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Submitted by WWAY on Wed, 07/09/2008 - 4:25pm.

A newly married Wilmington man is at his wits end, after being separated from his wife for four months. Stuart Barnes married a Peruvian woman in March, but is having trouble getting her a tourist visa to come visit him, much less to move here permanently. "To not be able to get my wife over here who I love very much, it's just, like I said, a slap to the face," said Barns. Barnes met his wife, Karla, almost 2 years ago, while vacationing in Peru. They got married in March, and he hoped to bring her to Wilmington to start a family. The problem is, he's told it will probably be a year before she's approved for permanent legal status in the U.S. Karla has tried on three separate occasions to come visit, but her visa request has been denied each time. "She tried to get the same tourist visa, like a visa for pleasure, to come down here for a couple months, just to come meet my family, and hang out, go to my brothers wedding, have a family reunion coming up, my birthday is coming up, and they denied her again, said you have to wait," said Barnes. The way the system is set up, immigration officials assume anyone coming to the U.S. wants to move here permanently. In order to visit, one has to prove their intentions to return to their home country. Ironically, the fact that Karla is married to an American actually works against her short term hopes of coming to visit. Immigration attorney Al Cook said, "I really seriously doubt that she could get a visitors visa, because she doesn't meet the criteria that's in the statute, that she's coming here with the intention of returning." While Karla promises she would return to Peru after her visit, to continue waiting for permanent legal status, thousands of visitors before her have broken that promise. Thousands more have gone through sham marriages to gain entry to the country, only to ditch their spouse once they had permanent legal residence. Immigration attorneys say the rules make it intentionally difficult to come to the U.S. "There are elaborate precautions in here against marriage fraud," said Cook. The sad part is, the system basically penalizes people who are trying to play by the rules. Sen. Julia Boseman said, "We've got illegals crossing the border on a daily basis, you can probably drive by any construction site and find them, and nothing is being done about this, but here you have people trying to do stuff the right way, and they're being punished." At our request, Senator Julia Boseman's office called Washington to find out if there was any way to fast track Karla's paperwork, but once again, another roadblock. Boseman's office was told because of the huge backlog for FBI background checks, there is no opportunity for fast tracking, or special favors. With the current backlog, it takes six months to even begin processing an application. We should tell you Stuart Barnes works here at NewsChannel 3, but he's actually put in his two weeks notice. He's sick of waiting, and will be quitting his commercial production job so he can move to Peru to live with his wife while she waits for our government to process her application. There's a common misconception that being married to a US citizen is an automatic ticket into the country. Immigration experts did give us a tip. They say getting married in the U.S., can make the process easier.

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