We’ve had quite a few appointments with clients recently and a lot of questions from our Facebook audience that tell us that many of you are stressing yourselves out and trying to control the uncontrollable.
Why is the immigration process so long? Why is it so onerous? Why is it such a labyrinth?
We understand more than most people – Attorney Megan Pastrana dealt with this process personally and she is familiar with the stress and anxiety couples feel when they’re ready to begin the next chapter of their lives together but can’t. These couples often cause themselves to suffer more by focusing on the aspects of the immigration process that are uncontrollable, like wait times.
That’s why we want to go over this topic and help those of you in this situation come to an awareness of how to work through this by sharing the techniques that Attorney Megan Pastrana used to personally tackle these struggles, some of which she and her husband still do to this day. Hopefully these tips will give those of you in this situation some ideas for navigating the stress of your immigration journey.
Tip #1: Recognize When You’re Feeling Stressed
You know yourself better than anyone, so learn to recognize when you’re feeling anxious or frustrated. Ask yourself if it’s because you’re trying to control something that can’t be controlled, like an immigration wait time.
Regardless of your religion or your beliefs, we like to think that the Serenity Prayer is a powerful quote to keep in mind:
“God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I can’t change, the courage to change the things that I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
It really does come down to recognizing whether you have the power to change the situation you’re in. Having that understanding is going to give you the ability to navigate the process with more clarity and strength.
Tip #2: Accept That You Can’t Force Change
After you are able to recognize your state of mind, you have to try and accept what you can’t control. Yes, the wait times are long and you’re going to have to accept that it is what it is. You can’t change the wait time, you can’t wave a magic wand and make it shorter, but what you can do is change how you experience the situation.
Whatever feelings that arise – stress, frustration, anger, disappointment – you can choose not to experience those. It’s easier said than done but it really does come down to, as humans, our power of choice.
When you notice feelings like this arising, try getting up and moving. It sounds simple, but it can help more than you would think. Stop staring at your email, stop checking for updates and just go for a walk or take your dog out to a park. Find whatever that thing is for you, the one thing that will help you think more clearly, and use that to change how you feel.
If you can get rid of the negative thoughts in your head, it will help you not to feel like a victim and you can focus your energy on the things that matter in your life. Redirect the time you would spend worrying about wait times and use it to keep your relationship strong or to enjoy the hobbies that help you and fuel you.
The wait time will never change, you can only change what you do while you’re waiting. We promise that it will give you a better quality of life during your immigration journey.
Tip #3: Focus On What You Can Control
We know it’s hard to wait even when you’re trying to be positive and we aren’t telling you to just shrug it off and forget about it, but we’re encouraging you to instead focus on the things that you can control. There are things you can do.
Most people (hopefully) only have to go through this process once, but we have done this a thousand times and what we tell our clients is to be proactive and focus on the things that will be coming next. Get the things that you will need ready now, that’s in your control.
Another thing that we can do is advocate for an improvement in the system. The American Immigration Lawyers Association goes to Washington DC annually and lobbies at Congress and members of our team have gone personally. We reach out regularly to congressional representatives and let them know how the impact of wait times is disrupting our client’s lives and happiness. Those are actions and steps that we can take while we wait.
In certain circumstances, there are also reasons we can ask for an expedite, such as certain health reasons. In extreme circumstances, if the wait time has gotten to a certain point, then there are other options like a mandamus action, where we would sue immigration to get the case moving forward.
Ultimately, it goes back to recognizing our feelings and being aware of what we can and can’t control. It means making a decision about how you want to experience the immigration process.
Tip #4: Hold Your Partner Accountable
You aren’t going through this alone, you have a partner and together you are a unit, a partnership. When you start struggling, or when your partner starts struggling, you need to learn to hold each other accountable.
You go through so many feelings in the immigration process and while it’s important to talk about what you’re feeling, it’s also important to redirect those feelings into positivity. Talk about your future or find hobbies you can share while you wait, like reading a book together. There are so many things you can do to support each other even if you’re living apart.
Make sure your energy during this process is being focused on you as a couple and your relationship together.
“Pressure can burst pipes or make diamonds.”
Let that pressure help you be more resilient as an individual and as a couple because if you can do that, you will come out of this not only with your Green Card, but also with a stronger relationship.