Hank Investigates: Love and Lives On Hold

NEWTON, MASS. (WHDH) - Couples across the country say Uncle Sam is forcing them to postpone their wedding plans. One heartbroken local bride-to-be tells 7 Investigates her life is on hold because her fiancé is stuck overseas. Hank Phillippi Ryan has the story.

Monica knew a month-long trek from France to Spain would be the trip of a lifetime.

“We were doing a long-distance hike, called the Camino de Santiago. It’s an old pilgrimage trail,” Monica said.

That’s where she met Martin, who lives in Denmark.

And the long-distance hike led to a long-distance romance.

“The first day that Martin and I met each other, we had some sort of connection,” Monica said.

“This girl looked over and kept smiling,” Martin said.

“So you didn’t speak English at all?” Hank asked.

“No, not that much,” Martin said.

As they hiked, they used a translator app to communicate.

And they realized quickly they were meant to be together.

“I knew right away,” Monica said.

“I just knew, I could weirdly enough, see it all in front of me,” Martin said.

They got engaged two years later and planned to marry near her home in Newton last fall.

But Martin is zooming with us from Denmark, and the couple’s wedding is on hold.

“Is this a moment in time that is slipping away?” Hank asked.

“And is continuing to slip away,” Monica said.

To get married in the U.S., they need to get what’s called a fiancé visa from the State Department.

But Martin’s visa is in limbo between the State Department’s National Visa Center in New Hampshire and the overseas embassy that must okay it.

We’ve learned the same thing is happening to thousands of couples.

“It’s been heartbreaking to see the wait,” Charles Kuck, an immigration attorney and managing partner of Kuck Baxter Immigration, said.

Processing fiancé visas used to take several months. But some couples are now waiting two years.

Why? The State Department tells 7-Investigates: “The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in profound reductions in the Department’s visa processing capacity.”

“Should this be this tangled and difficult?” Hank asked.

“Fiancés should be one of the smoothest and easiest processes,” Kuck said.

Kuck has successfully sued the State Department on behalf of hundreds of other couples having visa issues.

A federal judge ruling the government should not stop processing visas for “star-crossed lovers” during the pandemic.

Monica has hired Kuck to get Martin’s visa processed.

“Should people have to do that?” Hank asked.

“No, of course not,” Kuck said.

Monica wants her grandparents to see her get married. But each day the wedding is postponed, she worries they won’t be there for her I do’s.

The couple has this plea to U.S. officials:

“Just give us some kind of way that we can so like we have a chance,” Martin said.

“It’s time for them to treat us as people and not just as an application that’s sitting in some pile somewhere sitting untouched. That they need to look at us because it’s our lives that are on hold,” Monica said.

The State Department just issued a bulletin saying consulates can start prioritizing fiancé visas again. But couples still have to wait for the government to sift through a huge backlog of applications.

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