You’re Married. You Can Go.

When I first moved to Los Angeles more than 20 years ago, I discovered a writer, actor, and radio show host by the name of Harry Shearer. At the time, Shearer was writing a weekly column (regular series of articles for a magazine or newspaper) for the Los Angeles Times, but he was becoming much more famous for doing the voices for some of the characters on a (then) new TV series, The Simpsons.  A few weeks ago he wrote an article in Newsweek magazine talking about his marriage which I think is worth retelling (repeating).

In 1992, Shearer traveled to London where he met a woman (Judith Owen) and fell in love. Shearer invited Owen to come to visit him in Los Angeles, and she said yes. She was a British citizen and had apparently never been to the United States before. When she arrived at the immigration desk at LAX (Los Angeles International Airport), they asked her the usual question for visitors, “Are you here for business or pleasure (for fun)?” She answered that she had actually come to see the man she planned on marrying someday.

Wrong answer.

You see, the U.S. immigration officials are very suspicious (doubtful about someone or something) of people from other countries who marry U.S. citizens, because they think that many of the marriages are not “real” marriages, but instead are ways for the non-U.S. partner (husband or wife) to get permission to work in the U.S. So the last thing you want to say (the one thing you should never say) when arriving to the U.S. is that you are here to marry an American!

The immigration officials allowed Shearer’s wife to enter the U.S. (after a four-hour interview). Shearer and Owen did in fact get married, but their experience with the immigration office was not over (finished). If you marry a U.S. citizen, some months or years later you need to go to a personal interview with an immigration official, who will decide whether your marriage is real. If they think your marriage is a fraud (a false action or attempt to break the law), the non-U.S. partner could be deported (forced to leave the country).

Shearer and Owen had their interview about two years later. Like many couples in this situation, they prepared for weeks for the interview. They memorized all the personal information about each other that the immigration officer might ask them to make them prove they really did live together. They brought receipts and other documents to show that they had spent time together, including photographs of trips they took. They felt they were ready for any long interview to prove their marriage was real.

When they arrived at the immigration office, the official began the interview with a simple question to Shearer: “When did you two get married?” Shearer answered quickly and confidently, “March 29, 1993.”

Immediately Owen elbowed (used the elbow of her arm to hit) Shearer in the stomach and said somewhat angrily, “March 28!”

The woman looked at the two of them, then said, “You’re married. You can go.” The interview was over; their marriage was real.

Perhaps you have to be married to appreciate (understand and enjoy) this story, but the general message is clear. Sometimes just being yourself (acting normally or naturally) is all you need to do. Everything else takes care of itself.


Image credit: The Simpsons, Wikipedia Fair Use


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30 Responses to You’re Married. You Can Go.

  1. Zbyszek says:

    What a funny story!
    I wanted to see their faces after all.
    They probably laugh every time when they think about it.
    Have a nice day!

  2. Peter says:

    You know
    The only question needs to be asked is if the couple have sex.
    If the answer is positive , it means they are not married.;))

    Here in Camada is the smae
    Some people pay handsomely to get married with a Canadian citizen.
    I myself got offer several times
    I couldn’t go through with it ,though.
    The whole idea is a sham

  3. Dan says:

    Hi Jeff, Hi guys.

    Thanks Jeff this story made me laugh.
    I have seen both scenes derscribed in the article in many movies. The questioning at the airport and the visit of the immigration official.

    Nice pic. of the Simpson family there. Best show ever.
    I like the Texan character that shouts YEE-HAW while firing his two guns in the air.

    As a proof that the web is dispersive\distractive: I was reading the blog and without knowing it I found myself at the Simpsons website.
    That happens all the time.


  4. Kurumi says:

    Thank you for this interesting topic with funny story Dr.Jeff.I enjoyed very much.^^

    But in my case,maybe my husband can answer about our family events better than I do… XD I’m very forgetful.

  5. Rafael says:

    This topic reminds me my interview to get a american visa, here in Brazil. It very rings a bell for me.

    Unfortunately I had my request of visa denied. They said I did not have a strong links with Brazil and I was very young for that.

    Being yourself I think is in fact the real secreat to take an american visa.

