A Virginia woman has been stranded in Thailand after leaving the United States to visit her dying mother.
Adam Ross and his wife, Apinya Towmor, had been married for only three weeks when Towmor left their Herndon home in an attempt to be at her mother's bedside in Thailand before she died. Unfortunately, her mother died two hours before she arrived.
That was five months ago.
"When they ask where my wife is, I say the government stole her for 12 months," said Ross. "...This is how I'll remember the first year of our marriage."
Towmor had previously entered the United States on a student visa, attending several schools including George Mason University, taking English classes and studying nursing.
But those in the U.S. on student visas can't leave the country without a travel document -- which typically takes 60 days to obtain. Since Towmor couldn't wait, her departure in August voided her green card application.
Getting another visa will take between nine and 12 months. Once she returns, she'll need to begin a new green card application.
Ross has reached out to elected officials for help. His elected officials in Congress -- Sen. Mark Warner and Rep. Frank R. Wolf -- have tried to intervene, but Ross says immigration officials are not willing to budge.
"I really haven't seen any humanity from any of these people, that they really can't imagine themselves in my position and [it's] just a result of very, very bad bureaucracy," Ross said.
In a letter dated Dec. 27 to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Alejandro N. Mayorkas, Ross wrote in part, "What is your reasoning for allowing the immigration process to keep family members separated for up to 12 months or more? In our case and thousands of others, these are taxpayers with no criminal history, the petitioners [are] U.S. citizens, [and] the applicants [are] here legally."
Ross was able to visit Towmor and her family in Thailand in November for a ceremony marking the 100th day since the death of Towmor's mother.
The couple's separation has cost thousands of dollars in airfare costs and processing and legal fees, as well as an emotional toll that can't be measured, Ross said.