NORTH WILKESBORO, N.C. -- It's been more than four months since three North Wilkesboro kids have seen their dad. David Arias is in his home country of El Salvador waiting for his immigration papers to be processed.
"If I knew that it was going to take this long I probably wouldn't have done it because of my kids," said Amanda Arias, David's wife.
David Arias came to the United States illegally in 1999. Since then he has worked, paid taxes, gotten married and raised a family. In 2012 he and his wife, Amanda, decided they would pursue legal immigration for him .
"I wanted to better ourselves, I couldn't go to the bank and get a loan for a mortgage because I didn't have enough income," Amanda said. She says if her husband would have been able to be on the loan with her, they would have been approved.
They did everything by the books. According to US Citizenship and Immigration Services, an undocumented immigrant who is a parent must get a waiver approved by the government and then return to their home country for an immigrant visa interview.
Arias left for that interview in August 2016. Amanda says she expected the entire trip to take about 10 days, but now it has been more than four months.
"Everything is complete and now we are just waiting, we are sitting on someone's desk waiting for them to process it so he can come back," she said.
Arias says the separation from their father is having a major impact on her two sons. "I never want to see another child have to go through what my kids have been through," she said.
Arias says her kids don't fully understand why their dad is gone. "They go to bed at night asking where their dad -- you know -- 'When's my daddy coming home?'" she said.
Arias says her husband worked and paid taxes for the 17 years that he was an undocumented immigrant. When he finally does return, she says they will start the process to get his full citizenship as soon as he is eligible.