Becoming Illegal

"I LIVED in Pittsburgh for two years with a Walsh visa. I loved every minute of it. I really came into my own in America. Having to return when the visa ran out was heartbreaking for me. I made so many great friends there and I miss them all so much. I still visit them each year and they try and come to me when they can, but the bottom line is, I'm so unhappy living here in Ireland and I think the time has come to bite the bullet and make the move back illegally.

"Do you think it's a good idea to do this, or am I ruining my chances at ever getting a visa? I'm so confused as to what to do. I know I don't want to settle in Ireland. It's been my dream since I can remember to live in America and I want to make that happen. I'm 28, I work in customer service and I don't have any college education. I finished school and passed my leaving cert and that's about it. But one thing is for sure - I want to be in America. What should I do?"

BEFORE you consider living in the U.S. illegally, here are words of wisdom from some who are already here, some of them for many years.

We described your plight to a couple of undocumented residents, one of whom has been here for several years. Their advice?

Don't even think about living here illegally. "It's just too hard," said one. "Not being able to go home for happy occasions, or sad ones, or for any reason at all is the worst. If I had any idea of how hard it was going to be to live here illegally I never would have come."

But, like yourself, this person has been bitten by the American bug, and has no intention of going home. "I do love it here and it would be so hard to leave, so I understand where the Walsh visa holder is coming from, but life here without a visa is so different. She would find that out the hard way if she came here."

Obviously this column isn't in a position to tell you to come to the U.S. and live as an undocumented resident. But all is not lost.

First, the 2008 DV-1 green card lottery is now accepting applications for the 50,000 visas on offer for that fiscal year. It's a definite long shot, but you should certainly apply anyway. For more details, visit www.dvlottery.state.gov.

Something to bear in mind - in most instances Walsh visa holders are bound to a two-year home residency requirement after they depart for the U.S. In other words, they are not allowed to return to the U.S. for two years, on a temporary or full-time basis, until two years have elapsed since their departure. You don't mention when you left the U.S., but if it's within the past two years then you would need to comply with this requirement.

There are temporary visas available for workers who are not college educated. The H-2B program is for those who work in temporary or seasonal jobs, but a U.S. employer is required to act as sponsor. Perhaps you would be able to find a sponsor if you made a visit here to investigate employment opportunities. You could also visit with Irish immigration advice groups who would be able to provide more detailed information based on your particulars.

As you likely know, the U.S. Congress is grappling with the issue of immigration reform, and is expected to do so again come January. You would be in a much better position to avail of any possible new reforms as a legal resident of Ireland, as opposed to an undocumented alien here.

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