Austrian Visa Marriage Austrian Adaptation Carly Hulls

We Got Married for a Visa

In Expat, Featured, Life, Our Story by Carly45 Comments

He grabbed my hand as I was striding to the dance floor. After six weeks in a ski resort with the girl-to-guy odds strongly in my favour, I was confident, even cocky, as he pulled me aside. He had an Irish lilt to his accent and a cheeky open smile.

‘Sure, I’ll have a drink, what are you buying?’

‘Local specialty – Sambucca Extreme’

The drink came with complicated instructions, the most important of which was:

‘If you get scared, just close your mouth and the fire will stop’

Still far too confident for my own good, I nodded flippantly and assured this charming guy I could handle it. With a quick flick of the wrist I took the shot glass in hand and poured the sambucca into my upturned mouth like a baby bird. Then I leant back for the lighter to be lowered into my mouth, setting the waiting sambucca aflame. It was only when he started to sprinkle the cinnamon and sparks began not only flying, but dropping past my eyeballs that I lost my cool. All memory of the carefully repeated instructions forgotten, I panicked. My head flew up, eyes wide. In less than half a second I’d spat the flaming shot back out. Not gracefully to the floor, but straight back onto him – the flaming spirit hit his neck, his sharply ironed shirt and Timberland shoes. After a millisecond of stunned silence, we both collapsed into laughter, covered in sticky sweet sambucca.

Eight months later we were standing in a Viennese Magistrat’s office with our freshly signed marriage certificate. We never planned on getting married so fast, and I never imagined I would marry the man I loved for a Visa.

The firstweek

One of the few photos from the first week we met

We Got Married for A Visa

We got married for a visa, and it was tough. It was also wildly romantic – but it’s only looking back that I appreciate that.

I don’t regret the decision for a second. What I do regret is that I never asked for help. Never tried to find other Expat couples who had been through a similar experience and could’ve given some perspective and reassurance. Getting ‘Visa Married’ was the most momentous, crazy, stressful, wonderful decision I’ve made, but we were completely alone in it.

Married

At the time we thought we were insane idiots. In the 3 years since that day, I’ve discovered there’s many more couples out there who have been through it. Sharing and hearing their stories made us feel less alone, less insane and more assured of our decision.

Today, on our 3 year ‘definitely-not-a-wedding’ anniversary I wanted to share the Good, the Bad, the Ugly and the Best parts of getting Married for a Visa. In the hope that it will help another ‘crazy’ expat couple to get through it.

But first –

Why Get Married?

Stefan and I were both extremely not-ready-to-marry. We’d spent very little time actually being in the same country/place/room together, let alone existing as a serious couple. The harsh reality was, Austria is extremely tough for migrants from Australia to get in to. So the marriage conversation came about very very early as a necessity to stay together. From our (definitely-not-legally-binding) experience there’s 3 ways to get a Visa to live and work here.

  1. Company Sponsored Visa. Minimum wage needs to be €2,500 p/m brutto. So you better be on more than an unemployed tour guide wage!
  2. Student Visa. Apply for a course to receive a study visa. Any courses run in English will be at private universities who’s fees will make you laugh and laugh until you cry a little because you cannot afford them.
  3. Get Married. Live happily ever after once you submit all the endless paperwork and navigate the whole ‘partners for life in sickness and in health’ thing. In German.

We ran around in circles for months to try and find alternatives to marriage. We even referred to getting married as ‘Plan Z’. As in, the very final, absolute last resort of all our options. Could I get a German Working Holiday Visa but live in Vienna? Could his company sponsor me? Could we bribe the Visa office? We tried every other avenue from every possible side before the Plan Z conversation. Because to marry someone you just met and conducted most of your relationship with long distance, just seemed a touch too crazy. Surely?!?

The Good

As much as getting Visa-Married seemed insane, it put our relationship to the test extremely early. Without that early pressure I’m not sure if we would have persevered through other hurdles together. (Like his constant efforts to get me hiking). Once the stakes were set that high, we both knew it was make or break. From then on, we had to be as honest as possible with each other.