    I will try to get it someday, because I wanna know the beeeeeeeauuutiful Los Angeles 🙂

    Nice story, bey the way.

  6. Myo ko ko says:

    An informative and reading-worth post, Jeff!
    You outdid yourself again. Congrats. Pro;
    Truth be told, I’ve never been told this point before: The last thing you want to say (the one thing you should never say) when arriving to the U.S. is that you are here to marry an American!
    But frankly and generally speaking, I think, this fact is, for me, not something to factor in,
    ‘Cause I myself never think of getting married to a foreigner.
    But so much thanks for your heads-up, and for your “written-with-your-big-heart” post.


  7. Myo ko ko says:

    I’ve also taken the article you cited above to curl up with at home.;)

  8. Myo ko ko says:

    In fact, I intended not to leave any comments on this post, but to take this post to my home for later reading.
    ‘Cause at first sight, Jeff’s today’s post is seem a bit long to me.
    But I managed to skim over it and leave some notes here.
    I’m glad I did.
    I’ll thoroughly read this post again at my home for my English acquisition.
    Thanks again. 😉

  9. Sara says:

    Thanks Dear was great.

  10. Rasoul says:

    Hello to Dr. Jeff and all of ESLPOD listeners,

    Imitation in behavioral issues deteriorates the value of a person and makes lots of problems for that person. There are several reasons for this statement. First and foremost, not to be yourself and trying to role play another one, takes lots of your concentration to do plan and do a work. For example, I had a friend who won an International competition, so I decided to go in his way. But my talents and situation was not appropriate to go in that way. After that I suffered lots of problems for that wrong decision. It is quite clear; to me at least, if I decided due to my situation, then I could achieve my goals much easier. Second, being yourself in your life makes every person more interesting. Because everyone in this world has his/her talents, beauty and existing. To sum up I want to reiterate that believing in yourself and choosing your way in your life due to your abilities makes you more successful.


  11. Ziba says:

    Hi Jeff,

    Thank you for the nice and funny story and new words.

    I thing when the marriage of a couple is real they don’t need to play a role, they act as usual even when they are interviewed.

    Although the story is very interesting and funny, it reminded me a sad memory in my life.

    I can understand them and their feeling. They was afraid of to be separated. Separation between two lovers is very sad and miserable. Yes, I feel them, because I had an experience and I was separated from my love. he was forced to go to abroad and then married there and never came back.

    thank you again, Jeff, in the story I could learn somthing about the immigration in the U.S.

    Ziba, Iran

  12. Genji says:

    Hi Jeff.
    I really like this comment,
    ” Sometimes just “being yourself” is all you need to do.
    Everything else takes care of itself.”
    Thank you, Jeff.

  13. Annie says:

    The immigration officer must be married too, since she knows exactly what marrige means.

  14. Betty says:

    Dear Jeff

    Thank you very much for retelling this true story about the truly married couple who nearly got separated by the US Immigration Department.

    I remember watching a film called “Green Card”.

    It is a 1990 romantic comedy film written, produced, directed by Peter Weir and starring Gérard Depardieu and Andie MacDowell.

    It tells the story about a couple being separated by the US Immigration Department.  But the story has a totally opposite storyline.

    It is a comedy film, but watching it may break the hearts of the many genuinely married couple who were forced to separate from their love ones.

    About thirty years ago, a friend told me he heard about a true story about an unsuccessful application of a US travel visa.

    An old couple applied for US travel visas.  When being asked whether they had applied for US visas before, they answered ‘no’.  Their applications were declined immediately.  The explanation was, they had applied for US visas 60 years before.  The old couple forgot about what happened 60 years ago. There was no reason for anyone to forget what happened 60 years ago??

    My dear friends, I don’t know about the visa application to other countries, I have learned so many true story about unsuccessful US visas applications.  Just be careful and prepare for the worst all the time.

    Thanks again, Jeff, your website has help me keep my brain going.

    Best regards

    Betty 😉

  15. Marcos says:

    Thank you Jeff for telling us this funny story. I think you could retell it through the ESLpodcast along with Lucy. What do you think? I guess the podcast listeners would laugh a lot.

