Friday, July 9, 2010

"Can I have a moment with you in private, sir?"

Not exactly the words you want to hear from a visa applicant when you're on outreach; beyond the protection of bullet-proof glass, blast doors, and Section 214(b).

So when after a pre-departure talk with Indian students a sheepish straggler asks me this, I get ready for the worst. Almost all of the students at this talk have already gotten their visas and are now mapping their way to H-1B glory, maybe even to a green card or citizenship. But personal visa stories are often tough to hear and hard to forget.

"Can I have a moment with you in private, sir?" The other six or seven curious students pealed away in deference--they'd gotten their fill about Social Security Numbers, taxes, and how early they can enter before classes (30 days, if you're wondering).

"You did my visa interview a few days ago." Shoot. Here it comes.
"And you granted me the visa."OK--not what I expected.
"My mother passed away recently and it was her dying wish that I study in the United States. I wanted to say thank you."

I nodded a little stiffly, not sure whether to say I was glad, thank you to him, or good luck. Silence might have been best for a bit. He walked away.

Many times we hear about "hopes and dreams" and we dismiss them as ways to sneak in the country's backdoor. And many times they are. In the interview he might have been *Student to pursue MS Comp Sci at UT-Dallas. First class from Anna University, 82%, 1250 GRE, credible student...* But sometimes it's good to see life continuing beyond qualified/qualified, credible/uncredible, convinced/unconvinced.

I heard back from 1 out of 20,o00 today, but that'll keep me going for a while.

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