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Claire Penhorwood Headshot

Can Love Cross a Border?

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When most people start planning their wedding, it is pretty much a guarantee that after all the planning and organizing and the big day, they will be together.

For my fiancé and I, the challenge is not planning our perfect day surrounded by our friends and family. The challenge is maneuvering our way through the bureaucracy of Canadian and American immigration, with the hopes of calling the same place home sooner rather than later.

We knew this day would come as our five-year long distance relationship became more serious. We went to the same school in England with both of our Dads' work bringing them there. My fiancé, a friend of my older brother's, had no idea I thought he was the best thing since sliced bread. And me, a pre-teen at the time, never thought someone older and much cooler would be interested in me. But, a few years later, after a summer of talking online and him asking me out twice -- the first time I thought he was kidding! -- we started dating.

After countless visits to and from the U.S. to Canada and Europe we have, I believe, defied the odds of long distance relationships and are getting married. While we thought this would mean the end to the distance, our respective governments have something else in mind.

The process of applying for permanent residency is not a romantic one. The government does care that you have been dedicated to each other for five years, but will not take your word for it. They will, however, ask you to put your relationship on display and prove that you do in fact love this person, can support them, and are not just getting hitched in order to cross the border.

While we both realize this is a necessary process, it does not take away from the feeling that the universe is trying to keep us apart. The process for him to come to Canada and legally be able to work and live here for longer than the three-month visitor stay will take approximately four months. My application to the good ol US of A will take on average 10 months.

This process is also complicated by the fact that we are both young professionals starting out in our respective fields -- film and television for him, journalism for me. While these career paths compliment each other in terms of lifestyle and geographic location, positions are not falling in our lap and the money is not always enough to get by on.

My fiancé, ever the optimist, has been the sane one throughout our engagement, planning for our June 2013 wedding in Chicago, and through the frustrating hours spent filling out confusing immigration forms. I may sound like I have no faith, or am the biggest pessimist in the world, but I guess I am simply a realist.

Strangely enough, I feel like this one last hurdle we must get over has shaped us as a couple. He has enough faith for the both of us, and my type-A, controlling nature, keeps us on track. I would love to be able to say that we can live off our love, but the realist in me wins that battle.

But, with the uncertainty of the job market and graduates struggling to earn half of what their parents earned 30 years ago when they were in the same position, it is nice to have a partner to lean on and always know there will be someone to heat up your Ramen noodles.

While getting married at a young age is not for everybody, it's what we have been working towards for the past few years. I am sure most people I tell my story to must think I am crazy and that jumping through all the hoops of immigration is not worth it. I say we will just have to agree to disagree. While our geographic locations leave a lot to be desired, our hearts are in the right place -- together.