Abilene couple separated, pregnant wife stranded in Netherlands after COVID-19 causes visa issue


ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) — Long-distance relationships usually tend to be complicated in more ways than one, and the pandemic has not made being separated from loved ones any easier.

When the pandemic started flights all over the world were canceled. For Bente Riehn, that meant she could not fly back home to the Netherlands after visiting her husband and family in Abilene.

“When she’s going through customs her passport will be flagged, and they would tell her, ‘You’ve got to turn around and go back home,'” said Abilene resident and Bente’s husband, Jonathan Riehn.

After receiving advice not to travel home for safety reasons, and after being denied her green card multiple times, Bente Riehn unintentionally overstayed her U.S. visa.

She was eventually able to fly to The Netherlands, but when she tried coming back to the United States a few months later, she ran into some legal problems.

“During her interviews, 2-and-a-half hours long roughly, they said, ‘We agree that this relationship is legit, but we can’t approve you because you did overstay your visa,” said Jonathan Riehn.

According to Jonathan, Bente is now legally banned from the United State for 3 years for unintentionally overstaying her visa.

“Right now it looks like her, and our almost 18 month old are technically homeless in The Netherlands,” Jonathan said.

In addition to taking care of her 18-month-old son, Bente Riehn is also 6-months pregnant.

“Anybody that’s had a baby, you know that you need both parents there, especially in the first couple of months,” said Jonathan.

Jonathan’s parents came to Abilene from Tennessee to support him during this complex situation.

“We’ll do anything, we’ll go anywhere, we’ll talk to anybody that could possibly help with this situation,” said Jonathan’s mother, Christina Riehn.

“If we need to go to Washington, D.C. and knock on every door, we will,” said Jonathan’s father, Richard Riehn.

Jonathan says both he and his wife Bente have had countless sleepless nights thinking about the moment they will see each other again. Despite the obstacles in their way, no matter how much paperwork there is, this couple says they are determined to bring their family together as soon as possible.

“We will make it through it. We will figure out some way to make it work. But it is something as a husband that you think, ‘This is when I need to be there for her, and potentially it might not happen,'” said Jonathan.

In a desperate plea for help, the Riehn family has reached out to multiple public officials, including Representative Jodey Arrington and Senator Ted Cruz to help expedite the process.

The family created a GoFundMe page to help pay for living expenses and legal fees.

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