Ms. Carmichael Reunites with Family

Girls who lived in Bergamini last year are used to seeing Taika on their hall, wearing a smile and a colorful dress, every day. Ms. Noël Carmichael, English and Drama teacher, and her younger daughter Taika, who are U.S. citizens, moved to the States from Tanzania in the summer of 2017, hoping Chisondi, Ms. Carmichael’s husband, and Monica, the older daughter, would be able to follow shortly thereafter. However, the visas for the other half of the family were held up for days, then for weeks and months, and eventually for well over a year.

Family in TZ

The family during a vacation in Tanzania in August 2018. From left to right: Chisondi, Taiki, Monica, and Noel. Photo provided.

Taika and Ms. Carmichael arrived in the United States a few months after the inauguration of President Trump. Carmichael believes that Trump’s harsh anti-immigration policies may have contributed to dragging out her family’s visas, but she’s certain the immigration system itself is broken and needs reform. U.S. citizens can usually–though not always–sponsor their international spouses to help them get their visas fairly quickly. That allows families to remain intact. In Carmichael’s case, the U.S. government questioned the legitimacy of her marriage to Chis. This created a prolonged nightmare for Ms. Carmichael’s family.

In an interview earlier this month, Ms. Carmichael described the long journey to reunite her family:

We started the process two years and one week ago. It started with an application we had to mail. I lived in Tanzania at that time. They opened the case and then we were in a waiting line for eight months. We heard nothing. We had this website I checked every single day to see if we were any closer, and it was just sitting there every day.

And then finally they opened the case. They did all the paperwork, and they sent us a bunch of questions that I needed to answer quickly. Chis and I had to prove our relationship was real. We’ve been married eight years, and they wanted us to show evidence of pre-marriage, like us falling in love. How are you supposed to prove that from like 9 years ago?

Luckily my mom saves all her emails, and she found all these messages from me. ‘Mom, I met a guy!’ We literally printed out those emails and much more.

We sent 7.7 pounds of evidence to the government, in paperwork. My mom calls it my Ph.D. in immigration policy that I’ve been working on for the last two years. The pile of evidence was my thesis. So we sent that in and finally, they recognized our marriage.

After that milestone, the visa applications of both Chis and Monica were sent to a different part of the government and ended up in a nondescript government building in New Hampshire, where the application sat for months. Then there was a lot of online forms to fill, documents to upload (many of the same ones we had submitted earlier to the other government department) and background security checks with lots of ridiculous questions. Here’s an example: “Have you ever knowingly aided, abetted, assisted or colluded with an individual who has been identified by the President of the United States as a person who plays a significant role in a severe form of trafficking in persons?”

Then [Chis and Monica] had to get vaccinations — every shot they would’ve had if they were born and raised in America. Monica had to get 6 shots in two days. Then they did an interview at the U.S. Embassy in Dar es Salaam. And then, after sixteen anxious months of waiting and worrying, America granted their visas. A week later, at the arrivals area at JFK on Thanksgiving day, we were all together in the United States for the very first time. Shortly after that, Chis and Monica were settling into their new home in Berg.

Northwood is very happy to welcome Chisondi and Monica to our community. We hope that Ms. Carmichael’s family finds much happiness together in Lake Placid and at Northwood School. Karibuni!

Ms. Carmichael (right) on Thanksgiving Day with her family (from left to right, Taika, Chisondi and Monica) at JFK Airport shortly after Chis and Monica arived from Tanzania (Photo provided).

Ms. Carmichael (right) on Thanksgiving Day with her family (from left to right, Taika, Chisondi and Monica) at JFK Airport shortly after Chis and Monica arived from Tanzania (Photo provided).

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