Us in our matching outfits

Honesty can lead to matching outfit syndrome occasionally 

For a while it felt like it was us against the world. Fighting the government, the EU, the Schengen agreements – fighting just for the right to stay together. That early pressure-test survival set the groundwork for our relationship to withstand anything. We were a team. If we could get through the red tape and bureaucracy of Austria to stay together, we could do anything.

TL:DR: It will make your relationship stronger!

The Bad

If you are an Australian or US citizen, you technically only have 90 days to stay in the Schengen zone of Europe within a 180 day period. If you don’t get a visa before that 90 day period runs out, you will be kicked out of Austria. I know this because it happened to me.  There is nothing more terrifyingly confusing than sitting in a 1970’s communist office building, while a formal looking Austrian woman shakes her head, repeats the word ‘nein’ and explains in rapid-fire German why you need to leave the country, immediately. At that point I’d known Stefan a grand total of 3 weeks and was being banished for 3 months to the UK. It was a gut-wrenching reality hit in the fairytale early days of our relationship.  Throughout our whole Visa application process the memory of that powerless moment hung over us like a ticking time bomb. Even after we were married, the 90 days still applied until my Visa was issued.

So the bad news is – it is literally a race against time once you are married to achieve legal status. Get your paperwork in order as early as possible!

The Ugly

Telling your close friends and family that you’re marrying a guy you met in a bar, that they’ve never met and oh, by the way, it wasn’t a ‘real’ wedding, just a paper signing, is horrific. The emotional fallout and reverberations, explanations, judgements and arguments went on for a minimum of 18 months. Having spoken with other couples, I’m told we were not alone in the gamut of reactions we received when we shared the ‘good’ news.

Friend looking unimpressed You will get a lot of this face.

Brace yourself for a full range of reactions – some people will say it was selfish, some will cry, others will be hurt you didn’t invite them (even when you assure them no one was invited). The good reactions will be like a lifeline of hope – those people who will simply see how happy you are and be happy for you. Know in advance that other people’s reactions to the news generally has more to do with what’s happening in their lives. Your sudden marriage is just a catalyst for their response. Eventually – and it will feel like an eternity where you’re world is collapsing but I promise, eventually – they will come around.

The Best

We intentionally made ‘Plan Z’ as low key as possible so it didn’t feel like a ‘real’ wedding, just some paperwork. He still wants to propose, I still want a beachside ceremony and of course we both want all our families there. So Plan Z was the absolute bare minimum, to convince ourselves it was just a paper signing. Just the two of us and our 2 witnesses – my best friend from London and his cousin from Tirol. No rings, no big dress, no music, no reception. It was 9:30am on a Monday, we took the tram in all together and had champagne breakfast in a non-descript cafe afterwards.

Untitled Just riding an old fashioned tram to our non-Wedding. No biggie here guys. (We were trying to play cool at this point)

Looking back, I’m so glad we kept it simple, as it is now forever a day that was truly just for us. The big party celebration will come and no doubt be incredible, but that day was truly ours.

The Happy Ending?

I don’t have any wisdom to hand down here. It took me 3 years to work up the courage to even write about this. I’m still not sure about posting it. I needed the courage and the distance from the emotional fallout to get this far. What I do know is this:

Getting Married for a Visa isn’t wrong, or selfish, or bad or stupid. If you need to accelerate your relationship beyond ‘normal’ expectations for the sake of the relationship and it feels right, do it. In the immortal words of Billy Connelly ‘Fuck the Begrudgers’. It won’t be as scary and awful as you think!

Fuck the Begrudgers

I couldn’t resist making a whimsical travel quote out of this – sorry not sorry!

Partying in Apres ski bars, going on pub crawls and enjoying yourself, being your truest, happiest self pays off eventually. I met the love of my life in a bar after many many big nights, bad hookups and shenanigans galore. Never let anyone tell you not to enjoy yourself if it feels right to you. Find your real, happiest self, and the right cheeky silly person will be there waiting. That sounds like cheesy rom-com rubbish, but it happened to me – and I was a trashbag party queen with the best of them. And if a fun and friendly looking guy offers you a drink, take the chance and say yes.

 

Untitled Do the crazy thing with the crazy guy….

kiss innsbruck

 ….and it might just take you places you never imagined

Happy Anniversary  Schatz. You’re the best crazy decision I’ve ever made.

