Sunday, January 3, 2010

Immigration 101

Ok so my life's pretty much an open book- I tell things like they are and I vent about issues that some may deem very personal (which has bit me in the butt more than a few times) but that's just who I am.

That said, if you know me in the least, you're aware that I have an immigration problem- namely the fact that after living in the U.S. for >16yrs I still struggle with visas, employment problems, etc.

Many friends have reached out wondering how this can be, offering advice, or just seeking to understand why the hell I have such a hard time staying here. After all who is oblivious to the millions of illegal workers that cross the border from Mexico every day?!?!

So let me explain......(I'll do this in bullet form to make it shorter and more reader friendly)

- unless you plan on washing dishes or picking strawberries, hopping the border isn't going to enable you to make a living in the U.S.

- there are tourist visas where you have to prove an intent to return to your home country (ie no family ties in the US, etc) and you go back at max every 6mths. - which is what my parents did for a long time

- you are a student F-1 visa at a private institution in the U.S (you prove residency and stable family income in your home country, and other stuff)...this is what I did through college

- you marry an american citizen, or are the son/daughter of an american (<21yrs old), or you are born mom remarried (a legit relationship btw) but did so after I turned 18 so I was an adult and couldn't be filed under this new family tree

- you are an outstanding athlete (or musician, artisit, whatever) 0-1 visa, or secondary to that P-1 visa...I sought the P-1 in 2009 but my accomplishments fell short and also a P-1 only allows you to live/train here not work so how would I eat?! Also, I would have to prove, as in a tourist visa, an intent NOT to stay in the US- impossible now for me because my little brother was born here and my mom is now a resident, almost citizen, and I've lived here so long it's obvious I like it here ;)

- you invest a certain amount of a couple hundred grand, or open a company that employs a large number of Americans,....perhaps if I won the lottery

- you get a Green Card through a company that hires you for work- where you prove that you have qualifications that are needed, no other American can fill the job (more or less), etc ....this is what I'm doing for Sun Loan is an expensive process for the employer so 99% of companies avoid it and hire an American instead of me. This is my best option and the one I chose because I can earn money, which I need to live.

- for those wondering about getting my masters, ie another student visa. well, do you want to pay that extended schooling for me? also, again, I cannot prove an intent not to stay anymore.

- ideally, there would be exceptions in US immigration policy for unique cases like mine. good, honest, hard working people, that have fully assimilated to the American culture and language, and seek to pursue their own American Dream

- I would give anything to be able to work like all other Americans and have equal chances to being hired. But hiring me is a pain for the employer and expensive. I'd love to work part time at a bike shop, as a receptionist at some office, whatever to keep pursuing my athletic goals. Were it not for my part time job from Sun Loan I would literally be facing having to go back to a country where I do not feel at home.

So now......

I go to Mexico for a new visa- Green Card one. More mountains to climb
1) get there 2-3 days ahead of set appt date to renew passport and pay the Mexican bank, Banamex a processing fee that you need to show a receipt for at the consulte
2) arrive at 6:15am at the consulate and wait 3-5 hrs...this is Mexico so plan on waiting the full 5hrs
3) present your documents to the consulate, one little thing wrong or not filled out and they don't have time for you and say bye bye make another appt come back again (weeks more of waiting if that happens)
4) say you get the visa, wait 5-10 days, Mexican terms this could mean WEEKS, for it to be delivered in your passport to your home.
5) some day, hopefully by Christmas, I can fly back to California and may also be denied entry at the airport for whatever reason (unlikely but still it's a fear I cannot get rid of)

Why is Mexico so bad Tatiana? Lots of people live there, lots of people do triathlons, run marathons, etc from Mexico...You guys have pretty beaches....

Mexico City does not have a beach. It is a smog filled valley with approx 29million people. Anything a mile or more away takes at least 1hr due to traffic. I don't feel at home there at all (I feel the same way an American would if they were thrown into my trip), I don't have a car, my mom and brother are in the US, I refuse to eat the meat, yes I'm a spoiled American first worldist who needs her Trader Joe's/Whole Foods (people this is not my fault, my parents brought me here when I was young to have a healthier life)....I become a gym rat because I will cough up a lung trying to do any activity outside, I have constant fear of being assaulted (there's lots of white people in Mexico believe it or not, but I'm still "guerita" and that does me no good). Plus, my discomfort shows and I could easily be labeled a tourist because of how lost I look.

I could go on forever.

Anyway, this is the summary of my immigration issue. Thanks to all who care and I my hope is that one day (I pray soon) my story can touch the ears of more powerful people in government and perhaps change legislation and set precedent for future cases like mine.