“I don't want to go on the next flight back home”
Even before I could get my tickets for the trip to America, the process of getting my Visa was incredibly tedious and honestly stressful. In fact, much of the time leading up to my flight to America I was full of anxiety. A friend of mine had been working in the U.S. and his IT company was looking to hire more people from India, so he recommended that I send in my resume. After what seemed like an eternity of interviews and hiring rounds, as well as a month-long wait to get my university qualifications verified, I finally was able to get my H1-B approval. Now even though I had the approval, getting my Visa was another tiring process. I had to travel from Hyderabad to Mumbai to the U.S. Embassy, where I waited in an incredibly long line for hours just for a 10-minute interview. Coming back to Hyderabad with my five-year Visa, I once again notified the company and was given a month to say my goodbyes and get myself ready for Chicago.
Most of my extended family and friends showed up the day I departed from the Hyderabad Airport. I had a long journey in front of me, as I had two stops before making it to America. From Hyderabad, I flew to Mumbai, where I had stayed at a hotel for a day before my next flight. I then went from Mumbai to London, where after another layover I finally made my way to O’hare International. During this entire 30-hour journey, I really didn’t have any emotions except for anxiety. It was really the only thing I focused on, I didn’t spare any thoughts on if I was tired or anything else. I didn’t know what would happen at Immigration or what questions they would ask, all I knew was that I didn’t want to end up on the next flight home. Once I arrived in Chicago, I was in the Immigration line with 200 to 300 other people. Once I reached the officer, my anxiety reached its apex. He simply said “Purpose of Visit”, and I responded that I was coming as an IT consultant for a company. He simply asked for the company’s name and told me to proceed. Suddenly it felt like a thousand-pound weight had been lifted from my shoulders.
I picked up my two suitcases from baggage claim and was picked up by one of my friends, who had been working in America for a little more than a year. He took me to the apartment where more of our friends stayed, and which would be my home for the next 2 years. We went down Lake Shore Drive as we made our way to the apartment and my eyes were glued to the skyline, I was completely mesmerized by the sights surrounding me. After resting and getting settled, I was taken outside by my friends to get acquainted with the area, where to get groceries, where certain stores were, and such. I visited the Social Security office, where upon marking myself as Asian on the forms the officer there told me to mark others and write Indian, as apparently I wasn’t Asian. Five days later I received my social security, and I excitedly called my company to let them know I was ready to work. My elation quickly dropped to what could only be described as an almost numbing sense of disappointment as the company informed me that they no longer had a job for me. Months of paperwork, verification, traveling, and sleepless nights had finally gotten me to America, but now I had no employment, and my ability to remain here was up in the air.
After an entire year of looking for a new job, I finally was able to find one. Given the H1-B I would only be allowed to find another IT job, but luckily another IT company was willing to give me a shot. It took another 6 months for my H1-B to transfer, then I was on my way to California to finally begin my career.
* The contributor of this story has asked that their name be withheld.