My husband and I are working on immigration; currently, we are in two different countries. It is a long process with a lot of unknowns -- and a lot of tricky personal stuff we have to go through and deal with. Understandably, a lot of people we know are excited for us to eventually be together, but many people don't really realize the hardship and also the complexity of what we are doing.

I tend to get a lot of questions along the lines of "when will you be able to be together?" and to be honest I have no idea! It depends on how the processing of the application goes, and all of that. I tried giving people the stock answer in terms of maximum processing time as far as the government has stated it (and that's assuming no difficulties or issues with anything), but they want to know more and I honestly don't have an answer.

Being asked this all the time is super frustrating because it kinda forces me to remember that all of this is a giant unknown. I get that people mean well, I just get tired of constantly being asked a question I cant answer to anyone's satisfaction.

It doesn't help I am getting this from everyone from my family to coworkers to friends to random acquaintances...basically anyone I see regularly that knows we are working on this. I'm just at a loss - I hate answering this question because I don't have a "good enough" answer, and to be honest getting it repeatedly just makes me feel awful because, well, long distance and all that.

Is there any way I can get people to either stop asking, or to accept that I honestly have no idea but I will generally try to keep them updated as needed or as things change?

  • Can you not just use non-answers such as "I wish I knew too.." and "As soon as the governement allows us to, whenever that is..." to show that you don't know? Or would you rather directly ask them to not ask any further?
    – user4788
    Commented Jan 23, 2018 at 6:59
  • I've tried that! People just go "well do you have any idea? Is it soon? How far are you in the process?" which are all frustrating and hard to answer questions in their own right.
    – user75
    Commented Jan 23, 2018 at 7:02
  • 1
    "I don't know." -- don't they accept such a reply?
    – NVZ
    Commented Jan 23, 2018 at 7:24
  • @NVZ like I said in my previous comment, no, they tend not to.
    – user75
    Commented Jan 23, 2018 at 17:27

3 Answers 3


I've had similar situations happen, when I was job-hunting my mom has a hand of keeping asking 'have you heard from so-and-so' every day. Telling her the deadline on its own didn't work: She'd remember but keep asking until the deadline was there.

It got to the point where I wouldn't even tell her what I was doing anymore, which led to all other sorts of arguments ('You're not even trying, are you?' was one of the less nasty things she said).

You stated that you were telling people either the maximum deadline/that they react to 'don't know' with 'do you have any idea?'. Which sounds very similar to what my mom did.

First, I had a good talk with my mom about how her behavior was bothering me. It took the fun out of telling her anything because she was basically reminding me every day that I hadn't heard anything yet. This may seem strange, but she did not know that. She just thought she was expressing genuine interest, and since it was a big part of my life right then, that I would love to talk about it. She didn't realize that I'd rather talk about completely different things because things weren't going well and such conversations were stressful to me.

I'd say you'll have to explain this to your friends first. Stress that you appreciate their interest, but that right now you don't know more and that it's stressful enough as is. Explain that you'd like your time/talks with them to be more relaxed, that you really will keep them up to date by shouting things off the rooftops when it happens. If you're from a culture where directness is appreciated, you might follow such an explanation by asking them directly to refrain from asking.

After you had a conversation like that, most people won't magically stop asking (the ones that do are very good friends, keep them). So, you'll have to stand your ground on it and keep repeating yourself. Eventually, people will realize that you know as much as they do:

Thanks for asking. All quiet on the western front. Really, there's no news, and it's wearing me out as well. Can we talk about something more relaxing please? < Insert a question to change the topic here >.

Or give them a small update if there is one to share:

Thanks for asking. I sent out form XYZ-876 to so-and-so yesterday, at the very least I should have heard from them on < date >, I'll let you know once I know more.

Make sure to always make good on the update part! This won't work if you promise to keep people up to date but in the end, don't offer up the information you have yourself. This means you will have to meet friends and start the conversation yourself sometimes.

Hey, remember? I sent form XYZ-878 last week, I should hear back from them at the latest on 01-01-2020. Feel free to remind me to update you after that date has passed!

The last sentence has as an added bonus that you'll provide your friends with some guidance on when it's acceptable for them to ask about it again.

  • 1
    Your point about talking with people to let them know kinda how its affecting me and all that is a good one. I can do that with some people for sure - I can't, say, do that necessarily while in the grocery store line and someone asks (perils of my parents' small town, sometimes) but it's a good point.
    – user75
    Commented Jan 23, 2018 at 19:25

Tell them what you have told us here.

I have no idea how long the process will take. I will let you know when there is any progress. It is agonizing for me to be constantly reminded of it. I understand your enquiries are well-intentioned and I am grateful for your concern. However, I would appreciate it if we don't discuss this topic so frequently. I hope you understand.

The first couple of times someone asks, just the first one or two sentences should be sufficient, but if they pester you beyond that, then go for the full elaboration of the issue.

If people really care for you to be together, then they should understand and stop bothering you further. If they still keep irritating you, then clearly they aren't really "excited" for you or anything, and you might consider getting rid of them from your life at that point.

  • 1
    Actually, the first time or two I would use the first three sentences and then ask them to spread round the fact that you don't want to be asked any more. Commented Jan 23, 2018 at 9:10

I'd proceed by mixing up these points you stated

  • to be honest I have no idea!

  • they want to know more and I honestly don't have an answer.

  • Being asked this all the time is super frustrating

and concoct the final one-for-all answer for all askers:

Look, I've lost count of how many times I said "I don't know" [maybe drop arms here]. That's the only truth, I don't know, nor there's any way to see whether we will know anywhere soon. This is something so important to us that, believe me, we will gladly share our joy and let you all know as soon as we have some decent real steps forward.

This way, in a single answer, you make it clear that

  • you don't know
  • you've already said it too many times
  • you'll let them know

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