Avon man and his family stuck in Romania over green card issue, anxious over Ukraine-Russia tensions

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — An Avon man who is living in Romania is desperate to get his family to the United States as fear of war and tensions rise between Russia and Ukraine. Kevin Swallow has been in Romania for the last four years. His wife has a green card, but it’s inactive because she hasn’t recently been to the U.S.

Now, with a possible invasion, it’s been even harder to get out. Swallow says he and his wife, Anca, bought a home in Greece in 2014 but had to travel back to Romania for funerals in 2017. Life got complicated, and they just didn’t get the chance to travel back to the U.S. Swallow said in order for his wife’s green card to stay active, she has to be in the U.S. every six months. When they applied for an extension it was denied. Now with the fear of war, Swallow said the unknown is terrifying.

“If there was to be an invasion in Ukraine, that means Romania, I’m 41 miles away from the border of Ukraine,” Swallow said.

Swallow, his wife and their two children are currently in Romania, not knowing what their future holds.

“We’re on the edge of a possible war-torn country, I’m sure the Bucharest embassy would be evacuated and the process for my wife would not happen,” Swallow said.

Tensions have been rising because Russia doesn’t want Ukraine to join NATO, which is a defensive alliance of 30 countries.
Troops have been building up at the border with Ukraine since November, but Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin says, some troops will pull back.

The U.S. and its allies are still preparing for any outcome. Swallow said all this tension has made it impossible to renew his wife’s green card. He said the embassy told him the process could take almost two years.

"The woman who denied my wife suggested, I told them that my daughter starts school, she was supposed to start school in September and she said well, you can go with your kids to the U.S. I thought, ‘Just leave my wife behind?’ That was their recommendation,” Swallow said, frustrated.

Swallow said the only "loophole" or "saving grace" right now to expedite the process is if he had a medical illness, or if he had immediate work that required him to come to the U.S. Kevin says he’s been applying here in Rochester.

“They say, ‘We would like to hire you, but because you don’t know when you’ll be back, we can’t offer you anything,’” Swallow said.

Swallow said landing a job in the U.S. would ensure safety for his family. Russian troops are still in place at the border with their neighbor to the south.

The U.S., Ukraine and its allies believe it’s too soon to tell if this is a true sign of de-escalation. President Joe Biden is set to have another meeting with Putin this weekend.