We are Ellie🇩🇪 and Shak🇧🇼. We are both students and just trying to make use of our human right Article 16 to marry and have a family.
But Europe and its requirements make it near impossible, especially if you are not rich and one partner is black and African. We do not have a choice. We have to get married to even have a future at all.
I can't stay in Botswana for longer than 180 days within a year and he cannot stay in Germany/Schengen region for more than 90 days within 180 days.
Also, a Schengen visa for somebody from a "Drittstaat", something like a "Third Country" which does not have an agreement with Germany or Europe takes quite a while and usually costs up to 350€, flight and accommodation costs not included and obviously non-refundable if rejected. The rejection rate in Africa obviously varies from country to country but can get up to 44% without proper reason.
So there is absolutely no other way for us to stay together than to get married. None.
We have been chased from country to country from dead end to dead end for almost a year now. We haven't seen our families in 2 years because we are so afraid, that if we ever separate even just for a day, that they will keep us apart forever. The thought alone hurts like hell.
We already spent around 1k € to just get the documents necessary for the marriage and now we have to get married as soon as possible because they are only valid for 6 months, and some already expire within the next 3 months but Covid makes it almost impossible.
We'll take anything you can offer, any help at all is appreciated. We don't want luxury, we just want to finally take our human right to marriage and family. They can only really keep us apart as long as we are not married, and they sure as hell make it super difficult to change that.
Fiona Had gji
Hey, so this is our first update.
Currently, it looks a lot like we will have to get a lawyer at some point, which is super expensive and we are saving as much as we can, so anything you can contribute will help.
(SA= South Africa)
We still don't know what to do. We wrote a letter to the director of immigration in Botswana to request permission to re-enter the country before my days have been refilled (you only get 90, max 180 days in one year. So if you used them you have to wait a whole year to be allowed back in, mine would be refilled in January 2022).
The letter, together with the same request from Shak and copies of our passports and non-marriage certificates should have arrived on the 9th of July already, but the DHL tracking says something about the delivery being blocked or something. We thought it might be because of Covid, but they just have a curfew, and alcohol is banned. All the shops, offices and services are still open and running. So that is super weird. DHL Express is expensive, I want that sh!t to arrive safely. I also emailed the director, but I haven't heard back from them either. Monday we will call DHL and the director's office.
Keep in mind that the Non-Marriage Certificates are only valid for 6 months, for his documents, already almost 3 months have passed. So this issue is very time-sensitive.
Getting married in Botswana would be our best option, as it is quite cheap to get married there (I think under 10€) and the trip there can also be inexpensive. Also, I could probably apply for a residence permit right after the marriage for around 150€, so at least there would be a place where we won't get kicked out after 3 months. The goal is still to come to Europe/Germany to make money.
Getting married in SA is possible, although It costs around 400€ and it is possible. But there is no way to know when they go from level 4 lockdown all the way back to level 2. Only then we can get the Unabridged Marriage Certificate and the Apostille stamp, which is necessary to apply for the visa. Only on level 2, the offices are open again. Level 3 No, Level 4 F!uck no. So we could be stuck in southern Africa for a while. We cannot stay in SA the whole time because we only get 3 months of visa. But at least we won't have the trouble of the German embassy b!tching about the validity of the certificate.
Now the absolute last resort is getting married online. You can only get married online in Utah because their state law does not differentiate between online and in-person marriages. The certificate does not even state that it was an online marriage. It will have an apostille stamp and everything. The downside: 700$. Then we will also have to get it translated for 100€ for the marriage office in Germany. Well, ain't that a b!tch. But at least they don't require the Non-Marriage Certificates, so we can still get this done after everything else failed and the documents expired. This is also something we are saving up for.
All the other surrounding countries are either in unrest, don't allow foreigners to get married, overwhelmed with covid, or just a dumpster fire, to begin with. Europe will only let me in under very strict surveillance, since I have a right to return to my home country, but not him, since we are not married yet. Also, other African countries, like the Seychelles, where we could get married, don't allow us in because they banned all travel from SA. The best way to escape SA and go to Europe would be to land in Nigeria, they allow people from SA. BUT. The visa for him is 114$ and mine is 98$, the flights are expensive, the accommodation is expensive and then we have to board another flight which is also expensive. The only places we could go from there would be UK and Ireland, as they don't require him to have a visa. Then we have the issue again with accommodation. Then we would have to go to Gibraltar, where we would have to pay around 300€ for the marriage and at least one night in a hotel there which are also crazy expensive. So, that is kinda not an option. Do you see our dilemma??
It is pretty messed up, but I'm still hoping very very hard for Botswana to let me back in.
That's it for now, in the next update I tell you what options we have after the wedding!
So, what are our options after the marriage, because the marriage is actually the "easy" part.
Our plan is to apply for a Spouse Visa first, which is a visitor visa for 90 days within a 180 days time period and it is more or less for free, which is good. For that, we need the marriage certificate with the apostille stamp on it and several other documents, which are kind of easy to get, at least easier, than what we had so far ( remember, it took us 8 months and around 1000€ to just get the non-marriage certificates).
If that one gets approved, we will go to Germany, spend a few months with my family, and doing a german language course, so Shak can do the A1 certificate in Germany. It is easier because Botswana does not have a Goethe Institut, but yet they require the certificate from all applicants (????). The next one is in SA, but it's closed due to Covid. Same in Namibia as far as I know. Also, the Instituts in Africa only offer one test every 3 months or so and it is between 100 and 200€. The courses are way more and even people who do the courses have to pay extra for the tests (Between 400 and 800€ depending on the country).
When our days are done, we will spend some time in UK or Ireland, as it is outside the Schengen area and Shak doesn't require a visa due to colonization I guess. From there I could still easily reach my family and it is also a little easier if we still needed some documents.
After that one is done, we will return to Botswana together, if that's possible, and apply for the family reunion visa. This one requires the A1 certificate and certain other documents, also we would have to pay the visa fee for this. Yay.
This particular visa gets rejected probably the most. Europe and Germany DO NOT WANT Africans (and other BiPoC, but I can only speak of the African experience). They just don't. They even built a "killswitch" into the law for every worker at the embassy to just reject an application when they feel like it (Ermessensausübung, Visahandbuch, Page 19). They tie it to some "reasons" but honestly, the workers at the embassy usually do not give a flying F!uck about the Visa handbook. I am in contact with many binational couples that are in similar situations and they have told me the craziest stories.
If this visa actually gets approved, we can fly to Germany, where the second killswitch awaits: The border police. They have the right to send him back to his home country without proper reason. In my opinion, they do not have the knowledge nor the authority to make such decisions. They just have the visa in his passport, they didn't read the application, they have no idea who we are, they cannot make a well-versed decision. Why do they get to have the final say about this?
If we get through this obstacle as well, we can finally go home and relax. At least for a second. Then the scary bureaucracy part in Germany begins. We have to register him, get him a residence and work permit, health insurance, bank account, several other offices we have to visit, and probably fees we have to pay, and THEN he can start to work and we will finally have less existential fears and anxiety. We can finally rest for the first time in 2 years.
If any of these steps go wrong, we do have a backup plan. I will tell you all about it in the next update. Stay tuned.