Travel Restrictions. The realities, the myths, and the extra challenges of an international marriage during COVID.

Do you have trouble sleeping at night? Do you need some light reading to help keep your mind from wandering? Well, look no further than the land of trying to figure out if there is a way to get a visa here or there or which flights you can take into which country during the lovely time of COVID. I have heard a lot of various rumors about restrictions to travel between countries, closed visa offices, and have largely prepared myself for this to be a very complicated situation. I mean, marrying someone from another country that works on a cruise ship was bound to be complicated. Then COVID happened and not only do we have the massive question of when will Stuart finally get to come home (he will have been onboard for 5 months in just a couple days – that’s 2 months over his normal contract length), but will I be able to be there, or get there, or he here?

When Stuart leaves the ship, eventually, he will fly to Scotland. We know that part. During his time off of work the question becomes both how and where will we be able to see each other. The European Union recently said that US citizens were not allowed to enter… in which case Brexit seems really good right about now because the United Kingdom isn’t included in that. But, with regulations changing so often, it’s easy to lose track of what is real, what was from a few months ago, and where things are at right now.

The rumors that I had heard:
– there are no new ESTA’s being approved
– you can’t enter the US on an ESTA
– Stuart would need a spousal visa to come into the US right now
– US visa offices are closed
– As the EU is closed to US citizens, I would not be able to transit through an EU airport

Here’s the thing about rumors though, if you do a bit of research on your own you will realize that they are all pretty much crap.

Let’s review:
there are no new ESTA’s being approved Not true
you can’t enter the US on an ESTA You can if you are in certain categories. Spouse is one of them.
Stuart would need a spousal visa to come into the US right now Nope. See above.
– US visa offices are closed – This one is true!
As the EU is closed to US citizens, I would not be able to transit through an EU airport False.

We had been living with these ideas that being able to see each other once he leaves the ship would feel like an insurmountable hurdle. His ESTA is expired, the visa office is closed, no one wants US citizens to visit and thus I would have a hard time finding flights. Instead, after an hour or so of research I found that it’s not that insurmountable and that Stuart will in fact be able to come to the US this year. This is when he goes, “yay?” and wonders whether or not he would even want to do that. I mean, even though VT is doing pretty much the best at reducing COVID cases in the US, as a country we don’t exactly have a great reputation going on for handling this virus situation.

The good news is that it seems that I can go to Scotland (and quarantine for 14 days), and then Stuart and I could come to Vermont (and quarantine for 14 days). Normally the question of how much or how often we fly between Vermont and Scotland is based on how much the plane tickets are (I realize it should also be based on carbon footprint, but for now, alas, the life we lead). This time it seems like the question isn’t how much money, but instead of how much time we want to spend in quarantine. Only time will tell on that one.

The moral of this story is: do your own research, even when it’s a bit arduous and it seems very hard to find the answers to your questions. Listening to rumors of what someone heard someone else say often results in some wrong information.

Also, two final PSA’s:
– There are still a lot of seafarers at work, my husband, brother-in-law, and a lot of dear friends included that are stuck at sea awaiting crew change. Just because things might be opening up where you are does not mean this is over. While you might not be able to get governments world-wide to change their policies, you can help reduce the spread of coronavirus (which will maybe get governments to ease restrictions) with a very easy step…
– Wear your mask!

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