A More Secure Future, Courtesy of a Green Card

Kirsten Paige Erwin said she felt an immediate sense of calm on her first date with Ricardo Kozuchowicz in March 2017.

The two met for dinner at the Saint, a now-closed Mexican restaurant in Seattle, after connecting on a dating app. But while their easy connection was developing, so was Mr. Kozuchowicz’s struggle to secure a visa and stay in the country.

Mr. Kozuchowicz, 35, is from São Paulo, Brazil. He received a bachelor’s degree in economics at Fundação Getulio Vargas, a Brazilian higher education institute, before moving to the United States at 26 to pursue an M.B.A. from Duke University. He is now the corporate finance lead at Mercury, a San Francisco-based financial technology company that provides banking for start-ups.

Ms. Erwin, 38, grew up in Tacoma, Wash. She has a bachelor’s degree in art and Spanish from Willamette University and is a senior art director at Slice, a technology platform based in New York City for small-scale pizzerias.

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When they met, Mr. Kozuchowicz was working as a finance manager for Microsoft on a one-year extension of his student visa. He had been hoping for a work visa but, while getting to know Ms. Erwin, he began to realize that chances of this were slim.

A few months after their first date, he learned he was not granted the visa. He made plans to relocate to Vancouver on a Canadian working permit in the summer of 2017. Ms. Erwin helped him pack and their relationship became long distance.

It was unclear when he would be able to come back to the country. Ms. Erwin described the time apart as an exercise in mindfulness. “You can’t control a relationship and you really can’t control the U.S. government,” she said. “I had to go day by day and ask, ‘Do I still want to be here?’” Each time, she said, her answer was yes.

Good news came in the form of a work visa for Mr. Kozuchowicz in the fall of 2018 and a return to Seattle for the Microsoft job in January 2019. The couple chose to live independently for a year while they considered their future.

While the work visa was welcome, Mr. Kozuchowicz said that there was still another piece missing. His visa only allowed him to stay in the country if he remained with the same company. In December 2019, he was granted a green card — the missing piece — and his possibilities expanded.

They moved in together in Seattle in 2020 and, in early 2021, relocated to New York City, in part to establish themselves somewhere new. They settled on an apartment in the West Village where they still live today. With the move came a sense of increased commitment to their relationship and, according to Ms. Erwin, “the word ‘marriage’ began to slip in” to their conversations.

In November 2021, Mr. Kozuchowicz began designing an engagement ring with a jeweler. He chose a black diamond and a pink sapphire since he knew Ms. Erwin would want something colorful.

There was a snowstorm the day the ring arrived in January 2022. The couple went for a walk in Washington Square Park and came across a group having a snowball fight by the fountain. They found their way to a quieter area and Mr. Kozuchowicz proposed.

When it came to planning a wedding, the couple wanted to join their different backgrounds. Besides growing up in separate countries with different languages, Mr. Kozuchowicz is Jewish and Ms. Erwin is not religious. Their officiant was Rabbi Bradley Bleefeld of Temple Beth Hillel-Beth Abraham in Millville, N.J., who specializes in interfaith and international couples.

Their wedding on Feb. 25 was held in the Palm House of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden for about 150 guests. It was also the first time most of their family members met. Even though they are not traditional in many Brazilian weddings, both of Mr. Kozuchowicz’s parents gave speeches — in English, even though the couple insisted Portuguese would be fine.

Ms. Erwin’s parents jumped on board as well. Her father, a “really reserved guy” was hoisted into the air for the hora, holding his chair with one hand and lifting the other “like he was in a rodeo,” Ms. Erwin said. “I couldn’t believe it when I saw him up there.”