4 years in one visa story
I recently ran into this article from Quartz, part of a series on the H-1B visa. The question: Can the H-1B visa survive American nationalism?
It made me smile: bitterly.
It brought back many memories. It’s weird, I have never completely realized that the US restrictions on immigration imposed in the last 4 years by the current administration have affected my life and my choices, as well as the life and the choices of many others.
I still remember that day, on November 8th, 2016: I would soon have the courage to quit my job in my home country to move to LA to come back to grad school. A big dream was coming true: getting a master’s degree in the US with the hope to stay there to work in the field I wanted to, and that did not really exist in my country yet. I got there after a lot of struggles: I won not one, but three scholarships, I left everything and everyone, I faced by myself all the challenges that a new life in a new country presents. And then, for what? The country that I had been dreaming of for many years was about to change deeply and I could not know it.
I could name many companies that, before each career event, which used to add that this was only for Americans or people who already have a visa: If this is not your case, please do not attend the panel.”
At every job interview, it was always the same story over and over: “you would be a perfect candidate for this position… but wait: will you need a visa?” And at that point, every conversation stopped. “You know, that’s a problem, we can’t afford costs for visas anymore, especially now, with the current policies on immigration.”
It did not matter the help provided by some of my professors, who tried to sponsor me every time they could and who were able to get me fab connections.
In particular, I would never forget a workshop with a legal counsel saying that the change in the immigration rules had made it very hard for us to be hired by an employer in the US. The chances were very little for Indians and Chinese people, maybe slightly higher for Europeans. That speech sounded so harsh to me: it was a mix of inequality, unfairness, and discrimination. I remember that for the first time I got a taste of the policies around “building walls” against people really. Yet I was still lucky, all in all, I could count on a European passport: what about the others, who could not even rely on that privilege?
Those experiences made me confront the problem of immigration for the very first time. Dealing with the legal stuff, in another continent, in a language that it’s not yours, by yourself, without anyone helping you out except for some friends who were going through the same situation.
Experiencing the denial of a job or an opportunity because of your passport is something that led me to reflect on the barriers our countries (not only the US, but Europe as well!) have been building against all the immigrants seeking a new and safer life.
Eventually, I started looking for a job elsewhere, far away from the US. I got a job in Qatar and, even with that, the never-ending issues to obtain a visa eventually made me give up. This is how I moved to London, I guess. You can call it destiny, I’d call it a visa story. London became home to me and yet, this year another big question mark is lurking with Brexit approaching.
I don’t want now to talk about Trump specifically, I would rather bring the argument back to a change in the values that the US has always stood for: democracy, openness, freedom, innovation. All in all, Trump has been the product of the change of the times, of a more divided and angry country.
On the eve of the 2020 election, I am hoping for a new beginning. I hope the result of the polls will be a sign of the willingness to eradicate everything that is against humans: racism, walls, lies, discrimination, sexual harassment against women, corruption, and ultimately, the painful impact of bad management of the current pandemic.
I have always loved immeasurably the United States and its culture, which is woven into the weft of words of the authors I grew up with: Emerson, Thoreau, Twain, Faulkner, Hemingway …