there's a waiting period and papers to sign. But at this point, I'm just so relieved and happy to have fought through the tougher parts of the pandemic and immigration hurdles.

I made it, and I'm now with this person I met by chance. It turned out to be so much more than a magical 24 hours in Spain.


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