The first new J Visa holder
Then, as if the man above had forgiven me for quitting the prayer game after my Communion, an announcement was made by the Irish government. A new visa deal had been announced between the U.S and Irish governments, allowing 20,000 Irish graduates work and travel in the U.S.
The extended J-1 visa is based on the original J-1 visa, where college students come for a summer to work and travel, only the extended version is for one year and for graduates, allowing the possibility of jobs higher up on the value chain.
I was thrilled.
The months-long application process was painstakingly complicated, though, and I experienced bureaucracy at it's finest, or worst, I should say. None of the forms required were even in existence yet, so I knew I was one of the first people to apply for the new visa.
Thanks to a very helpful Peggy Comfrey at the Irish Immigration Center in Boston, I finally got the correct forms to go home to Ireland for the interview.
The mere mention of the interview terrified me, as we all know that staff working for the State Department aren't exactly the kind of people you would want caring for your granny.
The process in Ireland was even worse - I didn't have the right size photo, the right amount in my money order, the right online receipt, etc. I presumed I just couldn't do anything right. Or that these evil people made the process this difficult on purpose, to deter anyone who didn't count patience as one of their top virtues - like me.
I finally made it to the U.S Embassy in Dublin, where I waited for over two hours, shaking with fear over this interview. The fear was based on the fact that I had come so far, paid so much, flown home, been through the red tape and had fallen in love with life in New York.
I just couldn't not get this.
When I went to be interviewed, the interviewer looked at my forms like he had never seen them before. It turned out he hadn't.
He called upon his seniors, and I thought I'd vomit as four embassy employees crowded around my papers. I felt guilty of something I didn't know existed, and began to mentally prepare my argument after they would tell me to get lost.
Eventually, it turned out, I was the first person with the forms, the first time they had seen the forms, and now I'm the first person with the visa! What a shocker.
So here I am, the first Irish person to be in the U.S. on the new extended J-1 visa.
Ironically and, admittedly, I was on the verge of becoming an illegal immigrant.
Now I always think of the plight of the hundreds of thousands who are.
I was lucky. I have a loving boyfriend and parents who supported me mentally and financially, and I have contacts here which may lead me to a decent job, but I imagine the Irish graduate students who follow me on this visa might not be so lucky.
If you, or someone you know, has graduated from third level education in Ireland in the past 12 months, has endless patience, doesn't mind being put on hold for hours, can hold a fake smile and has roughly $1,000 to spend on getting the visa, visit Dublin's U.S. Embassy Web site.