Nobody ever wants a U.S. official to write 9B2 in their passport. Nine years ago today a Vice Consul at the U.S. Embassy in London wrote this in my passport when I went to get a visa issued. 9B2 is code for “The ten-year bar.” It meant that I was immediately barred from entering the U.S. for ten years.
The bar is supposed to be issued to “aliens who were unlawfully present in the U.S. for one year or more, and who subsequently depart the U.S. …” I was no such an alien. My visa had already been approved by the immigration department in the U.S. The Vice Consul made a mistake. He didn’t know his stuff. As a result, I was stuck outside the U.S. unable to return to Dan.
At this point in time Dan and I had been living together in the U.S. for more than 7 years. We had bought our house together just six months before. Now I wasn’t allowed to return to it.
The first thing I did on leaving the embassy was to find a phone box and call my immigration attorney in Boston. I wanted to be able to tell Dan something positive when I broke the news to him. My attorney was on vacation! I didn’t get the positive lift I was hoping for. I felt utterly helpless. Dan and I both cried on the phone.
While I was stuck in the UK I stayed with numerous friends never knowing if our efforts to get the ten-year bar lifted would be successful. I tried not to stay too long at any one place (I wasn’t the most cheery person to have around the house) and can happily report that I am still welcome at the homes of everyone I stayed with.
Dan, meanwhile, was doing everything he could in the U.S. to bring attention to my case. His primary effort was trying to get NJ and NY senators to enquire about my case. He was successful in getting Senator Lautenberg’s office to do so.
I’m not sure which of us this ordeal was hardest on. I know that Dan and I both tried to be upbeat for each other whenever we spoke on the phone. I also know that each day we both had to face the uncertainty of our future — not knowing if we would be able to live together in the US.
It still upsets me to recall this episode in our lives, and it bothers me that nine years later same-sex couples are just as vulnerable to such mistakes. If Dan, as a U.S. citizen, were able to sponsor me for a Green Card, just as committed heterosexual couples are able to, we would never have had to endure such an ordeal. It is because of this unfairness that we support the efforts of Immigration Equality to gain equal rights for same-sex bi-national couples.