by VJ News
SANTA ROSA BEACH — Marriage has been anything but typical for Minh Thuan Nguyen and his wife, Duong Pham.
They’ve been married for almost four years but don’t see each other often. He lives in Santa Rosa Beach and she lives in Vietnam.
He visits her once a year, but it’s a costly trip and the visits are too short. They’ve tried getting her a visa into the United States, but they’ve been turned down each time.
“It’s very hard for me,” said Nguyen, who moved to the United States from Vietnam as a child.
The couple met in 2005 in an online chat room and immediately hit it off. A month later, Pham invited Nguyen visit her and her family.
During the trip, Nguyen decided he wanted to spend his life with her and proposed. She accepted and they applied to get her a visa into the United States.
But they weren’t prepared for the process of getting a fiancé visa and were denied.
“We were young and we didn’t know we’d need evidence and all that stuff,” Nguyen said. “When you go there, they make you nervous, very nervous.”
After that effort failed and they realized they wouldn’t be able to get Pham into the country for a wedding, they changed their plans.
Along with several of his relatives, including brothers and a sister, Nguyen traveled to Pham’s village in 2007 for their wedding. They had more than 100 guests and the couple was certain it would only be a matter of time before Pham was with Nguyen in Florida.
Remembering the issues from the first time, they came armed with documentation of their phone and Internet chat conversations, letters from their families, Nguyen’s ministers in Pensacola and the marriage certificate.
They made it to the interview process with the U.S. consulate in Vietnam again by 2009, but were rejected a second time.
“I thought when you marry … “ Nguyen said before pausing. “I’m a U.S. citizen, so she should be here with me.”
At least one local woman agrees and is doing what she can to ensure the couple finally get to live together.
Sandi McClanahan met Nguyen about two years ago when she started getting her nails done at his family’s 4 Seasons Nails & Spa salon in Destin.
“I’m not political — I don’t understand all this stuff — but I felt like they need an advocate,” McClanahan said.
Since learning the details of Pham and Nyugen’s situation, McClanahan has reached out to local legislators and created a Facebook page for the couple called “Help Unite Duong and Minh.”
“In life it’s all about somebody knowing somebody and making that connection,” McClanahan said. “I just really hope the right person will get their hands on this and do something from this side.”
Nguyen said he’s grateful for McClanahan’s help and hopes this will be the time that Pham finally gets her visa. If she doesn’t, they’ll just try again.
“I told my wife, ‘Sooner or later you’ll be here anyway because you’re my wife,’ “ he said. “It depends on the person interviewing her, but I have a good feeling, you know.”
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