As the legislative and political wheels turn slowly on the E3 visa process to give more opportunities to skilled Irish emigrants in the U.S or those hoping to come and contribute, I reflect back to the struggles I faced and still do regarding my visa status.

I have worked with three different lawyers and have had two J1 visas, an O1 visa, a B2 and have been confirmed or an EB1 for the last three years but haven't received it. The struggle for so many rises into thousands of dollars, months of waiting and confusion as you are torn between two sides of an ocean with no certainty. 

The J1 summer visa is 90 days of exploring and finding yourself in the US, working a job you often don't care about but it's a window into the working world on the other side of the Atlantic. It also presents the chance to get a Social Security Number and enter the "system". I returned after this 90-day visa on another J1 this time for 12 months to work in the area of media and communication. This visa presents itself as merely the "after you graduate" version of the 90-day pass. However with this visa ending the opportunities to remain became interesting. 

Read more:  Crossing The Mason-Dixon

Below is an excerpt from my debut book, Through Irish Eyes: A Personal and Journalistic Journey published by Galway publishing house, Book Hub Publishing.

Chapter: The Fight To Stay Legal

But what the hell is an O-1 visa? Immigration attorneys had to get involved for this one. In June of 2013 with 4 months until my J1 Visa expired I began the process of proving I was eligible for a Visa that was only for “Aliens of extraordinary ability”.

Whatever that meant! How do you prove you are extraordinary? First of all, you need to start believing you are. I have not ever seen myself as anything other than a fluffy-haired 5’ 8’ average Galwegian. James O’Malley and Lorcan Shannon Irish immigration law experts based in New York started to prove to me and
then the U.S. immigration services that I was something special. Having Through Irish Eyes as my own TV series helped make me unique, being one of the only Irish men in local TV news in the U.S at the time also.

All those years of portfolio building, radio reports, blogs, youtube videos and months of TV reports across the Bible-Belt were brought together into one giant package showcasing 4 years of a career in Ireland, the UK, and Tennessee.

Hundreds of pages of pictures and articles, 10 reference letters from journalism leaders, website print offs, blurbs, testimonials and on and on and on. You need to prove that you have contributed to publications, organizations and done truly phenomenal work. Won awards, judged others in your field. Nobel and Academy award winners use this visa to work in America. In my industry Piers Morgan had one, yet so had Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande and Playboy bunnies.

Read more: Tennessee TV tales

I worked 40 hours a week as a CBS affiliate TV reporter and 15 more as my own legal clerk with O’Malley and Shannon by my side trying to make myself look as extraordinary as possible. Nights of not sleeping, nightmares, stress, and strain, trying to hold it together in every single way on air and in a job that may not last, as the days ticked away and then out of the blue came an awful curveball, a government shutdown.

I didn’t even know a government shutdown was possible, but the Republicans and Democrats had a different idea. Offices for federal processing like my visa application were closed overnight. 4 months of compiling my entire life into an envelope to get the chance to keep my career going in a city, job, and world I had come to love was put on hold.

I came off-air in tears expecting it to be the end of the voyage. I had beaten the doubters, including myself and got on air in U.S. TV news where others had failed. The job, the car, the house, the relationship, the struggle and strife would be ripped from under me by bickering in an all white, round, pillared house, hundreds of miles away amongst angry middle-aged men. I couldn’t drive, couldn’t work, couldn’t leave the country either. A week of doldrums, money was running out.

Waiting on someone who was not allowed to sit behind a government desk to eventually come back in and open my envelope and then see me as extraordinary.

A petition started online to keep me in the country, hundreds signed, radio and TV stations came to my door wanting to ask was I going tobe deported. I had no idea. I came so close to walking away from it all. Throwing in the towel. Days ran into days and then into nights, the fridge became less stocked and I laid low hoping for the chance to go back to the life I lived for the previous 9 months. Walking around the
outskirts of a city with poor public transport, staring at the car I owned but couldn’t drive, watching the TV station I had reported for from my bed. Not illegal, not facing deportation, but “Pending”, I was a pending potential alien of extraordinary ability in the field of journalism.

Read more: The Irish deserve access to the US through E3 work visas

Through Irish Eyes is available in Kindle form on Amazon.

It is available for international order from Book Hub Publishing.

This article was submitted to the IrishCentral contributors network by a member of the global Irish community. To become an IrishCentral contributor click here

This article was submitted to the IrishCentral contributors network by a member of the global Irish community. To become an IrishCentral contributor click here.

James P MahonJames P Mahon