By Libby Smith

DENVER (CBS4) – In a federal court decision which references Shakespeare, the judge found that the U.S. State Department was wrong to stop processing K-1 visas, or visas for foreign-born fiancés.

“Essentially everything the government is doing in terms of denying your visas is illegal,” said attorney Jeff Joseph in a Facebook live explaining the ruling to plaintiff’s in the case.

(credit CBS)

In the ruling, the judge called the plaintiffs “pair[s] of star-crossed lovers” out of Romeo and Juliet.

He goes on to say, “In that tragedy, news of Juliet’s ruse never reaches Romeo because an ‘infectious pestilence’ forces a quarantine that blocks the message’s delivery. Here, similarly, COVID-19 has kept apart our Plaintiffs.”

In March of this year, COVID-19 stopped the processing of all visa applications. When operations resumed, most visas were being processed, except K-1. The lawsuit was brought in September after hundreds of couples, who had applied for K-1 visas, were told that the State Department was not allowing the processing of those visas.

The State Department argued that they hadn’t specifically stopped those visas, but plaintiffs’ lawyers were able to use the government’s own data to show that no K-1 visas had not been approved since operations resumed. The lawsuit asked why these particular visas were not being processed, if it’s legal to not process these visas, and if the delay in processing these visas is unreasonable?

The judge agreed that not processing the visas is illegal, there was no answer to why the visas were singled out, and the judge said that whether or not the delay was reasonable could not be determined.

“It’s tricky to determine when a delay is reasonable or not given COVID,” Joseph said, as he explained the judge’s ruling during the Facebook Live.

There will be another status conference on Dec. 3, in which, the question of delay will be addressed again.

(credit CBS)

The ruling is a win for Colorado couple Hannah Toole and her fiancé Andrea Pedani. The couple was supposed to get married this summer, when COVID hit. Andrea returned to Italy in May, and the couple hasn’t been able to get any movement on their K-1 visa application ever since.

“We expected, of course, some delays. Delays accepted, but give me a timeline,” Pedani said in a Zoom interview in October.

(credit Hannah Toole)

The couple have been battling to try to be together for months, and the lawsuit was a last resort.

“He and I have said this to each other 1,000 times, that we would go to the end of the world and back, and fight for each other, and we are now in those circumstances, where we have to,” Toole told CBS4 in October.

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Libby Smith