Cold Lake woman navigates COVID-19 restrictions to marry in the United States


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Samantha Peterson never guessed that she would meet her future husband Alex Anderson online. And the surprises did not end there. When the couple got engaged in August 2019, they had no idea what the next year had in store for them. No one did.

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Despite the impending COVID-19 pandemic, Peterson and Anderson were determined to marry. Like so many other couples whose dreams of a lifetime together seemed to have stalled, they got to work planning their big day.

There was just one more problem: Peterson and Anderson lived in different countries.

A proud Canadian and a Cold Lake resident, Peterson met Anderson, of Fredericksburg, Va., On an online Discord server about the video game character Sonic the Hedgehog. The server was small, used by less than 20 people, but for Peterson and Anderson it was the start of something more.

“I wasn’t looking for anyone. It wasn’t dating at all, ”said Peterson. She and Anderson were put in touch in November 2017 by a mutual friend, and it didn’t take long for a connection to blossom. The two started to send private messages and spoke often, sometimes daily.

Samantha Peterson and her now husband Alex Anderson first met in 2018 at an anime convention in Edmonton.  PHOTO SUBMITTED
Samantha Peterson and her now husband Alex Anderson first met in 2018 at an anime convention in Edmonton. PHOTO SUBMITTED

By January 2018, Peterson had felt feelings and Anderson felt the same. They were talking about meeting.

“We thought we would do it at a convention, which was in August. Then, if it was super awkward, it would be less awkward at a public event. Fortunately for both of us, we loved each other all the more in person.

The couple got engaged in August 2019, a year later, after taking turns traveling nearly 4,000 km to visit each other.

Although they clearly can’t wait to be together, no wedding plans have been made. But the onset of the rapidly evolving COVID-19 pandemic has changed that. Peterson said it was his father who encouraged the couple to get married before life changed further.

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Taking things slowly, Peterson and Anderson began to plan for their big day, and as might be expected, the generally complicated process was made even more difficult by the distance between them and new public health measures.

“We had planned for October 10, 2020, which ended up working,” Peterson said. “It was really stressful, though, because all the rules kept changing.”

The flights were canceled by the airlines, re-rented and canceled again. Fortunately, after exhausting all of their options, her immediate family were able to cross the border in time for Peterson’s big day.

“We did everything we could, from a health point of view. My family and I followed all the rules (COVID-19), ”she said. “It may be selfish. I’m not going to say no. I thought as long as we played by the rules, everything is fine.

Anderson’s uncle, a pastor, hosted the small ceremony at a restaurant, where the small congregation of about 15 guests wore masks when needed and socially distanced between family groups.

But eight months after the wedding, Peterson was unable to return to Cold Lake, despite intending to do so. In the United States on a travel visa, she hoped to cross the border in March, to visit family in Alberta and pack her things for the last move south.

Peterson submitted her U.S. residency application in November 2020, hoping it would be processed and approved by March, when she planned to return to Canada. But due to office closures and staff restrictions related to COVID-19, the application process has been slowed down.

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“I didn’t know, until the lawyer told me, while this stuff is being processed, you are allowed to stay in the United States. Otherwise, if you leave to go home, they consider it abandoned.

Nine months after his wedding, Peterson is still waiting for the details. Unable to return home and still on a travel visa, she cannot yet seek employment opportunities there. But she says despite the delays and surprises, including living with Anderson longer than expected, it’s not that bad.

“If I have a bad day, I come home and he’s there,” she said. “(If) I wanna see it now, it’s like” oh, I just have to get down. “”

For Peterson and Anderson, there’s no more scheduling calls around late-night shifts and a two-hour jet lag.

Although she says married life didn’t take long to adjust, other aspects of American life are a bit more difficult to adapt, such as the shift from miles to miles, and Celsius to Fahrenheit, for to name a few.

But she is not yet ready to give up her Canadian identity.

“I intend to keep my citizenship if I can. It’s wrong not to have it, ”said Peterson. “Damn, I never even traveled outside of the country until Alex and I were a thing.”

While the couple wait for updates on Peterson’s residency application, they continue to build a life together.

Peterson spends his days drawing, playing video games, helping out around the house, and exploring his new hometown.

Anderson is studying mechanical engineering at James Madison University and works for his family in his spare time.

Although he was unable to return home to see his friends and family and completely relocate to Virginia, Peterson remains optimistic.

“I don’t regret it,” she said. “Of the two of us, who would be easier to move, was me. Someone had to do it. “

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