Emotional Amendment Affecting US Marriage Visas

Published: 16/11/2010

A recent amendment to the US federal immigration law has had emotional repercussions for one particular family, with a potentially wide-reaching impact on many more as it aims to support the widowed foreign spouses of US military personnel in their quest to immigrate to the US, and obtain a US ‘Green Card’ with the right to live in the US permanently.
The amended bill has been titled the Marine Sergeant Michael H. Ferschke Jr. Memorial Act following the difficult situation of the US marine’s wife and child following his death whilst on active duty in Iraq.
Prior to the ruling, Michael Ferschke’s wife Hotaru Ferschke had been unable to immigrate to the US to raise their son following Michael’s death as a legal loophole made her ineligible to gain a US immigrant visa, or take the necessary steps to gain US residency, once her existing US visa expired.
Michael had met Hotaru when he was stationed in Okinawa, Japan. Michael was subsequently deployed to Iraq, and the couple decided to get married over the phone as they learned they were to have a baby. Tragically, Michael was killed just one month after they married. Although the phone marriage itself was legally recognised (it is known as ‘marriage by proxy’), the fact that the couple had been unable to consummate their marriage means that the couple were not recognised as legally married under existing US immigration law.
As it was Michael’s wish that his son be brought up in his home town of Maryville, Kentucky, the whole Ferschke family were terribly upset when his widow Hotaru was forced to return to Okinawa when her visa expired. The Department of Homeland Security/USCIS is the body which deals with US visa and immigration applications and Hotaru’s application for a US visa was denied on the grounds that the couple could not have consummated their marriage.
The recent amendment is dedicated to exempting American troops from having the consummate their marriages in order for their spouses to qualify for US residency, which is the first stage towards gaining US citizenship, and is especially poignant for those whose spouses have been killed in active duty.
Although the bill must now be cleared by the US Senate, the Ferschke family is justifiably proud that this important change will bear the name of Michael Ferschke. His mother Robin Ferschke has worked tirelessly to bring her daughter-in-law and grandson to the US. She watched the vote via video link and found the whole situation very emotional, particularly as it was held on what would have been her son’s 25th birthday.

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