Seven Reasons it Sucks Being an Immigrant in the United States

I seriously hate being an immigrant.

Right now, not even the fact that I am married to an American is not going to save me the $1000 plus that I will blow on another international trip to an American consulate to get a visa stamped in my passport (I haven’t gotten my green card yet).  I have to leave the country and get this visa stamp if I hope to travel internationally and re-enter the United States with permission to work.  Absurd.  Hence the dour look on my face as I write this at Starbucks in Terminal B in Sacramento International Airport.

I am not yet ready to look at the bright side of all this (there may be some happier immigration-related posts later this week if my rendezvous at the US Consulate in Calgary goes as planned.)  So for now, let’s wallow in pessimism and complain about the crappy state of the immigration process in seven, rambling points:

1)  There are too many jokes about immigrants – starting with my wife Jammie’s joke that I have blogged about before.  She LOVES asking, “Why am the one who looks like I need the green card,” really enjoying the irony of the Filipina who is this white boy’s ticket to America.

2)  Life is always more complicated for immigrants – ever since I was in college it has been the SAME story – you’ve got to jump through ALL these hoops if you want to study/live in the US.  Depending on where you are from, the paperwork and the uncertainty surrounding whether or not you will get a student visa is absolutely exhausting.

3)  Immigration to the United States (or anywhere, for that matter) is BEYOND humiliating – When I finally arrived at my American school I had to go to something called International Student Orientation where they shared gems like “take daily showers and wear deodorant.”  Welcome to America indeed.

4)  Immigrants are always at the mercy of the host country – I remember landing in Chicago after a trip back to the UK for Christmas.  An airport official at the immigration desks started yelling at the huge crowd of non-US travelers that were lined up, immigration forms in hand, trying to get in the country.  It was as though we were a crowd of misbehaving school children.  I raised my hand and asked if she was going to do anything about the fact that the super slow immigration officials were causing people to miss their flights.  The collective humiliation of being yelled at as a crowd quickly became personal as she directed her plump ire at me, pontificating on about how we were just going to have to “wait our turn.”  I complained heartily to their customer service people and missed the last bus to Michigan.

5)  Being an immigrant is ALWAYS more expensive – If it were not for the fact that I got lucky and have worked for extremely generous employers, I would be completely broke at this point.  The paper work that has been filed for me to work in the US on a professional non-immigrant H-1B (too confusing to go into the reasoning behind this category here) visa has cost about $15,000 and I have only worked in the United States for five years.  It is absolutely ridiculous.  Having a legal immigration status is immensely costly.  And we wonder why we have a problem with illegal immigration.

6)  The life of an immigrant feels like one long interview process – Living under the constant threat of deportation for the slightest infraction is hardly a great way to enjoy the American life.  It is super stressful.  I have my THIRD immigration interrogation in five years this Tuesday at the US consulate in Calgary just so I can get a visa stamped in my passport for which my employer has already spent thousands of dollars.

7)  You are at the mercy of politicians – It is not ordinary Americans that are causing all of this drama.  It is a completely inefficient Congress.  Immigration comes up in every election cycle, especially in the border states.  Good immigration news is the number one issue in many voters’ minds.  But let’s be real, does anything constructive EVER happen?  It certainly doesn’t feel like it.  Immigration problems are here to stay.

OK, enough negativity for now.  On Tuesday we look at whether or not it is worth immigrating to the United States anymore.


Bjorn Karlman


15 thoughts on “Seven Reasons it Sucks Being an Immigrant in the United States”

  1. It definitely needs to be reformed. Maybe you will work for that one day? Living in Korea has opened my eyes to how forthcoming their society is with their own racism and fear of foreigners. There is the side of them that loves to put white people and/or English words into all sorts of ads. And how proud they are to speak English. But they are not comfortable with a foreigner who takes up permanent residence ~ they don’t want to think about losing control of their society and losing their purity. There has been a lot of hype in the local news here regarding the increasing number of foreigners working in Korea and the problems that brings. Note: no matter how long a foreigner lives in Korea, even if they marry a Korean and have children together and are fluent, they will always be considered foreigner. Ask any Korean what percentage of their population is foreign and they’ll say 25%. The actual number is less than 1%.

    1. Yeah, that is probably one of those unfortunate realities that is tough to get around. Have you looked into the history behind those fears?

  2. Bjorn – the US immigration system is definitely broken and that’s probably why you’re seeing all the inequalities of it. We used to be a country that opened its arms to immigrants but that’s not so much the case today. Immigrants make us richer as a society and culture (and even produced our president!) Even with all the inequalities, jokes and difficulties, I think people will continue to immigrate countries for more opportunities and a better life.

  3. I definately hear you Bjorn! I have many imigrant friends who can comletely relate to what you have been through. Unfortunately the “criminally minded” people have ruined it for all the incredibly good immigrants our country enjoys. However, this does not excuse the treatment of being treated like a herd of cattle or as if you need to be continually interviewed to see if your answers changed from last time. I feel for you!

    Just remember, there are many of us in America whose lives are forever enriched by your (and so many others) presence.

  4. this was very good, it made my night really :D but I think I disagree wit you in most points, I am sooo sorry you have had to go through all of this BS (that is what it is lol) but I dont think everyone navigates on that same boat, for instance, it cost my parents about $10,000 for them 2 and me and my brother to come here, it really sucks that it has cost you sooo much :/ I brought my husband here two years ago and his green card only cost us about $2,000, I really hope your view of American changes so you can be successful once you have you have your green card, how did it go with the visa?

    1. Thanks for the thoughtful comment Amiris, and don’t worry… I love the US.. that’s why I am here… I do think the immigration situation is a shambles though.. As for the price discrepancy… if I had done the papers myself the prices would have been closer to what you are talking about… way to file those papers solo!!

  5. Maybe life as an immigrant is just tough because you’re Swedish?(-; how come your gc hasn’t gone through?

      1. Yeah no joke.. went through the whole thing last summer.. how far are you in the process? let me know if you need any help!

        1. Actually, yes, I WOULD like some help. How many months did it take you to get your work authorization? And how many months for the actual green card? I hear the USCIS is moving fairly efficiently for being them…

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