I moved to the US from India in 2011 for my master's degree in Arts. My private Art school didn't talk to us about visas or green cards. The focus was on resume design and job fairs. Thankfully, I was interning with a company that was founded by immigrants. I got lucky! My employers put me in front of an immigration lawyer back in 2014.
Six years after I applied for a green card, I finally have one.
She gave me a checklist of things, told me it is going to be a long and hard fight without any guarantee. I had one year to establish my initial application for EB1- extraordinary abilities in the field of Arts with Immigration Status.
I had no idea about the green card. I wanted to follow the usual norm of H1-B etc. My lawyer convinced me that I need to be independent in the truest sense; not be tied to any company for visa sponsorship. And I wanted to stay in the US. So, I opted for the tough road. I didn't have the finances to pay for lawyers' fees or for the applications.
I didn't have the finances to pay for lawyers' fees or for the applications. I wasn't making much money with the company I was interning with. But they stepped up and paid for all legal fees and applications. One needs people to have their back and my employers had my back.
Having a powerhouse of a lawyer with her guidance and support, made the impossible seem possible.
In the meantime, traveling back and forth to India became difficult. I had Advance Parole (yeah, I was horrified to see the word PAROLE on a card bearing my name). But each and every time, I would be held up at Immigration in the USA and asked multiple questions before they would stamp my passport. I dreaded leaving the country, period. By then it was 2016 and we have had multiple rounds of request for evidence from USCIS. I was afraid to grovel in front of people or rather I didn't want to. The truly amazing part was that I didn't have to grovel.
Established people in the industry appreciated my work and wrote me required letters. I worked 3 jobs to stay financially afloat and built a worthy film portfolio. And most importantly, people helped. It amazed me. It wasn't empathy; they saw my worth.
Finally, the rejection letter came from USCIS. I remember walking into my lawyer's office defeated. She said chin up; we are going to appeal and this is what you need to get for me. In 2018, I won the appeal. I thought I crossed the bridge.
But not so soon. Since June 2017- The next hurdle came due to retrogression in the EB-1 India category which is oversubscribed.
USCIS required me to re-do medical tests, provide more documentation which added financial and emotional stress. And then came the lull. I wrote letters to California Democratic Senators to make inquiries, checking my status online 20 times a day became a norm. I kept working, that's all I could do. I heard the news of my peers getting their Greencards in a jiffy which added to my anger and disappointment. I was again reminded of my colour and my roots.
I still kept working. Finally, during an unprecedented time in the world with a pandemic, a US administration coming down hard on H1B, Greencards, and F1 Visas, I got a letter from USCIS saying WELCOME TO UNITED STATES. I got lucky. And I had a phenomenal woman of colour as an Immigration Lawyer.
So, don't give up your American dreams just yet. I am just about to start mine.