Getting engaged to an American was the start of a long immigration journey

Moving from Donabate to Baton Rouge was harder than you think – even with a US husband

I am originally from a seaside town in north Co Dublin called Donabate.

I went to college in Dublin, where I trained as a dental nurse, before leaving in September 2021 for the US. I now live in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and my husband and I have had a unique and sometimes humorous journey navigating life as a couple from two different cultures.

Our immigration journey started in 2020, after getting engaged in late 2019. We met in 2018 and navigated a long-distance relationship until we got engaged.

We ultimately decided it would be best for me to move to the US at that time. We hired an immigration lawyer to help navigate the process, raising the cost of legal immigration to more than $10,000 dollars (€9,200). It was expensive, but we felt that hiring a lawyer would help us avoid costly mistakes.


After some consultation, we decided that a fiance visa was the best route for us to go.

The first step for us was filing an alien fiance(e) visa petition with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). We submitted a lot of paperwork, pictures, drivers’ licences and bank details to prove my fiancee had the means to support me once I arrived. We even had a backup sponsor just in case anything was rejected.

I had to fill out a very long questionnaire where I was asked questions such as: if I had any terrorists in my family, if I knew how to make a bomb, or if I had ever used recreational drugs. It felt strange to be asked those questions, but I understood why USCIS was asking them.

Covid-19 greatly influenced the length of the process. We filed for a petition in August 2020, and it was approved the following March.

Once the petition was approved, I was not allowed to enter the US. The petition is not a visa approval. It only allows you to petition for visa consideration.

Anyone who files a petition for a fiance visa is deemed to be a security risk and is denied entry into the US while waiting for USCIS to process the petition. USCIS assumes that if I entered the US while in the process of petitioning, that we would immediately get married and file for a change of status, aka permanent residency.

I eventually received a summons to appear at the Dublin embassy for an interview with an immigration officer.

I had my interview in August 2021, and my fiance visa was finally approved. The interview lasted approximately 10 minutes and felt very impersonal. Once the interview was over, my visa was approved, and I was allowed to enter the US.

I left Ireland and arrived in the US on September 20th, 2021. We married four days later. I then proceeded to file for a change of status with USCIS, and I also filed for a work permit and travel documents.

While processing from a fiance visa to a permanent resident, I was not allowed to leave the US. If I left without pre-approval, I would forfeit my visa and be denied entry back into the country.

In April 2022, I received my work permit and the following October I received a travel permit, and was allowed to enter Ireland to renew my public services card and my Irish driving licence.

That December I was briefly reunited with my family after more than a year apart.

The year 2023 arrived and there was no update on my case. A US representative made an inquiry on our behalf since my immigration process was going on for three years. He was told to mind his own business.

I received a final request for a medical evaluation last August. To pass the evaluation, I was required to have all vaccinations, which included Pfizer’s Covid vaccinations, and be tested for STDs – or my change of status would be denied. The final medical evaluation was expensive, but, thankfully, our lawyer warned us of this, and sent us to a USCIS-approved doctor who only charged $200 (€184).

In October 2023, my Green Card was approved, and I finally had permanent residency in the US. We went out and celebrated with my husband’s family, and then surprised my family with a visit here in Ireland.

My father walked into the kitchen at 7am, and there we were waiting for him. My mother and father were delighted to have us back.

  • Heather Langran went to college in Dublin where she trained as a dental nurse. She left Ireland in September 2021 and now lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana
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