 

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Married for a Visa in Austria Austrian Adaptation Carly Hulls

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Comments

  1. Congratulations!!!! In Brazil, people are even considering marrying for a MasterCard!!!! This country is falling to pieces!!

  2. That’s such a lovely story. I am lucky enough to be an Aussie who has an EU passport and can live in Vienna as long as I want. I too have met my dream man here and am relieved that we don’t have this pressure. Most relationships don’t last the pressure and stress. You guys were meant to be.

    1. Author

      Ah lucky you Cynthia! Those Austrians can be charming hey? 🙂 Sounds like we’ve had similar experiences, hope you’re enjoying life in Vienna!

  3. Must be lovely to be able to get married as a heterosexual for whatever visa you would like…
    Lovely to hear how difficult that’s been for you.

    1. Author

      I 100% agree with you there – compared to my gay friends I had it easy. I willingly fight for their right to make the same crazy decisions.

    2. I know a same-sex couple who registered their partnership for visa reasons… So I guess this should work as well?

  4. This story has given me hope,
    We have a 18 month ticking clock of my partners visa – what to do next, marriage? Defacto visa?
    THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR SHARING!

    1. Author

      Amy you are more than welcome- it’s a tough road but so worth it in the end! Good luck!

  5. a) congratulations!
    b) my wife and myself semi-kidded that we were getting married for tax-reasons. Not actually true but it kinda reduced the pressure to make it a super-awesome-perfect-special day. Which is why it ended up super-awesome-perfect-special …
    c) also, woohoo Innsbruck! (in the last picture)

    1. Author

      Thanks Michael! The pressure reduction tactic is golden makes everything much less stressful- well played!

  6. It’s stories like these that make me glad I’m a European citizen! If I’d had to marry to be allowed to move to Switzerland we would have just stayed in Germany. I’m glad it worked out for you though. Happy anniversary!

  7. Carly – A wonderful go for it post. Loved it. I married an Australian (I’m an American) and we kid he married for the green card. It’s thirty five years now of a great life, wonderful Adventures and kids.
    Proud of you to share.

    1. Author

      Laura that’s incredible congrats! It’s good to hear the inter cultural marriages can last 🙂

    2. Author

      Thanks Laura that is an inspiring amount of time you two have been together- so great to hear, all the best!!

  8. This post is gold! It made me laugh out loud. I’m sure people have got married for much less and it least you’ve been married for 3 years!

  9. Wowza! Ballsy and totally love it. I’ve been with my boyfriend for almost 7 years – he’s British I’m American. We’ve made a vow (haha) not to marry for a visa, but that’s simply our decision. The visa-marriage was something we talked about early on, but for now we just move around the world to countries that allow us both. Congrats to you and your success 🙂

    1. Author

      That actually sounds like the perfect excuse for endless travel adventures 🙂 I’m pretty sure I told Stefan in the first few weeks of us getting together to ‘not dare propose just for a Visa, and DEFINITELY not within a year of us being together’. That obviously went really well. Hope you and your man are enjoying your travels and cross-cultural lives together!

  10. Thanks for sharing and congratulations: you have much to celebrate! I’m sorry that you felt so alone in making that decision, though. As an Australian living here with my Austrian partner your post resonated with me, and sparked my curiousity. My partner and I went another route: a partner/family-member visa, which doesn’t require that we are married. It wasn’t easy, the paperwork seemed endless and oh-so particular, and it means that I don’t have work-rights at the moment, but it was the best option for us. Was this ever an option for you at the time?

  11. I never knew this about you — you keep your personal life off Snapchat so well! Congratulations on three years and thanks for this insight into visa marriages!

    1. Author

      I’m sure you’ll spot him in the background of a few snaps now hahaha! Thanks so much glad you enjoyed it 🙂

  12. Aw Carly I love this!

    I can SO relate! I met my husband in a ski town bar in the Pyrenees and we got married for a visa a short time there after as well! Eight years and two kids later, it’s the best crazy decision we ever made too! lol
    And I STILL haven’t worked up the courage to write about–you’ve inspired me to do so.

    Great read. Happy to discover your blog.

    Xo

    1. Author

      Thanks so much Tiffiney! Really really encouraging to hear the ‘crazy’ ones can last – if we can get anywhere close to lasting 8 years, 2 kids and travelling the way you guys do (secret super fan of your blog 😉 ) then I’d be pretty stoked!

