Uncovering Our Stories: Chetam & Gaurav

Gaurav and I met in Hoboken, NJ in October 2005 through an online dating website. We both were consultants at that time. Gaurav is a US citizen and I came to the US on a work visa in 2004. We liked each other as soon as we met and started dating. We got into a relationship and moved in with each other. Since then, we have been together. A lot of our straight friends who got married around the same time have already become citizens. I am still on a work visa.

Until the recent Supreme Court decision overturning part of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), my immigration process was underway solely through my employer. DOMA prohibited the US government from acknowledging legal marriages of lesbians and gays in 13 states and the District of Columbia. Now that our relationship is legally recognized, Guarav is beginning the process of filing for me. However, thousands of others on work visas do not have this option. Let me tell you what it is like to live for a long time on a work visa, with permanent status always just beyond the horizon.

Life on a work visa has been very difficult. Every time I go out of the country for a vacation, or go to get my visa stamped, the fear of getting stuck for one reason or another accompanies me. Any vacation planning revolves around my visa status. There have been times when we contemplated moving out of the country. Gaurav cannot switch jobs/cities as he is bound by my work visa situation. We cannot move even if he gets a better opportunity in a city other than the city where my work is located. We worry if I am forced to move back to India, Gaurav will not have work opportunities considering his specialized skill set. We have made a lot of compromises over the years due to my visa situation.

It is such a relief to know Guarav can sponsor me. Unfortunately, not everyone has a partner to sponsor them. Many people who are contributing to the US through their work are still facing the uncertainty and limitations of work visas. Endlessly renewing a temporary work visa is not a solution to our immigration problems. It is not a good way to live long term, to be dependent always on one’s employer. We need expanded visa programs and more green cards for work visa holders. Only then will working immigrants have the sense of security and freedom I am now beginning to feel. That is why I support immigration reform.