A Real U.S. Immigration Experience


E-mail Interview with Isabella (not birth name, 28 years old)
8 April 2014

1.  What is your home country?

Macau, China

2.  How old were you when you wanted to come to the United States and why did you want to come?

I wanted to come to the US when I was about 15, and the reasons that I wanted to come was to be fluent in my English so I can be more competitive compared to other people.  To be honest with you, I didn’t give too many thoughts on why I wanted to come.  People back home always believe that someone who goes to school in the Western countries will have a brighter future, so back then, I just thought it would be a good decision to come to the US.

3. What steps did you have to take to get to the U.S. and how hard was it for you to figure out how to take the necessary steps? 

Since I was going to school to the US, I needed to get student visa in order to go to school here.  I actually got rejected two times – 1st time, the US embassy said that my English was not good enough and I needed to take more advanced courses to improve my English.  I think it also had to do with some of the documentation prepared by my high school in Oregon saying that my English was proficient, when in reality, it was the case.  The second time, can’t even remember why it was rejected – probably due to some of the incomplete supporting documentation? The US embassy does require tons of the documentation to prove that you are not intending to come over to the US and stay illegal.  You had to show that your family has sufficient $$$ to support your living in US, and your parents have jobs back home, etc.

4. Once you got to America, what kind of restrictions did the United States place on you as far as travel in and out of the U.S.?

I got lucky – my student visa granted me multiple entries and the visa is valid for 5 years and I can travel in and out of the US whenever I want.  I think people in mainland China tend to get one-year visa and they need to go back home to renew it every year! I know one of my friends in college got a one-year visa with single entry – which means when she leaves the US, she has to apply for another visa.  My friend said that it may have to do with her major (she planned to study biochemistry, which tends to be a sensitive field to be in since 9/11).

5. What is your current immigration status in the U.S.?  Do you have to continually fill out a lot of paper work and/or make applications (such as green card applications)?

I am currently on H1B visa, which is a work visa sponsored by my company.  My work visa is little bit unique than the other work visas, which needs to be first approved by the government through application and other supporting paperwork.  The application and other paperwork are handled by my company’s HR and the immigration law specialists engaged by my company.  I basically just need to provide information to them and they will take care of the rest.  Once the petition is approved by the government, I can take the approved petition and set up an appointment with the US embassy and get the visa stamp processed.

The firm is actually in the process of the sponsoring my green card – I am sure there are tons of applications and paperwork that go along with that, but similar to my H1B visa, they are handled by the immigration law specialists.  I think the green card process will be more time-consuming because there are different phases and I think in each phase, we need to submit different types of paperwork and/or applications.

6. Do you feel discriminated against in the U.S.?

In most cases, I don’t feel being discriminated – although I don’t like when some people trying to mimic how the foreigners speak English with accent.  They know they are just joking, just it makes me feel like they would mimic how I speak too!

7. Do you think the term “illegal alien” or “illegal immigrant” is symbolically degrading or are the people that are saying this making a big deal over something small in the overall scheme of U.S. immigration policy?

I think this term is a definitely symbolically degrading and I also think they are making such a big deal.  Sometimes, I feel like people in this country are insecure and think that the foreigners are stealing their jobs and that’s why they are making such a big deal.

8. Do you have thoughts on ways that you might have felt or would now feel more welcome coming into and staying in the U.S. or has your experience been what you expected?

I think in most of my experiences, I do feel welcomed.  Of course, that really has to do with which people you are dealing with. I feel like people from the West Coast seem to be more welcoming and open to non-white foreigners.  In the East Coast, people tend to be more reserved (except your mom haha). One observation I see is that Americans tend to more open to foreigners coming from Europe – not sure it has to be with the language (coz most people from Europe can speak better English)?

9. Do you see some glaring issues on how the United States looks at immigrants and foreign born people who are trying to make a new life in the United States?

I think people need to be more open-minded about the immigrants and foreign-born people. Most of us who come to the US are hoping to make a better life for us and for our families back home, and in the progress of achieving that goal, we do go through tons of obstacles such as being apart from our families, getting through language barrier, adjusting a new environment, making new friends, etc.

10. Do people from your country emigrate to countries/regions other than the United States and if so, can you comment and how their experience compares to yours in the U.S.?

I do know some people who emigrate to Canada, Australia, and England.  Based on what I heard, it sounds like US definitely has the most strict immigration rules and the immigration process is definitely the most time-consuming.  Take my best friend for an example – he got his master degree in Australia, and because of his master degree (and I am sure there are things that he qualifies), he gets to apply to be a permanent resident (i.e. green card status in US) and I think the process probably only took a year or two.

11. Are you happy being in the U.S. or do you want to go home?

I am definitely torn! I am happy being in here – I love the relatively laid-back lifestyle here and it seem like the quality of life in US is better.  But since my family is back in Macau, sometime I do want to go back home so that I can spend more quality time with them (especially the fact that I came over to US when I was 15!).


3 thoughts on “A Real U.S. Immigration Experience

  1. Hey Alec,

    I thought this was a great interview. I thought Isabella offered up some very compelling insight about the experience of being an immigrant.

  2. Hi Alec: Your whole project is insightful and quite well rounded. Your subject matter of immigration is one very hot political subject right now, and needs to be addressed more forcefully in every state of the Union. Your blog could be the starting point of lively discussion in political arenas.


  3. What an informative interview! I think it would inspire most Americans to read about the experiences of recent immigrants.

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