    Marcos, Brazil

  16. Yang Billy says:

    I think it is a good story,Sometimes just being yourself is all you need to do. Everything else takes care of itself.

  17. Rachid says:

    Thank You, I enjoyed the story very much….

  18. el gatufo says:

    Dear Betty, I was thinking on the same movie like you as it was quite informative
    about the point.
    For years there have been the same matter here in Spain, not now of course, but
    years before there were lot of people that wanted to married a Spanish man or
    woman just to get the nationality, even more there were people that wanted to
    get money doing these kind of marriage. They used to get 3000 or 4000 euros
    just to do an untruthful weding.
    The police need to be alert about these kind of subjects as it was not only one
    or two wedings what some people done, it was several as a matter of getting
    a lot of money.

    All my best dear Betty.


  19. tania says:

    Hi! A very sad story the shipwreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. My first question was how large was the Superior Lake to sink a big ship.
    Reading on Wikipedia I have found the following:
    “Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake in the world by the surface area.
    Annual storms on Lake Superior regularly record wave heights of over 6 m.”
    Waves of 6 m… like on the sea or on the ocean! Incredible!

  20. tania says:

    Hi! I do not like the sad songs, especially with sailors where the sinking is a permanent peril, but I have listened to the ballad on You Tube.
    Yes, a tribute to the 29 men who died November 10, 1975, on the ship Edmund Fitzgerald in Lake Superior.
    The legend must lives on in memoriam of all sailors who die on the sea.

    Thank you for this sad song.

  21. tania says:

    Hi! Too complicated to me: reckless, the wreck…

  22. tania says:

    Hi! Thank you for the words ”arena” and ”tribute”.
    We have a new stadium called ”arena”. I thought it was about of Roman arena.
    And it is trendy this word ”tribute”. We say ”tribut” and it appears frequently in our newspapers.

  23. Betty says:

    Dear emiliano

    Thank you for agreeing with me with the film.

    I watched it only recently, but I could understand the story – I mean the English, so I remembered it quite well.

    Very often I cannot hear what they say due to my listening skill not so good, I would not remember them so vividly.

    Sham marriage used to happen in Spain as well?  It is happening in Hong Kong now.  I had not heard about it when I was little.  It probably can happen anywhere in the world, just a matter of when.

    I heard about a true story of a boy who came from China to study in England.  It was more than thirty years ago.  He was approached by a lady who had British Citizenship to enter a sham marriage.  She said if he wanted to stay in England he could buy the status; no need to study which cost a lot of money and time, and no entitlement to stay in UK after study.  All he needed to do was to pay her some thousands of British pounds and he would get to stay in England permanently.

    He was being asked again and again, but he dared not to trust the lady.  He was very scared.  He worried not about the money, but about being kidnapped by the woman.  She could force him to do everything a real couple do, you know what I was referring to.  The idea of being a husband of that woman made him shiver.

    If the woman was pretty like Andie MacDowell, he would not hesitate for a split second and ‘married’ her immediately.

    I am so happy to read your posts again.  They always deliver a message – a message for us to contemplate even further.

    Best regards to you all.

    Betty 😉

  24. tania says:

    Hi! I like very much the movies with Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. And I think “Guess Who”s Coming to Dinner” was a real shocking movie for 60”s.
    May I write some memorable quotes for this movie?

    “The only thing that matters is what they feel, and how much they feel for each other.
    And if it”s half what we felt – that”s everything.”

  25. tania says:

    “After all, a lot of people are going to think we are a shocking pair.”

  26. tania says:

    “You can’t tell me when or where I’m out of line, or try to get me to live my life according to your rules.
    You don’t even know what I am, Dad, you don’t know who I am.
    You don’t know how I feel, what I think. And if I tried to explain it the rest of your life you will never understand.”

  27. tania says:

    “But you think of yourself as a colored man. I think of myself as a man.”

  28. tania says:

    “Now, I’ve got a decision to make?
    And I’ve got to make it alone and I gotta make it in a hurry.”

  29. tania says:

    Hi! Thank you for you have told us about this nice movie.

  30. tabkom says:

    Sometimes just being yourself is all you need to do. Everything else takes care of itself.
    And I say :
    Always just being yourself is all you need to do. Everything else takes care of itself.

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