It has since been categorically the worst experience of my life, and if anyone else dares tell me that it will “make me stronger” or “teach me a lesson,” so help me God.
I was notified last week that my application, having been denied once before, has been denied a second time. I am still knee-deep in legal fees (for a whole lotta nothin’) and my quick trip back to Ireland for Christmas has turned into a permanent move home. How the mighty have fallen.
If this entire process could have all taken place in a few short weeks, I think I could let it slide. Something quick and painless along the lines of:
Me: Can I have a visa?
America: Are you perfect in every single way?
Me: Here’s a few bits and bobs.
America: Not good enough. Got anything else?
America: Ok no. Goodbye.
What happened instead was eight months of grueling back-and-forth between a huge team of lawyers who operated as middlemen and received countless frantic emails from me as I watched my life decisions fall into the hands of people who had never even met me.
For eight months I was working double shifts in New York. I was making plans to redecorate my apartment, and I was looking forward to my glamorous city future, career and all the trimmings.
I was told on countless occasions that I stood a very good chance. (I will not name and shame here, but my advice to anyone would be to trust no one.)
Well, it turns out that I didn’t stand a chance at all, and the last few months have been an enormous waste of time, energy and money.
The J graduate visa, which is what I originally came to New York with, is designed to last one year, and then you pack your bags and come home.
I would urge anyone taking up a graduate visa now to stick to that plan.
Trying to stay on is exhausting beyond belief, and unless you have a large firm with top lawyers practically handing you the visa, or you meet some of the completely reasonable criteria for an O-1 visa such as winning an Oscar, then just do not bother.
When I got the first rejection I was ready to give up and go home, but my lawyers urged me to go for a second round. I wish I had gone with my gut and just stopped there.
The second round took almost three months to process, even though it is supposed to take two weeks – which it did for my roommate, and she was lucky enough to actually get her visa on the second round. But she is one of the very, very few people who actually managed to get it.
I flew home for Christmas under the impression that I would be returning to New York City in early January.
When I still hadn’t received a response, it moved to early February – then early March. I had to change my flight four times (adding further to the mountain of money I owed) and finally just gave up.
My roommate in Brooklyn had to put all of my belongings into storage and begin the search for a new roommate, having waited for me to come back for three months.
Meanwhile I was in Ireland working at a temp agency, nervous of taking up a job that lasted for too long in case I was suddenly given the opportunity to go back to New York.
By the time I finally got a response, I was no longer even in a viable position to return. I had lost my apartment, my job and all of my money.
That being said, getting a “no” was still a huge slap in the face.
I was still living out of my suitcase in my parents’ apartment, refusing to unpack because that would mean that it was really over. This week, my dad went to IKEA and built me some furniture to unpack into.
It’s finally starting to feel real and honestly, I feel robbed. Robbed of my time, and of the weeks and months I spent stressing out of my head wondering what was going to happen.
If they could have just read that application and gotten back to me in two flicks of a lambs tail with their “no” I could have gotten it over it a hell of a lot faster, but they left me hanging for 10 weeks. Cheers.
The silver lining of this cloud is that I am home. I am back with my family and most of my friends. And I’m out of the world of long-distance. All good things.
There is a strong contingent of New York City returnees here who are working to get their lives back on track after that roller-coaster, and I’m actually pretty happy to be a part of that. Dublin is still an incredible city, and Ireland will always be home. There is so much happening here, and I’m ready to get stuck in.
New York was amazing, and I’m sure it still is even without my dazzling presence. They say you should get out before it turns you into a lunatic, so maybe I got out just in time, but it will always be a precious little baby to me. A baby with a denim jacket and a gun who smokes rollies on the subway, but a baby all the same.
It’s time for a new chapter, so my “Singled Out” column here shall bid you adieu and make way for what is yet to come. Watch this space.