In March 2003 I entered the US on the usual visa waiver progamme thing, up to 3 months stay in the US, no right to work etc. This was after I had requested a 6 month tourist visa in London so that I could actually stay longer with my family and it was refused. Bear in mind, I had been to the US twice that year and had stayed for 3 months at a time… I was taken to the side office at Immigration in SFO, held there for over an hour without being able to contact anyone, yelled at, and then told that this was the last time I would be granted entrance into the US for at least a year, and if I tried again within that period of time I would be deported.
My mother and sister moved to California in 2000, and thanks to my mother’s job got their green cards pretty much straight away. So did my little brother, even though he moved there later. But I happened to be 22, and therefore not legally a child anymore, and therefore not eligible to get my green card like my sister and brother. So my mother applied for one for me, and we waited.
And waited. I finished my MA in France in 2002 and decided I didn’t want to live there anymore. But I didn’t want to live in England either. So travelled back and forth to California, getting more and more depressed and using more and more of my mother’s money in flight tickets and living expenses, seeing as I couldn’t work. I went to Israel for a little over a year. I went back to California, still waiting. I applied for Canadian citizenship, on the off-chance that if I got it it would be easier to get a working visa in the US. Thanks to the small fact that my dad happened to be born in Canada and lived there for a few years of his life and never gave up his Canadian citizenship, I was granted with a nice blue Canadian passport myself. This was in 2004.
I was at a loss of where to go. I didn’t want to go back to France because it was so hard to get a job there (and I didn’t feel like going back to school). I couldn’t stay in the US. I couldn’t go back to Israel. I didn’t have enough money to go back off into the world and travel around hopelessly looking for something that didn’t really exist. So I went to London. I lived there for ten months, and apart from the fact that I lived with the loveliest people and actually started being responsible and had a full-time office job, they were the most depressing months of my life. London is not a good place for someone who is fighting heartbreak (never, ever fall in love with a Colombian boy, EVER), and who just doesn’t want to be there. I love London as a city. I love walking around, discovering little places that you would never find if you didn’t explore, going to the free museums, the leaves falling in the autumn, the special days in spring when you can feel summer coming. But London just depressed me. I didn’t know anyone, I was too shy and depressed to actually go out and meet people. I didn’t earn enough to spend it by going out. I didn’t even earn enough to be able to spend every weekend with my family in Rutland, and I just wanted to be in California. I didn’t even have a plan after California – I just wanted to BE THERE.
Then a light appeared in the form of a job offer in NYC in the spring of 2005. I’d never been to New York, but it couldn’t be any worse than London, and it was the US! My work visa was a little too temporary (year-long TN visa on my Canadian passport, renewable every year through my company). So I moved to NYC with two suitcases and nothing else. I worked hard, made some wonderful friends who have become my family, partied hard, stopped partying hard, went through a terrible depression, worked even harder, suffered through visa renewal stress every year, worked harder, felt trapped, wanted to leave. I fell into a life of thinking that I had to work at my job because that was the only reason why I could stay in the US, but in the end I just began to despise my life, myself and everything I had always stood for. Six years in NYC and all I wanted was out, to be someone else, somewhere else. Until I had my Biometrics appointment, and another light appeared right in front of me. And it dawned on me that I wasn’t in a prison, that I could find myself and the life I wanted again… So I left my job, and fell back in love with my life again. And got my green card 4 months later. In the mail, just like that. No official ceremony or celebration. Ten years of stress, heartbreak, crying, depression, travels, new experiences and happiness for the freedom and right to live and work in the country that I haven’t really left in the past 7 years.
I could write a novel about the last ten years. I don’t regret much, because I ended up experiencing things I never would have experienced if I hadn’t had to go through this, but if I had to do it all over again I would just go with the easier option of getting married. I just kind of needed to write this all down, get it out of my system and maybe put it aside as another idea for a novel. Sometime in the future.
(Oh, and as a side-note: it just annoys Immigration officials even more if you burst into tears when they are yelling at you. I know from experience. Try to keep it together, especially if you are prone to burst into tears at any given moment in your life, like me).