Alexis' retelling of her successful long distance love story with Andy: In 2015 I swiped right on a gorgeous Englishman and that was the end of life as I knew it. Both of us were attending universities near St. Louis, Missouri. He had already been living in America for a few years on an athletic scholarship so thankfully he had become somewhat accustomed to the craziness that is American women (but he had never met a Chicagoan before).
Our six month dating anniversary fell on February 29th (Leap Day) and I proposed to him with a Ring Pop because he told me about an old English law where if a woman proposes on Leap Day the man must either agree or buy an expensive gift. Apparently I got both because he was proposing with a real ring less than two months later. About five months before we got married, he was invited to present some research at the national conference for the American College of Sports Medicine. While we were there, he sparked the interest of a university near Savannah, Georgia. We moved to Georgia in August - which ended up being a bit of a flop. But not before the greatest high of our lives - getting married on October 4th, 2017. By January 2018 - just three months later - my husband's university informed him that they were no longer supporting the funding for his Master's degree and that he could either choose to pay over $10,000 out-of-pocket for the next semester or return to England within the next two weeks. Reluctantly he chose the latter and we shared tearful goodbyes at the Savannah Airport. Meanwhile, I returned to Chicago to stay with family during the 10 months of preparing for my visa to join him.
A lot of people assume that getting married automatically entitles you to the same residency rights as your spouse and it's simply not the case. Before my husband and I could even think about applying for my spousal visa, we had certain requirements we had to meet. As the "sponsor" for my visa, my husband had to first prove £18,600 in annual income (shown in payslips covering a minimum period of six months - if one consistent employer, or 12 months if not), as well as documentation supporting that employment as well as that he would be providing accommodation for me and was of "good moral character." I, as the applicant, also needed to display "good moral character" as well as English literacy proof (though I was exempt from this for having a degree from a US university), and biometrics (i.e. fingerprint data). Our relationship also needed to be deemed "authentic and genuine" in providing photo evidence and Facebook chat histories. The visa costs totaled around $4,500; a visa fee of $2,026 (August 2018), NHS surcharge of $798, an extra $692 for priority service (we had already lost nearly our entire first year of marriage, we weren't prepared to lose more), $100 to MAIL the documents, and $880 for the flight and extra bag (because you try moving abroad with only one suitcase). We applied on August 26th and I had my passport with an entry visa by October 8th (for those of you keeping track, just four days after our wedding anniversary). I left Chicago on October 25th and landed in England on October 26th. I cannot even begin to describe the relief I felt to finally be with my husband again. I think we made quite a few prudish on-lookers uncomfortable in the airport that day.
You can read more about their journey and Alexis' experience in England on her blog: Brits, Brexit, and Banter