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  15. Hi Carly,

    Thank you for sharing your story.
    It’s incredible to be able to write about it and also must be inspiring for a lot of people.
    It’s so admirable to have such a courage and determination to be yourself and to seems so much fun at the same time.

    1. Author

      Thanks guys – that’s an awesomely positive way to look at it 🙂 Glad you enjoyed our story!

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  17. This is a great post. And even if you do marry the “right way” with everyone cordially inviting and according to your families’ expectations… Guess what! It is going to be as dramatic as possible! Some people can’t just accept that other people’s life choice will be just plain different from them. And related to the last paragraph you wrote, I found a quote the other day that said: “it is not about chasing after butterflies, it’s about taking care of your flowers and garden, so the butterdlies come to you, because at the end of the day, you won’t find what what you were looking for, but you will find the person who had been always looking for you”. I think that is what real love is about it the end. Thank you for crazy cool honesty 🙂 we expats need the encouragement!

    1. Author

      Isabel you are so so right – marriage is actually such a personal thing but because everyone is invited to the party they all think they get to share their 2 cents!! Your quote is a beautiful way of thinking about love and life together – sounds like a German proverb hahaha. I think all expats are crazy honest and cool so look forward to hearing more of your adventures in expat living too 🙂

  18. Hi Carly, I totally hear you. I’m currently living in a small town in Germany and am about to get married in 3 days! Like you, it’s also for a visa with the exception that we’ve been together for almost two years and the first step we took before marriage was a Sprachkursvisum where I get to learn German 25 hours a week for a year. We also have lived together for more than a year. It took us a while to come to the decision but we couldn’t bear to live apart from each other. So as practical as it has to be, marriage became the best solution and we were heading that way anyway. However like you mentioned, while some were esctatic for us, some offered the “but it’s so soon!” reply. We’ve got through so much paperwork and signing them in the final papers at the local Standesamt later will all be worth it. I’m glad I found your blog and am feeling all the love and support that comes from your article. I wish you all the best and enjoy Vienna!

    1. Author

      Oh my god Ying CONGRATULATIONS! It’s awesome! I’m sure you had a beautiful day and glad my little post could help reassure you that it was all going to be ok – because OF COURSE it is 🙂 Sounds like you guys have your heads screwed on the right way and are going to have a lovely life together. Let me know how it goes and hopefully we can swap stories in a small German town one day.

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  20. Hey Carly
    Im just writing you cause im also about to marry this loving austrian man just because we dont wanna be apart, and it was like that at our first month together when we met in india. He told me “so you come with me” and i accepted and i left my plan and my home in india right away. Here i am in austria with a visa about to finish in 26 days… and getting papers and all the work together takes more than the time i have left… do you know anyway i could extend my 90 days stay in austria? Cause we dont want to spend 90 days apart!
    And i guess you know what i mean…

    Best of best to you.
    Let love grow!

  21. Awww this just made me cry (happy cry!). It just hits home about my situation at the moment, having been on and off and a lot of long distance and crap in between and now engaged to get married! Which comes with lots of judgments… We are a bit the opposite though, and planning a wedding with my friends and family coming from NZ and Australia even though I have no approved visa yet and won’t have one until a couple of months before. Basically pretending that part isn’t stressful at all and there’s no possibility it won’t work out and we might have to ditch all plans and get married overseas somewhere! Eek. I’m so happy it worked for your guys and you’re so happy! There really is no “normal” and “right” way. Screw it.

    1. Author

      Ahhh as long as it was a happy cry! Sounds like you guys are putting the power of positive thinking to work, which I’m sure will be fine, and you get the wedding fun!!! ‘Screw it’was pretty much our mantra tbh and you realize all those judgements are about other people’s own bullshit, not yours. You guys are gunna be happy no matter what- enjoy the madness, and congrats!!!

  22. Finally got around to reading this post that’s intrigued me for months. I’ve never come across anyone else who’s been kicked out of Austria! It truly is terrifying. Thank you for sharing a part of your story. Learned a lot!

  23. I would love to talk more about this! I am american and my boyfriend and I are going through the same thing it seems… We need all the help we can get. Kmount50@gmail.com

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