The Immigration Game

Rejection doesn’t taste good, but it surely makes acceptance taste a lot better.

It was around July 2010 when I was fresh out of college after completing my Bachelor’s in Computer Engineering and I had decided to pursue a master’s course. At that time, a childhood friend of mine was also considering pursuing master’s course. He had completed his bachelors from the UK and we both decided to opt for a master’s course in the UK. So, we initiated the procedure and received admission in Aston University. I paid the fees for IELTS and began my preparation. So far so good.

My dad somehow didn’t like the idea of me pursuing masters from the UK, because he knew about the economic and job conditions there (it was 2010). Also, studying and living in the UK is an expensive investment and the return on that investment is unpredictable. So, he told me that I should meet with some of the people from his workplace, have some discussion with them, do a little brainstorming, and then decide. Following my dad’s advice, I met with some people, paid attention to their words of wisdom, did a little brainstorming and decided not to pursue masters from the UK.

I was keen on studying further and I had already opted out studying in the UK. I had no idea about pursuing master’s from the USA as I had not considered it before. But, then I thought about it and it occurred to me that I should definitely go for it. My dad did support the idea and my relatives in the USA suggested me about studying in the states. So, I began preparing for GRE. I had already appeared for IELTS before, so there was no need for TOEFL. I joined a consultancy in Ahmedabad and the people there guided me about universities, programs and everything related to admissions.

Weeks went by and time seemed to fly. I got busy preparing for documents, GRE, admissions, and then finally for the visa interview. USA doesn’t follow the drop box visa system like some of the countries do. One needs to schedule an interview with the USA consulate. The interview determines the outcome of the entire process. It is make or break. Mine was scheduled in December 2010.

My mom accompanied me when I went to Mumbai for the interview. We couldn’t get train tickets so my dad suggested we should book flight tickets. It was the first time I flew in a commercial plane and the experience was amazing. You know what they say, you never forget your first time 🙂

Just like thousands of other candidates, I was hopeful and confident of getting a visa. So, I walked into the US consulate in Mumbai and stood in front of the consulate interviewer. An interview at the US Consulate is completed within a few minutes or maybe seconds. They don’t take a lot of time and there is no chair for the interviewees. Yup, you’ve got to stand during the interview. My interviewer was an African-American female. She asked me some questions and within a few moments she told me that my visa was not granted. I was speechless and not in a good way. I had prepared for the interview, I had the score, I had secured admission in a good college with a scholarship, I had all the documents, and I was confident. The only thing I didn’t have was enough luck or proper timing, I guess. I was young and naive.

“The act of losing can elicit great wisdom. Not least of which is how much more enjoyable it is to win.” – A Good Year

So, I walked out of the consulate with a blank passport. It was quite shattering. I had spent my time and my dad’s money after the process, had hopes of studying further, already canceled a different plan, and adding to the misery I didn’t have a job that time! It sucked real bad. I wanted it so much. I was not ready to quit. I decided to appear again for the interview. We stayed at my cousin sister’s place in Mumbai and I had always liked the idea of living in Mumbai. I told my sister that I’d find a job in Mumbai. The very next day, I paid the visa fee in Mumbai and returned to Ahmedabad. I had to meet my consultant for guidance and I had to schedule another interview.

After my meeting with the consultant, I and my family thought it would be best not to schedule the interview. We could schedule it after a few months for Fall 2011 intake. Meanwhile, it would be certainly better to get a job. I had nothing else to do and if my visa would be denied a second time, then I’d have a backup plan. Getting domain experience is never a bad idea. I started applying for jobs in Ahmedabad and Mumbai. I appeared for a lot of interviews in Ahmedabad. I had no luck finding a job in Mumbai. After plenty of interviews I landed a job offer in Ahmedabad. I joined the company, but I didn’t like the work environment there. I quit within a week and started looking for a job again. Luckily, I got another job and it was way better than the first one. I felt some relief.

Within a span of 5 to 6 months, I had been through all of this and I didn’t know what was ahead of me. I had a few bruises. Fortunately, the next few months were easier. I made friends at the new company and started learning new things. Fast forward to June 2011. I scheduled my second visa interview and started preparing for it. The second time I did have hope, but I was also realistic. I was not naive.

I traveled alone to Mumbai as there was no need for anyone to accompany me. I walked into the consulate with my chin up to face the interview. The consulate officer was a Chinese or Japanese looking guy. I greeted him good morning and he asked me a few questions. He asked me about my first visa interview, my choice of college, my program, and a few other questions. The direction in which the interview steered, I could sense rejection in the air and I was right. My visa was denied for the second time. It was a second blow.

Although, I was realistic, digesting that blow for the second time was not so easy as I had thought. The same old bruises were scratched again. It ached. But, I had a job and my life to get back to. So, I moved on with my life. I gained some work experience and then moved to another organization. I worked there for around 14 months and then I thought it was about time I fulfilled my wish to move to Mumbai. I started searching for jobs in Mumbai and Pune as well. With some luck and hard work I landed a job offer in Pune!

