Love May Know No Boundaries, but Immigration Laws Certainly Do

Just the other day, the boyfriend and I tacked another item to the ever-multiplying list of “Things We Will One Day Need to Deal With”. The potential issue this time? Can I even legally drive in Italy? The short answer: Yes. The long answer: A year after I finally gain residency in Italy, I’ll need to take the exam and get my EU licence (that is, if the EU is still standing and thriving, given the last few weeks of craziness. But this is at least one thing that falls into the category of “Not In My Control”, which is where we will be solidly leaving it for now.)

From cell phone plans, to bank accounts, to insurance, to all the random crap I own which is taking up a whole room of my empty-nested parent’s home, there are a million and one bureaucratic and adult-like things which I am in the process of dismantling here in the States and need to square away to make this new life work. Some things I can start working on now, many will have to wait until I am an actual resident, which won’t be within the next few months, at least. It is amazing how quickly this can get overwhelming.

It is true, that love may know none of the artificial boundaries modern society has created. Despite all odds, the most incredible love can grow in the most unexpected and beautiful places. But, damn, politics and immigration don’t have much appreciation for even the most romantic of stories. And I have a feeling that my lover and I have not yet even dropped below sea level to take in the whole iceberg of what we are up against.

If one more person gives me a sweet, doe-eyed look as I lay out the most basic of these complications and says “But – I just don’t get it. Why is it that hard? Why can’t you just move? Why do the governments make it so hard?!” I might just put my fist through the nearest wall. I don’t mean to be dismissive of other’s first time around the expatriation merry-go-round, but I’ve moved so far beyond being surprised at the road blocks, the stary-eyed vision of opened borders and good, smart, hardworking people being able to just move where they want to drives me mad. (There is something at the heart of this about a common cultural assumption that there are easy and legal ways for someone who is not incredibly specialized in a skill or incredibly wealthy or incredibly lucky to just move wherever they want to in the world, and those who sneak through borders illegally are just not trying hard enough, but that’s a different conversation.)

It’s not my first time contending with Schengen Zone tourist visa time restrictions, of making sure to fly through the right airports to get the proper stamps and leave a trail in my passport, of carrying with me copies of outbound flight tickets and deciding whether to keep paying for health insurance I’m not using for 6 months or pay the penalty next year.

I wasn’t green coming into this either. I have some very dear friends who have brought their foreign lovers into the USA on K-1 Fiance Visas, something much more difficult and expensive than what we are embarking upon. I have seen how painstaking, stressful and long it can be to get even a Canadian into the country (a Canadian – someone who arguably has more in common culturally with us Minnesotans than a Texan!), I’ve known people who have been separated for much longer times than the boyfriend and I. Who have had worse Skype connections. Whose flights cost more.

And yet.

Sure, there are exciting things about planning weekend trips to Morocco in order to restart my Schengen Zone Tourist Visa and allow me to stay legally with my boyfriend for 90 more days. (Another legal math equation I’ve explained to so many people who grow cross-eyed at the repetition of “90 days every 180 days” I’m nearly batty.) Sure, he and I are freakishly good at planning, and take an equally freakish delight in it, so maybe we are uniquely qualified for this sort of lifestyle for a while. We are both willing enough to uproot, to take huge romantic risks, to see each other through the good and bad over a shitty internet video in a way I’m not sure most people are brave enough to do. And here we are, planning it all and growing closer to one another with each problem we collectively solve. We’ve accepted that for a long long time, possibly forever, our lives will be filled with strategizing, coordinating, seeing new issues and redirecting to better align with the vision we’re creating.

About a month ago, a coworker came up to me, put his hand on my shoulder and said sadly, meaningfully “I just heard from a friend that it can be really hard to move to another country. Like, you can’t just arrive, get a job and start living. Did you know that? I hope this doesn’t derail you’re plans for the fall.” It took all I had not to laugh in his face. Have we considered the complications? Oh, how I do appreciate thoughts like this, when people are horrified that I can’t just go live with the man I’m in love with even though he’s from a different country. If only, as so many people immediately assume, my biggest problem in all of this was the process of mastering Italian.

Never have I done something with more preparation, planning, figuring, anxiety and, most of all, anticipation. With seven weeks left, I finally feel like time might be slipping through my fingers faster than I realized, and boy is it a good feeling. I’ve been waiting, working, saving and dreaming for what feels like a long, long, time. Others may have waited more, but it doesn’t discount the things last two years have meant for us. We may be up against a lot, but it’s an important life lesson – and growth opportunity for our relationship – to deal with each issue as it comes, compartmentalize it into “Now”, “Later” or “Out of Our Control”, and make decisions as a team.

Even- and especially – when we’re 4,500 miles away from each other.