Love Stuck In Limbo

SALISBURY, Md. – Two lovers separated by over 8,700 miles. One on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, the other in the Philippines. But the distance isn’t what’s keeping them apart. Rather it’s an issue with the US Department of State and the US Embassy in the Philippines.

John Campbell met his fiancee Felisa Vanzuela on a dating site back in September of 2019. The two immediately clicked and once John visited Felisa in person, they both say they knew they had found their match.

“I’m not going to find another woman like her, I mean I’m just not. She’s just absolutely beautiful outside and inside,” John said.

The two got engaged and in December of 2019 started the K-1 Visa application process for Felisa to come to America. It’s a process that normally takes 4-6 months. However, 2020 brought a global pandemic which caused the State Department to halt the visa process temporarily. During that time the normal backlog of K-1 Visas which usually stands around 100,000, jumped to nearly half a million. All while couples like John and Felisa were left stuck in waiting.

“It’s really been a hard time for us being separate from each other, it’s really very hard,” Felisa said.

Since they can’t see each other in person, the couple spends every morning and night on WhatsApp, a messaging app that allows the two to video chat. It’s less than ideal, but the couple says it’s better than nothing.

But what the couple says has been harder to deal with, is a lack of answers from the State Department. In November of 2020, a DC federal judge ruled on the case  Milligan v. Pompeo deciding that the US Department of State can’t suspend K-1 fiancé visa processing during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, he also ruled the State Department’s delay in processing other K-1 visas does not yet warrant judicial intervention.

What that’s meant for John and Felisa, is more waiting. All while they’ve spent thousands of dollars on the application process and others continue to do the same.

“That’s money, that, what’s the government doing? Why are you still accepting it? That should be stopped if you’re going to hold somebody’s money like that. I don’t think it’s right, I don’t think it’s fair,” John said.

Looking for answers 47 ABC reached out to Congress on their behalf to see what could be done. And as it turns out,  the State Department has been leaving them in the dark as well.

“They’ve given us no indication of when they intend to restart visas and again we think that’s unacceptable and we continue to make inquiries regularly with the State Department,” said Congressman Andy Harris (R-MD).

Congressman Harris tells us the government has vaccinated tens of thousands of State Department personnel and close to all the frontline workers in US Embassies, which should pave the way for visa interviews to start again.  However, if they don’t resume soon he says the next move may be to take this to an appropriations bill to get the State Department to take action.

“You know these can’t drag on forever. I feel very badly for Mr. Campbell and his fiancee,” Rep. Harris said. “The bottom line is that these federal agencies frequently only respond when you threaten their funding in some way, so if we have to do that, we may have to do that.”

And in the end, that’s all John and Felisa want.

For their case to be heard so that they, just like so many others, can finally have their happily ever after.

 

Categories: Local News, Maryland