Red Tape

My best friend is smart, hardworking, articulate, a good writer, great at small talk (seriously, I’ve never seen anyone my age able to schmooze like that), has two degrees and internship experience, is willing to relocate, wants to help save the world, and dreams of living in New York City someday.

He’s also a UK national. (But don’t you dare call him British. He’ll fight you. It’s an identity thing. And beyond the scope of this post.)

I mention all this because while he is more than qualified to do so many of the jobs that are available and hiring in our field, he is unable to even apply. He cannot check the little box that says, “are you legally able to work in the United States of America?” I have the same problem, except you just need to change the “USA” to “United Kingdom or European Union”.

He’s spent the last four months or so emailing, Googling, and making phone calls on both sides of the Atlantic trying to get someone to explain the American work visa process — or even to tell him which one he might need to figure out the process of. There are multiple types of work visas in the US and all of them require different documents or guarantees. The commonality seems to be that you need an employer to sponsor you for the visa…but in order to even apply to work for said employer, you need a visa. If you do manage to get a visa, they are by no means completely secure — you can be forced to leave the country at the whims of your employer or the State Department if they hit some sort of limit for the year. Basically he’s hit a dead end for the foreseeable future.

Being an immigrant has always been hard. Historically, Americans collectively know this better than any other nation. It’s just…hard for different reasons now. And this is to say nothing of how difficult it is to be a refugee or an undocumented migrant.

I began this post days ago and now I cannot for the life of me remember where I was going with it. There was supposed to be some scathing social commentary. Not so anymore. I suppose it’ll just remain an unnecessarily long ramble.

More broadly, I’m incredibly angry that we live in a world where the state of Texas applies to ban Syrian refugees from settling there. (Thankfully that petition was rejected.) I’m sick of the fact that your country of birth dictates where you can live and work, or that a country you crossed oceans and deserts and endured unspeakable hardship to get to has built a literal wall to keep you out. I’m upset and disheartened that there is nothing I can do about any of it at the moment.

I’m sad about the moments my best friend and I are missing; I’m sad that our conversations about our uncertain futures always carry a level of “if” instead of “when” in the subtext; I’m so selfishly sad that neither of us nor our wider circle of friends have any real means of reuniting.

I’m frustrated by the whole process — the red tape and barred doors that my best friend and millions of other deserving people face in search of a better life.




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