Daniel & Andrei: Stronger Together
Two years ago, Daniel and Andrei arrived in Maine for their honeymoon to spend some time with Daniel’s family and explore the state where he had grown up. Unfortunately, during their trip a family health emergency changed everything—Daniel and Andrei needed to stay in Maine permanently.
“When we left home, we weren’t planning to stay. All of my clothes and one of our dogs were still in Europe,” explains Andrei. Daniel and Andrei had met several years earlier, after Daniel moved from Maine to Eastern Europe to pursue his career in the performing arts. Andrei owned their apartment, and the couple had gotten married earlier in the year.
They were very content with their lives. Once it was clear that they were needed in Maine, Andrei’s immigration status became the primary concern. Because he had travelled on a tourist visa, they went to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website to try to figure out what to do. It quickly became apparent that they would need help.
Daniel recalls that, “Private lawyers were expensive and Andrei couldn’t work because he only had his [tourist] visa. We were looking at the very real possibility that he would have to go back to Europe without me.” Luckily, a colleague of his father recommended ILAP as a place to go to find out more about their options.
Daniel and Andrei were overwhelmed by the various applications and forms, each of which were complicated in their own right, that they would need to submit to USCIS. So when ILAP’s Intake Supervisor Christina Starr clearly explained the process and assured them that it was a straightforward case, they were immediately relieved.
“Lost. We would have been just lost without her,” says Daniel. “And this was in early 2017, so policies were changing left and right. It made it seem like no policies were secure.”
“Daniel and Andrei found themselves in a situation that could happen to any of us. And on top of the stress of caring for a sick family member, making a major move and finding new jobs, they also had to navigate the immigration system,” explains Christina.
Christina began completing the different application forms, while Daniel and Andrei followed her instructions for collecting the required documentation and arranging a sponsor. Throughout, their experience was “one of compassion, complete with an informative and knowledgeable staff that understood our concerns and paid attention to our individual needs. Through every step of the process, ILAP took their time to make sure we understood thoroughly and confidently what was expected.”
Then the day before Daniel and Andrei were ready to file their application, USCIS changed the application form! But because their case had been so thoroughly prepared, what could have been a major roadblock was only a minor setback. They quickly updated and filed their application, then waited the three months for their interview with USCIS.
“I was petrified before the interview. But Christina told us what they were going to look at and our USCIS officer was very personable. It all went smoothly,” says Daniel.
Almost a year after first arriving in Maine, Andrei received the happy news that his application was approved and he would receive his green card. Until then, he had been unable to apply for a state ID or work permit. “The first thing I did was get my driver’s license, because I had basically been stuck at home for a year. Then I started looking for jobs,” he remembers.
“Daniel and Andrei’s case exemplifies the work that ILAP is doing day in and day out,” says Executive Director Sue Roche. “It may not make the headlines, but it’s at the heart of our mission and makes a very real impact in the lives of countless Maine families every year.”
Today, as this newsletter goes to print, Daniel and Andrei are closing on their first home together. Andrei is a manager in the hospitality industry, while Daniel continues his work in the performing arts.
“Because of ILAP, we were able to stay together,” says Daniel. “And we were newlyweds,” adds Andrei, “We would have been separated during the first years of our marriage, the happiest time of our lives.”