How to get a US visa
I recently got my US visa after working on it for about 12 years on and off. I friend just asked me how to do it, and I figured I’d share the answer here.
On the practical level, you have to figure out which visa category you’d most easily fit into.
Typical ones are H-1B, O-1, E-2, L-1, as well as student visas. And then there’s the green card lottery.
So start by asking yourself: Would you be self-employed or employed by another company? What kind of work would you be doing? Or would you be studying?
Personally, I’m here on an E-2, investor visa. I invested $100,000 into my own US business. There are a bunch for requirements, but that basically gives me the right to live here and work for my own company. My wife gets the right to live here and work for any company she wants, including mine or one she starts. So she has more rights than I do, but her status is dependent on mine.
Different visas have different restrictions in terms of time limits, renewals, paths to green card, quotes, filing and issuing date,s and what your spouse is or is not allowed to do.
H-1B is if you're a skilled worker, eg. tech or something similar. There’s an annual cap of 65,000. They start taking applications April 1st, and depending on demand, the quota may be filled on that same day, or it may drag out all the way into the beginning of the following year. The visas start issuing on October 1st. I had an H-1B back in 2000. It’s a 3-year visa, with one renewal possible, for a total of 6 years. After that you’d have to get a green card or leave. Your spouse does not get to work, so that’s a bit of a bummer if you’re a couple. 6 years doing nothing drives some people mad. I think the next time they’ll be available will be October 1st 2015, and you’d need to apply on or shortly after April 1st, 2015.
O-1 is alien of extraordinary ability - there’s a checklist of 8 criteria where you have to meet at least 4 - eg. papers published in peer reviewed journals, awards won, recognition in national media, etc. There’s different categories for media personalities versus other types. Not too familiar with this type of visa, but there’s information online.
Student visas are easier, but you’d have to actually study.
L visas are if you’ve worked for a US company in your country of citizenship or at least 12 months, you could possibly transfer to the US company on an L. Again, there are always restrictions and specific rules.
Then there’s the green card lottery. I recommend you enter every year. It opens up October 1st, and winners are drawn May 1st. It doesn’t cost anything to enter, takes maybe half an hour, including getting the photos required, and then you’re in. If you win, awesome. The advantage to green cards is that they’ll let you do anything at all. The downside is you have to at least visit the US once a year to maintain your status.
There are other types of visas, these are just the ones I’m most familiar with and see most often. Basically you need to have something the US wants, or be lucky in the lottery. I’ve met several people who got their green cards through the lottery. It’s definitely worth it to try. I’m playing every year, haven’t “won” yet, but statistics suggest it’ll work out eventually.
You could also marry an American. That works well. Works best if you’re actually in love, but I’ve heard of people who do it anyways. That wouldn’t be legal, but hey, people don’t always follow the law. Surprise!
Check out Wikipedia, it has good information on the different types of visas.
Ultimately you need an immigration lawyer. I’ve used several, but the only one who was able to actually get us a visa was Bobby Chung. He did an awesome job for me. I don't know for sure if he does all types of have specialized in a few, but it can't hurt to talk to him. Say hi from me. He's really great, very thorough and detailed, which I like.
There are tons of immigration lawyers out there, and a lot of them don’t know what they’re talking about, so choose carefully, ask for references, and in the end, trust your gut. If it sounds too good to be true, chances are it is.
The other part of the process is the emotional and spiritual work. I believe a huge part of why it took me so long were some pretty serious blocks on getting a visa. I had a lot of stories about not belonging. Not belonging was how I grew up and to a large extent how I lived my life - not belonging in Denmark, not belonging in the US, not belonging in the tech community, in my marriage, in my family, in my group of friends, on planet earth, and on and on. Choosing to belong where I am was a really important step.
Also, sometimes we fear the very thing we want the most. What if I got that thing that I said would make me happy, and I’m still not happy? What if I get that visa, and now the clock is ticking, and I have to meet certain milestones, or I won’t be able to renew.
There was also resentment. Resentment towards the US for not letting me in and just embracing me, believing in me, even though I didn’t believe in myself. The US doesn’t work that way. It’s more like a stern parent, in my experience. Get your shit together, and it’s actually pretty straight-forward. Don’t have your shit together, and they just look at you puzzled for a second and move on to the next person.
There was also resentment at Denmark. I think it’s important to be grateful for what we have and where we are, to love where we are, to love who we are, in order to get to where we want to go. We can’t get to a place we love from hating the place we are. We have to start by loving what we have, then and only then can it expand and grow into what we desire.
There was self-worth. I’m not worthy of living in the US. That’s just a track that it doesn’t pay to go down, but it will pop up every so often, and it’s important to be aware of it, and to change tracks when it does.
I’m a big fan of the blechschmidt exercise. Imagine you’re opening a space in consciousness where your visa can land. Feel it energetically, feel it in your body. This will both help prepare the way, and it’ll also help bring to the surface anything that’s preventing this from materializing. Once you’re aware of the blocks, you can do something about them.
I’m also a big fan of love. Love yourself, love where you’re from, love the US, love the immigration system, love the visa and immigration and consular officers, love the process, the forms, the paperwork, the arcaneness, the whole thing. The more you can expand in love and just feel good in your body, the easier and more pleasant the whole thing becomes.
It can take a while. I started my business on October 21st, 2013. I got my funds together in February 2014. I submitted my application on April 28. I was interviewed at the US Embassy in Copenhagen on July 16, and I received my passport with visa in the mail on July 23rd, 2014. Just to give you an idea of how long my process took. Depending on your type of visa and how good you are at getting everything together it may take longer or shorter, but generally the process just takes a while, and the US immigration system doesn’t seem to care too much about your timelines.
Good luck with your immigration process. It feels great to have my visa finally, and I really wish the same for you.