October 21, 2007
Next stop, Buenos Aires
Posted by: Chris
Score another win for immigration law over your's truly and my partner. After spending part of 2006 and most of 2007 so far in Rio and then São Paulo, Brazil, we've been evicted yet again and this time my partner will be forced to go ex-pat for us to stay together.
That's because this time the problem isn't the immigration laws of the United States, though they still prohibit me from sponsoring my partner for residence back home. The problem this time is Brazilian immigration law. You see my tourist visa is about to expire for this year and after much wringing of hands with fellow ex-pats, Brazilian friends and some knowledgeable lawyers, we have decided not to risk my overstaying.
That decision came several weeks ago, and was followed by a somewhat scattered search for options, which eventually narrowed down to two: Buenos Aires or Cape Town, South Africa. The choices are not as crazy as they sound.
Like many of my fellow gay Americans in binational relationships, I am applying along with my partner to become "landed immigrants" in Canada, which will recognize our relationship even in the visa application. But since we're not married, we have to prove one year of cohabitation. That's doable, since we have lived together since September 2006, when I left Washington and moved to Rio. But it's complicated, involved and carries a somewhat greater risk of rejection.
Aside from our immigration issue, we would love to marry after almost three years together, but (as I've explained before) only five countries in the world marry gay couples: Holland, Belgium, Spain, Canada and South Africa. The three European countries all limit marriage to residents, and while Canada does not, getting a Canadian tourist visa for my partner is almost as difficult as getting one to visit the U.S. That leaves South Africa, which marries non-residents and (like all of Europe including the U.K.) accepts Brazilian tourists without a special visa.
We received some wonderful assistance from a network of gay friends in Cape Town, even though they weren't even our friends -- they were on loan from a very dear friend back in Washington. But when we added up the expense of getting there and living there, we decided to stay closer to "home" in Buenos Aires.
Buenos Aires is hardly a back-up option, even if we can't marry there. I spent a day there at the end of my first trip to South America in February 2005. (It was supposed to be a week, but I met Anderson and extended my stay in Rio every day until I had only one left.) It is a beautiful city, very European, gorgeous architecture, friendly people, clean, safe and one of the few places the dollar still has any value. (It's dropped below 1.80 Brazilian reais for the first time since 2000; it was almost R$3 per dollar my first trip here.)
Several kind folk, including fellow bloggers Kevin (Club Whirled) and Rex Wockner have also leant me their friend network, as have several of our Brazilian friends. I'm sure they will help us acclimate and get to know our new home, if only for three months. In January, we can return again to Brazil.
I will leave Brazil, even temporarily, with a heavy heart. I love this country, even with all of its problems, and I especially love its people. And having finally semi-mastered Portuguese, it's back to the Spanish drawing board for me. Hopefully the three-year assault by Portuguese hasn't undone all the Spanish I learned back in school.
I am writing about this move with optimism because it is the way that Anderson and I are approaching it. Our lives remain in a semi-constant state of upheaval, and yet another move will be a jolt to the system. But like many "love exiles," we are practically old pros at this now.
I also remain hopeful that someday in the not-so-distant future, the U.S. government will join 20 other countries in allowing gay Americans the same right that straight Americans have to sponsor a partner for residence -- just as our government already allows non-Americans to do when the come to work temporarily in the U.S.
Whether change comes through passage of the Uniting American Families Act or through repealing the half of the Defense of Marriage Act that blocks the federal government from recognizing gay marriages, it can't come soon enough for us and so many others.
For a complete news summary on gay immigration issues, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/immigration
For a complete news summary on gay Latino issues, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/latino
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