There are all sorts of things wrong with social media, between how they use our data to how much time is spent mindlessly scrolling to the online bullying that so many young people experience being able to hide behind their screen. But, in this current crazy pandemic world I have found a few social media groups that I am quite happy to belong to.
In June or so one of my friends invited me to join the group on Facebook “Love is Not Tourism”. While it wasn’t specifically applicable to me at the time – I was in the same place as my husband and from what we knew we theoretically would be able to visit each others countries after we left the ship – so I joined it largely to support this friend and all of my friends that are in couples separated by travel bans. This group now has 32,800 members from countries literally all around the world.
After reading a little bit on this group I found that there was a “Love is Not Tourism UK – USA”. A lot of what people write about in this group is the challenges couples face having the UK partner visit the US if they aren’t married. However, before Stuart and I went to fly to the USA, even though all of my own personal research said that he could fly to the US, I felt so much better having read of other married couples who made it through using the exemption clause in the travel restrictions. Reading about other couples who had also flown through Dublin, what paperwork they had with them, what questions they were asked, made the situation slightly less stressful to me, and at least made me think that we had a chance.
These groups have real people writing in to tell of their travel situations to meet their partners which gives others hope, but it has also become a giant resource pool. When someone’s flight is cancelled last minute they post about that, so then you know that for instance flights on British Airways from Manchester are less consistent than flights on Aer Lingus (they seem to be the champion in all of this, although I’ve read that Delta is fairly consistent and not cancelling many flights last minute as well). For couples that are having to meet in a third country (to get the foreign partner into the US, yay travel restrictions) they discuss which countries they have gone to, where they stayed, how public transport/etc. works, as well as how their entry into the US went. And, the instant that a new travel restriction comes into play there isn’t just myself or Stuart looking for it, there are nearly a thousand people (in the Love is Not Tourism UK – USA group) looking them up, checking them, and letting the group know.
This has led me to find other groups related to UK – USA couples, for instance discussing pros and cons of different residency and spouse visas (and the least expensive and time consuming routes for them), tax challenges, hurdles they didn’t realize they were going to have, down to which immigration attorney they used (and whether or not they used one). They discuss how long you can stay in each country without formal visas and which things have led to red flags with the customs agents, and some of them even talk about the times they flew across an ocean only to be turned away.
These groups represent thousands of couples that – while the challenges aren’t exactly the same as Stuart and I – it shows that we’re not alone and that we aren’t entirely crazy for leading this life of families across oceans and plane rides and what seems to be a future of stupidly expensive paperwork. There’s a heck of a lot bad about social media – like a lot – but, in this regard I have found something good. From the big things like navigating visas and residencies to the still big but not as big things like flying Stuart to the US on an exemption, these groups have shown advice, support, and knowledge, and while I mostly just follow along on the groups and rarely post about anything myself, it has made it all seem a bit less daunting and a bit more doable. If you find yourself in a situation that is a bit unusual, or maybe even usual, and find any part of it overwhelming or daunting, there is likely a social media group out there with others like you, making their way through.
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