I’ve wanted to move to the USA for some time. I knew from a young age that I didn’t want to stay in the UK, and that if I really did want a better life it wouldn’t be there. In 1995, I blagged my way into a school exchange program between my school (now defunct) and Pace Academy in Atlanta, Georgia. It was my first ever visit to the USA and it was a complete eye opener. That’s the point where I knew the US was the place to go and it’s been my goal ever since.
I tried various methods to do so legally, and here’s the quick version of the journey. Those who know me, know I have both an IT background specialising in Apple products and integration as well as a film production background with a few credits to my name in various positions. I even wrote and directed a short film (wow, that’s a decade ago?) that got good attention and the most people I met from that have been good friends ever since.
Seems it’s easier to get a US visa from being an artist than a technical person. I can do both, but I know where my passion and life goal actually is. Instead of doing the usual route of:
work visa -> green card -> citizenship
I’m skipping the first part and proceeding straight for the green card via the EB-1 visa category. The requirements for the skilled artist route that I’m taking is:
Those with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics which has been demonstrated by sustained national or international acclaim and whose achievements have been recognized in the field through extensive documentation.
Just for good measure there are categories that define this, and you have to make a minimum of three of them. More is preferable as it makes your case stronger. These are:
- Evidence of receipt of lesser nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence
- Evidence of membership in associations in the field, which demand outstanding achievement of their members
- Evidence of published material about you in professional or major trade publications or other major media
- Evidence of judging the work of others, either individually or on a panel
- Evidence of original scientific, scholarly, artistic, athletic, or business-related contributions of major significance to the field
- Evidence of authorship of scholarly articles in professional or major trade publications or other major media
- Evidence that work has been displayed at artistic exhibitions or showcases
- Evidence of performance of a leading or critical role in distinguished organizations
- Evidence that of high salary or other significantly high remuneration in relation to others in the field
- Evidence of commercial successes in the performing arts
I hit three of these. Numbers 1, 3 and 7 to be exact and have quite a few letters of intent promising work once I make it over there. You’ll see below how well this went.
Now you just can’t find information on how this process actually works outside of attorney websites and some frankly confusing information split between the USCIS and the US Embassy London websites. Below is the summation of everything I’ve gone through excluding a few details like costs.
Feb 2016 – Start of the process from “thinking about it” to “just actually bloody do it”. Going to be vague here, but I had a great reason aside from opportunities in either of my chosen career paths. I was unemployed at this point, so my main focus was employment and research.
May 2016 – Moved to Switzerland for a job. This provided the financial capability to make the move due to the UK’s incredibly poor wages for IT people, and Apple people especially. Found it hard to stay off the chocolate once I did get here.
June 2016 – Started shopping for a lawyer. Talked to five, eventually settling on Beltran Brito based on recommendations from others plus talking to them during a free consultation. Recommended to apply directly for an EB-1 Green Card based on my media background and available evidence. Was advised that an H1B work permit or an L1A intra-company transfer were becoming increasingly difficult to get and are usually handled in-house by the corporation doing the sponsoring.
July to September 2016 – Assembled evidence. Letters of Intent from US and UK film producers screenwriters composers and others, film awards, photos taken during film shoots, film festivals and pitch meetings, imdb credits, youtube links to completed projects, newspaper articles about myself, film related articles I had written, links to proof of film festival awards. This took so long as the pieces were scattered between Zurich (where I am at time of writing) and Newcastle-upon-Tyne where my parents are.
In early July the biggest reason I had for moving disappeared. Shame. However still plenty other good reasons to go, so I continued on.
November 2016 – Paid half of attorney fee up front. Submitted good quality copies of evidence, in colour and on good paper which I highly recommend doing: the better it looks the better the application. This was sent by post which was a big mistake because it left Zurich ok but got lost somewhere in New York customs.
December 2016 to February 2017 – Worked with attorney on documentation. Spent more time waiting for USPS to deliver so gave up and started shipping documents via DHL instead. Cost a lot more but worth it. Took three days instead of between 14, 21 and never. Documentation finalised and paid remainder of fees plus premium processing fee for USCIS.
March 2017 – Attorney sent off completed paperwork and evidence around the middle of the month. USCIS requires such packages be sent via USPS so I assumed a week to receive and 15 calendar days to process and another week to receive the response, given premium processing.
April 2017 – Received feedback from attorney on the 26th. Finally had a response from USCIS, who had taken exactly 15 days to do initial processing. They responded with an “RFE” or “Request for Evidence”, despite them stating that I have the three categories needed to meet the EB-1 requirements. Date of mid July 2017 given as a deadline for us to respond.
May 2017 – Extra 200 pages of evidence generated, printed and sent off to attorney which arrived 2nd week of May. At this point my attorney sat down and filtered through all the extra (business plans, scripts, schedules, letters of intent, UK company formation and dissolution certificates, casting emails etc).
June 2017 – At some point, the attorney sent off the documentation to USCIS. We expected to have a decision made before start of July 2017. I continue on with day job, trying to live as a good temporary Swiss person and saving all the spare cash I can (some rather expensive purchases and visits to places like Monaco notwithstanding!). Moving over will require some significant finances as unlike an H1B or L1A I will have zero assistance from a sponsor company for bank accounts and the like.
Plans formulating to liquidate life in Switzerland before moving back to the UK and doing the same again are forming. Selling the car (which is currently sitting around not doing much in the UK) will be a priority by end of year. Suddenly glad I’m a single guy with no real attachments and family, excluding parents of course.
To be continued …