“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.” – Haruki Murakami

There was no way of knowing if the storm was over, but it was a bit unexpected and a big move for me. I was quite excited. I decided to move to Pune. Initially, I was not sure how it would turn out, but Pune changed me for better. I enjoyed living in Pune. I made new friends, traveled to many places, started blogging, and the weather there was just wonderful. I cannot thank my stars enough for such a great opportunity. It had been about 1.5 years since I moved to Pune and I was looking forward to enjoy it for some more time. Then my family received the news we were waiting for years, but not sure when we’d receive it. They received their visa interview call for US immigration!

In 2002, my aunt – a citizen of the USA, filed an immigration petition for my family. Once it was processed and if our visas were approved, we could enter the USA on immigrant visa (AKA PR visa). It is famously known as Green Card or Permanent Resident Card. In 2010 the petition was approved, but at that time I had reached the age of 21 and as per US immigration rules I was not eligible. Hence, my name was excluded from the petition. I swallowed that pill too. Meanwhile, we came across an immigration act, which made me eligible to immigrate despite crossing the age limit. So, we represented our case to NVC (National Visa Center), which processes immigration petitions and we were informed that the decision will be made by the US Consulate Officer at the time of the visa interview of my family. I was not eligible to appear for visa interview. We kept our fingers crossed.

The interview was scheduled at the Consulate General of the United States in Mumbai. I accompanied my family to the consulate and when they went inside while I waited outside. After 2 hours, they exited the consulate and they told me their visas were approved. Awesome! The consulate officer gave them a letter informing that I was eligible for immigration. Woohoo! It was music to my ears and we all were joyous. The wait was finally over and the only thing remaining to do was to prepare the documents and schedule my visa interview. I couldn’t wait more.

The following weeks I engrossed myself in preparation and the weeks went by pretty fast. I had scheduled my interview a month after my family’s interview. The documents were in place and I had prepared for the interview rigorously. There were certain differences compared to my previous visa interview experiences. Previously, I had appeared for non-immigrant visa interviews and the consulate was located on Bhulabhai Desai road. That time, I was appearing for an immigrant visa interview and the consulate was located in Bandra – Kurla complex. My parents accompanied me to the consulate. I reached the consulate and I hoped it wouldn’t turn out like my past experiences.

The queue for immigration visa applicants is different from non-immigrant visa applicants and the interviews are conducted in a different section. I joined the queue, entered the consulate and waited for my turn. There are multiple windows where interviews are conducted and one can hear the interviews going on. The language of the interview is to be selected by the applicant. While waiting for my turn, I was able to hear the interviews and those interviews were conducted in languages other than English. Translators are required for such interviews. Mine was in English, so there was no need for a translator. So, I thought maybe I’ll be called sooner and I was right. Just after a few minutes of waiting, my token number was displayed. I have to admit, my heart was beating a bit faster. I thought I should keep in mind “All is well”.

I reached the window and the consulate officer greeted me good morning with a welcoming smile. I greeted him back and he told me that he’d ask me a few questions. So, then he asked me a few questions about my family, myself, and told me to wait for a while. He went to fetch a form and then he asked me if I signed any form that morning. Then he asked me about my age and when I was planning to move to the US. If I reached US before the age of 26 then I’d have to sign a form, but it wasn’t required. He asked just a few more questions and said these golden words “Your visa has been approved. You’ll receive it within 3 to 5 business days. Have a safe trip to US.”

I can’t describe the feeling when I left the consulate. The interview was easy which I didn’t expect at all because of my previous experiences and rejections, the officer was smiling throughout the interview and the entire process, which can take 2 to 3 hours, was over within an hour! I met my parents and informed them about the news. They were so overjoyed. My parents had prayed and their prayers were answered.

“Sometimes people deserve to have their faith rewarded.” – The Dark Knight

I wished to experience Airbus A380 since the day it was introduced and I wanted to fly with Emirates. Fortunately, both my wishes got fulfilled 🙂

Read to board. At Ahmedabad International Airport.

Read to board. At Ahmedabad International Airport.

The A380 at Dubai International Airport.

The A380 at Dubai International Airport.

A closer look at the A380.

A closer look at the A380.

It is indeed a beast!

It is indeed a beast!

Finally, aboard the plane!

Finally, aboard the plane!

Cameras attached to the plane provide outside views. Cool!

Cameras attached to the plane provide outside views. Cool!

Flight route on personal screen.

Flight route on personal screen.

Captured a few minutes before arriving to America.

Captured a few minutes before arriving to America.

Arrived at the JFK airport :)

Arrived at the JFK airport 🙂

Special thanks to my aunt & uncle (Hema Desai & Amit Desai) because of whom my family and I received this opportunity. We wouldn’t have got this chance otherwise and we are indebted to them for that.

The game hasn’t ended. It has just begun.

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4 thoughts on “The Immigration Game

  1. Dear Jay,

    I’m also feeling excited reading all your comments and words here describing all your experiences !

    Wish you a great life ahead and all the best for new opportunities in future

    Stay blessed and don’t forget back us 🙂

    Regards

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Adityabhai,

      Thanks a lot for finding the time to read my experiences and for your wishes! It means a lot.

      There’s no way to forget. After all, Cygnet was the first company where I worked and we had a lot of fun 🙂

      Wish you good luck for your future opportunities!

      We’ll stay in touch 🙂

      Like

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