For Better and for Better
Megan Pastrana breaks down borders to bring couples together
Published in 2022 Indiana Super Lawyers magazine on February 24, 2022
The wall of Megan Pastrana’s office is full of happy moments.
An immigration attorney focusing on couples, Pastrana saves each picture, wedding invitation and birth announcement she receives from the clients she’s helped. “It’s really nice to just see all of the lives that I’ve impacted on my wall, and remember why I’m doing what I’m doing,” she says.
Her own photo could be among those smiling faces.
Pastrana had just returned from studying abroad in 2009 when she was invited to a charity masquerade party. She hesitated to attend at first, not wanting to be a third wheel among her friends. But she did go, and was seated next to Carlos, who was also third-wheeling, and the two talked all night. They have been inseparable since.
“I joke that he was my first client, or I guess I was my own client,” Pastrana says. Carlos was in the U.S. from Mexico, and the two went through the immigration process together. Initially, attorneys they spoke to incorrectly informed them they didn’t have options, but Pastrana’s own research eventually led them down the right path.
“I just thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I want to be able to help people do this,’” she says.
When Pastrana co-founded Corado Pastrana eight years ago, it began as a broader immigration practice. Her passion for working with couples and her own personal experience led to a narrowed focus on couples immigration.
“I really had a deep connection with them, and I could anticipate what they were feeling,” she says. “I decided I just really need to lean into this.”
Since then, she’s worked with people from more than 90 countries. Her clients meet in different ways—sometimes the person from another country is in the U.S. on a temporary visa, other times the U.S. citizen is working or studying abroad when they fall in love.
“Any couple who’s going through their relationship and comes to a point of,
‘Hey we really want to be together forever, and we want to start our lives in the U.S.,’” she says.
Immigration law is tricky even before you throw couples into the mix, Pastrana says: “It’s a large body of highly detailed and really somewhat illogical technical rules. And it’s all wrapped up in federal bureaucracy.”
With couples-based immigration, the marriage laws of other countries can create additional hurdles. “There are countries where there are multiple different ways that you will get divorced, depending on the type of marriage you have,” she explains. “And so you have to really get into the weeds of the laws of other countries to determine, ‘OK, is this person really divorced?’”
The discretionary nature of the U.S. process is yet another hurdle.
“You’re having to share lots of aspects about your personal life, your finances, how you handle your finances, letters of support from friends and family, your joint bills, your purchases,” Pastrana says. “They get into your personal life and say, ‘Do you have a real relationship?’”
The factors that constitute a “real relationship” are not exactly modern. “They say that couples that are married should have a joint checking account and a joint home, that they should have children and certain things that maybe couples of the 21st century have opted otherwise,” she says.
Pop culture portrayals like in The Proposal and 90 Day Fiancé don’t represent just how long and complicated the process can be, Pastrana says. “A lot of couples, even before COVID, they’re waiting years to be together,” she says. “I’ve helped couples in cases where, at the time the couple hired us, they had already been separated for over a decade, with one partner living in the U.S. and the other one abroad. And sometimes they had children together.”
Even once she goes to work it can still take years before the issue is resolved and the couple can be reunited.
“Then when they send me their picture of them together, knowing that I was with them on this journey in helping them come together, it’s absolutely surreal to share in that joy,” Pastrana says. “There are no words to describe how that feels.”