Hoping to emulate the success of Dolores McNamara and numerous other ‘lucky’ Irish winners of the Euro millions, I travelled to the ever inviting and welcoming Irish pastorial centre – the one stop shop for all your Irish needs in San Franscisco.
They do amazing work creating not only a building but a community for the Irish based here. No question is too small and it’s always nice to hear an Irish accent at the end of the telephone line.
On this visit, and with the help of the lovely Natasha, I entered the DV lottery this week. Just like at home the prize is unimaginable – the coveted “green card”. It is not purely by chance that the colour of the pass is green, giving hope as it does to so many Irish emigrants from the emerald isle.
While still in Ireland, I could never fully understand the hype surrounding this coveted item. Now, as I currently reside in what feels like one of the strictest countries to live and work in the world, I fully understand the magnitude of the prize.
I got a taste for how strict this country’s visa policy was at my embassy interview at the US embassy in Dublin. As you enter the airport security inspired entrance of the building, you realise that security and policies are taken extremely seriously when it comes to being welcomed into the United States.
As somewhat of a comedian (I think I can be funny but it really is a matter of taste…), I had been warned not to make jokes with the embassy official. Not only would this result in harsh feelings of rejection but no visa.
I also remember on the same day a famous face from RTE was in line and they too received no special treatment and had to apply like everyone else for their visa.
America knows it has something special to offer and numerous people want to enter the land of opportunity. It’s not an exclusive party if you let everyone in.
However, it is only now as I sit here in San Francisco I now understand the full value of a green card. It could be compared to receiving the Freedom of a City back home. All doors open for you – you do still have to pay for drinks however!
Unfortunately, the security and strict guidelines of the J1 and H1 visas are all too clear when you arrive in the Land of Dreams. I have witnessed numerous job descriptions stating that people still needing sponsorship need not apply. I have also heard of experiences others have had where companies did not take on fellow J1’ers as they felt that the 12month visa was too short. Any business person can understand this standpoint as there’s no point in training a person who is gone soon after.
It’s a scary thing living and working in a country; knowing it can all be taken away in an instant the day your visa expiry date arrives. I cannot even begin to imagine what this card would mean for many of the illegal Irish located in this country that have missed weddings, funerals, births, and milestone occasions as they risk losing the American dream and life they have built here if they dare step inside a plane.
Some might say a random draw may not be the best way to issue such visas but just like our lottery at home it gives everyone an equal chance. No matter the level of education, type of career or personal background, you have an equal chance of winning the ‘Golden ticket’. As they say if you’re not in you can’t win.
So here is hoping the “luck of the Irish” is with me when the draw takes place.