France announced in early August the introduction of a special procedure whereby partners separated by Covid-19 and travel restrictions could apply for a family reunification. Great news for binational couples!
“Love Is Essential” might sound like the title of a Harlequin romance, but it’s one of several hashtags that highlight the plight of binational couples separated by the travel restrictions imposed in the aftermath of Covid-19. The tags link up to online petitions calling on governments to amend the rules and allow partners in long-distance relationships — whether married or not — to be reunited.
In March, when the extent and severity of the pandemic became painfully clear, countries swiftly shut their borders and raised the drawbridge. Mid-month, President Donald Trump imposed a ban on people traveling from Europe to the U.S. The European Union followed suit shortly afterwards, barring entry to all foreign nationals except in the case of “essential travel” or “imperative family reasons.” As a result, couples with different nationalities faced an unprecedented problem if one of the partners was geographically separated from the other when the rulings came into force.
The issue had already arisen at the domestic level in France, as partners working or traveling separately when a 15-day nationwide lockdown was first imposed mid-March were stranded apart. When parliament met subsequently (and remotely) to pass legislation extending le confinement for a further 30 days, Mireille Clapot, a representative from the Drôme département, tried to tack on a so-called amendement des amoureux, or lovebirds’ amendment, that would add “romance” to the list of valid reasons for traveling from home once restrictions were eased. Despite Ms. Clapot’s claim that the travel veto was tantamount to a “ban on love,” her proposal was rejected — though Health Minister Olivier Véran did thank her for introducing a “tender moment” into the otherwise grim parliamentary agenda.
Being separated from someone living in the same country is bad enough, but couples divided by the Atlantic Ocean face problems of a different magnitude. In addition to emotional stress, they have to deal with practical matters such as returning to the workplace, enrolling kids in school, signing or renewing a lease, or simply resuming normal life. Moreover, the contrasting public-health situations in the United States and Europe have resulted in asymmetric restrictions, with a confusing patchwork of entry-visa restrictions, bans, and partial exceptions which still exist today. […]
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