More than three months after being forced to return home to Jamestown as a result of the continued unrest in Ukraine's Crimean region, Taylor Smetska is one step closer to being reunited with her Ukrainian husband, Kostya.
Earlier this week, Taylor reported via Facebook that United States Citizenship and Immigration Services has approved her petition that would ultimately award Kostya an immigration visa to the U.S.
Taylor met Kostya in January 2011 while traveling to Ukraine with her mother, Summer Spitz, to pick up Spitz's adopted Ukrainian daughter, Lyla.
Taylor Smetska and her daughter, Evelyn, are pictured at left with Kostya, Taylor’s husband and Evelyn’s father. Kostya has thus far been unable to receive a tourism visa to leave Ukraine, and Taylor is currently working with immigration to move the process along.
The two became fast friends, formed a relationship and were subsequently married in June 2012. Taylor had been living with Kostya in the Ukrainian city of Simferopol since March 2013 on a temporary residence visa. The Smetskas also gave birth to a daughter, Evelyn, in December.
Taylor was contacted by the U.S. Embassy in early March telling her conditions were no longer safe for her and Evelyn to stay in Simferopol due to the rising turmoil between the Ukrainian and Russian governments. Evelyn was granted an emergency visa, and she and Taylor were evacuated. Kostya was forced to remain in his native country because he has thus far been unable to obtain a tourism visa to enter the U.S. - having been denied twice before.
Since returning home, Taylor has been engaged in the grueling process of trying to obtain an immigration visa for Kostya so he can come to the U.S.
"The first step is filing a petition through the USCIS," Taylor said. "Only certain people under certain circumstances are able to do this. Spouses of U.S. citizens, as well as parents of U.S. citizens are part of the required criteria. Essentially, I had to prove that our marriage is legitimate, and for love, rather than for U.S. immigration status. The USCIS quotes that the average processing time for this petition is 9.9 months, however we got approved in one month."
Although she is unsure how the petition's approval came about so quickly, Taylor said she has been in contact with representatives from the offices of Congressman Tom Reed, R-Corning, and Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. While this makes for the best news Taylor has received since she returned to Jamestown on March 4, she said there is still more work to do.
"Next, our application gets sent to the Department of State's National Visa Center," she said. "I will have to prove that we can financially support Kostya, and he won't become a liability of the government. I think they also do background checks and all of that jazz."
Taylor said she is unsure how long this portion of the approval process may take, but that she has been told it is fairly quick. If and when the application is approved at the National Visa Center, Taylor said Kostya will have to undergo an interview at the U.S. Consulate in Ukraine, where more validation of the legitimacy of his marriage to Taylor will be required.
"I'm not 100 percent on what they are looking for in an interview yet," she said. "I know they are looking for more validation that our marriage is legitimate, but I'm not sure what else. If they like him in the interview, they will issue him an immigration visa and he will be able to finally buy a plane ticket to the U.S."
Family and friends of Taylor's family have taken to social media and other online resources to draw attention to the situation. Currently, updates are being posted to a Facebook page entitled, "Bring Kostya Home."