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Atoke: Till Visas Do Us Apart

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AtokeThey tell you all the good spouses are ‘back home’, so you think long and hard. It is time to return to your roots to find that virtuous man or woman – the one to complete or complement you.  If you’re in Nigeria, you’ve probably watched enough Nollywood to know that the village belles and beaus may not be as virtuous as you’ve been told. So you just weigh your options and just stick with the devil you know within your locus. Your ‘abroad’ counterparts are not so lucky. Somewhere at the back of their minds, they still believe that finding someone from ‘back home’ serves them better than ‘these uncultured Akatas who will serve Mama with left hand’ {Akata is a bad word, let’s stop saying it.} You’ve probably done an analysis of what you want; your personality; your family background… you don’t really see how a white person, or non-Nigerian will fit into your equation. So, you consider all the factors, and you head on to Nigeria to find yourself a suitable mate!

However, the completion of the injunction to ‘leave & cleave’ is in the hands of the consular officer. To bring your Nigerian spouse to live with you abroad, you need to file the appropriate documentation. Then you wait for the papers to be approved. For some people, this is an easy process, and within two months of the marriage rites, they’re living together as man and wife. For other people, it takes up to a year, or two… or never.

How far? When are you going to join Oga?

Embassy hasn’t called us for interview, o! We’re just waiting

And there’s nothing as frustrating as being in the limbo – waiting. Just waiting.

In some cases, where the woman is the party waiting to join her husband, there is an expectation that she lives with her husband’s family while she’s still in Nigeria. She is, after all, now ‘our wife’. It is immaterial that her husband is not physically present; the embodiment of the family unit is enough. So, she takes on the responsibilities and duties required of being a wife – living with strangers. If she’s lucky, and meets with understanding in-laws, they can come to an arrangement where she remains at home (the familiar) while she awaits the decision of the consular officer. She is still Mrs. XYZ…only in escrow.

It is slightly easier for the man. There’s no requirement for him to move anywhere while he waits for this visa that will allow him join his wife. At most, he is probably just required to make a few phone calls to check up on his in-laws. He is, however, faced with some tough decisions: “Do I renew my rent in September? What if the visa comes and I have to leave?” “Should I sign this juicy 12 months contract? I don’t know if I’ll be here till next year”

So why does it take so long for spousal visas to be approved? I’ll try to address some of the issues that I can think of – off the top of my head.

I: Bigamy – You’re married to Shaniqua or Trabian in America. You haven’t properly secured your divorce papers and untangled yourself from the web tying you down.

II: Improper documentation – You haven’t filed the documents that show you’re eligible to file for a spouse. Maybe you don’t even have the right documentation (tax filing, legal status, proof of income or financial status)

While I cannot conclusively posit that these are only causes of delays in spousal visa, they are major factors. Filing the requisite documentation for taking your spouse with you to ‘the overs’ requires proper planning, and complete honesty.

A lot of times, our ways are not pure. Imagine someone who has been previously married in the US and not properly filing their divorce papers. Of course, during the routine checks it will come up that you’ve been married to Shaniqua or Trabian before. Now you want to bring in Modupe or Akintunde as your spouse? How? There’s no amount of ‘waiting on the Lord for break through’ that will help.

Two of my favourite maxims of equity are applicable here:
He who comes to equity must come with clean hands.
He who seeks equity must do equity.

Ensure that you’re honest in all your documentation. Most importantly, be honest with your spouse. If you have been convicted of a crime, if you’re living abroad illegally, or you’ve been deported before, please let the person you’re getting married to know. At least, let them be the one to make the choice to go ahead with the marriage. It is simply wicked to marry someone, knowing that there are more than exigent circumstances that will preclude you from living as a couple.

I’ve been told stories of Nigerian men who married women in Nigeria, promising to come back for them. After the first year of ‘waiting for paper’ they agree to start a family – the biological clock is ticking very loudly. The woman can hear it above the glare of her in-laws’ deadly stares. So they have baby 1, baby 2, sometimes baby 3. Husband visits every year, drops semen along with nice dresses from Macy’s. They return to their regular lives apart – with three children who know that Daddy lives in America. It is evidenced in the pictures and the Rebel phone calls.

But, how long can that marriage last? Someone once said that it is not compulsory for the person in Nigeria to go join the person abroad. “If it’s true love, the person in America can pack their load and join their spouse back home.”

Fair point!

Visa-related problems are a big thing in many relationships. You meet this really lovely person you think you want to spend your life with, but they’re either in the country illegally, or they are there on a study visa. This means, there’s an added complication of filing – which you may or may not want to be tangled with.

Sometimes, it’s not even the filing applicant who is the problem. The dependent they’re trying to file for probably has a sketchy immigration past. The spouse in Nigeria has probably claimed to be Uncle Lekan of London’s daughter in 1995 and now wants to claim she’s Chief Ebenezer’s child. Paper trail, people. Paper trail.
So, here’s how I’ll conclude: if your spouse to-be is in ‘the overs’, have a serious conversation with the person.

Do you have any criminal records?
Have you been deported before?
Are you married? Or in the middle of a complicated divorce?
Do you file your taxes regularly?
Are you in debt with terrible credit score?
Barring all unforeseen circumstances, how long do you reckon this filing process will take?
If we never get the papers, what happens to our marriage?
Do we love each other enough to be faithful to each other even if we don’t get to live together in the same country? Not that Elizabeth will be here washing your brother’s clothes and you’ll be in Boston keeping warm with Camilla.

This life we have to live is only one. Let’s not make it too complicated with our own hands.

You probably wanna read a fancy bio? But first things first! Atoke published a book titled, +234 - An Awkward Guide to Being Nigerian. It's available on Amazon. ;)  Also available at Roving Heights bookstore. Okay, let's go on to the bio: With a Masters degree in Creative Writing from Swansea University, Atoke hopes to be known as more than just a retired foodie and a FitFam adherent. She can be reached for speechwriting, copywriting, letter writing, script writing, ghost writing  and book reviews by email – [email protected]. She tweets with the handle @atoke_ | Check out her Instagram page @atoke_ and visit her website for more information.

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