February 09, 2012 Features & Images » Feature Story

Cross Border Love 

Couples battle geography and the immigration system to be together.

click to flip through (4) PHOTO BY RJ KERN - Sarah & Eric

With the advent of modern times we now truly inhabit a planet which is increasingly more of a collective "global village" — the Internet serves to bring us closer together, and more and more of us travel to far-flung parts of the world on a whim. And with this growing trend comes an inevitable expansion in cross-border love.

Whistler and Squamish are perched a mere hundred-plus kilometres away from the American border, and with the region renowned as an irresistible magnet for travellers from all over the planet it comes as no surprise that it's also a Mecca for budding international relationships too.

Yet entering into a relationship with a partner from another country, even with someone from our neighbour south of the border, while romantic, can dredge up some pretty formidable challenges.

Just ask Sarah and Eric.

Sarah Weinberg, 40, is Canadian and Eric Gindlesperger, 41, is American and theirs is a story that could easily be a film script. Fate brought them whisker-close to meeting when they both lived in Salt Lake City, Utah, where they had many mutual friends. But it was a passion for the ski lifestyle that finally drew them together across the northern border.

"I wanted to ski and check out the West Coast and mountain life," says Eric with a grin as we huddle around a small table at the Tim Hortons in Squamish. He tells me of accepting a job in transportation for the 2010 Winter Olympics. A mutual friend suggested he look up Sarah, who lived in Squamish. And from the moment they met, the unstoppable force of their connection was set into motion.

"I don't know quite how it evolved," says Sarah, smiling, "but it was definitely intense from the start."

Adds Eric, "We hit the ground running."

And then they hit their first bump in the road of their romance.

Eric held what's called a Labour Market Opinion to work the Olympics — essentially he was sponsored to work a specific position.

Two months after their romance blossomed, Eric encountered "logistical immigration challenges," and he was told he had five days to leave the country.

"I did everything I could to stay," says Eric. "I got a lawyer, and as it turns out I had to voluntarily leave Canada, not knowing if I would come back."

Forced to leave right before the Olympics kicked off, he laid low in Bellingham, Wash. and after an agonizing wait of more than a week, was told that due to the backing of his company, he would be granted a temporary resident permit.

And so Sarah and Eric's relationship entered another phase as they lived it up in the midst of the Olympic fever, but it soon became evident there were more hurdles yet to jump. Given a date to leave Canada, Eric initially expected to finish work and ski tour, but then he discovered his departure date was set for the day after the Olympics finished.

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