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I hope you're ready for Part 1 of Viktor's immigration story! If you missed the introduction to this series be sure to go here.
Let's get started and welcome Viktor back to the blog:
Unlike many immigration stories many of us hear on the news, this one has a number of twists and turns and involves plenty of aspects that cannot be painted in a black and white picture. Whatever your conceptions about immigration may be, I’ll start off by saying that this blog is not intended to pick and choose sides in the immigration debate, but to open your eyes to an aspect of it that many do not realize exists and is sometimes oversimplified by the government, the media, or the general public.
I am Viktor Kopic, Vox Culture’s Research & Development Coordinator. This is my story.
My story begins where I was born, in what used to be the former Yugoslavia, and is now seven different republics. When I have mentioned to many people that my family and I left Yugoslavia during the summer of 1991, as it was beginning to disintegrate and envelope itself into a protracted and bloody war, most have had a preconceived notion that we were refugees instead of immigrants. Despite departing during the beginning of a civil war, we were in fact immigrants, given that my family and I left the country out of our own will without being forced, and primarily due to my father’s promotion with a Yugoslav (later Croatian) company. As the area between the Croatian capital, Zagreb, and my hometown of Rijeka had become unsafe for traveling (due to the beginning of unrest), we departed by car, through Slovenia (which months earlier had also declared independence from the Yugoslav republic, and still had road blocks erected throughout the 10 mile border separating Croatia from Italy) and into Trieste, Italy. From there we flew to Frankfurt, Germany to what would be my home for just about eight years, Caracas, Venezuela.
On a stroll with my father along the harbor by downtown Rijeka, Croatia (then-Yugoslavia).
We would then move from Venezuela following the election of President Hugo Chavez, as the situation in the country slowly began to deteriorate. This move would lead us to finally coming to the United States, with our first stop being Annapolis, Maryland. This is where the story about my family’s ordeal begins.
Flying in a four-seater plane we rented; by the Angel Falls (the tallest waterfall in the world) in Venezuela.
During a trip on the Orinoco River, in Venezuela.
After officially obtaining a job with an American shipping company (an industry my father is specialized in) in Annapolis, my parents decided that they wanted to begin the process for obtaining a Green Card. A Green Card is a visa status that indicates an individual(s) hold permanent resident status within the United States. It is the first step prior to applying for U.S. citizenship, which is if the individual(s) chooses to do so. There are varying forms of Green Cards including: Green Card through Family; Green Card through Job; Green Card through Refugee or Asylum Status; and other more specialized Green Card status’. The Green Card through Family applied to my mother and me, given that I was still a minor and my mother was not working, and the Green Card through Job applied to my father. The visa status given to my mother and I is better known as the H-4 Visa (or visa that is handed to direct family members, such as the spouse and children under 21 years of age, who accompanies an H-1B holder) and my father’s given visa status is better known as the H-1B Visa.
By definition, an H-1B status, “allows U.S. employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations… The regulations define a specialty occupation as requiring theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge in a field of human endeavor including but not limited to architecture, engineering, mathematics, physical sciences, social sciences, biotechnology, medicine and health, education, law, accounting, business specialties, theology, and the arts, and requiring the attainment of a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent as a minimum (with the exception of fashion models, who must be of distinguished merit and ability).”
The way the process worked was, if the H-1B holder got approved for a Green Card (after the 2-3 year process) the direct family would get a Green Card together with that individual. However, due to pre-existing financial troubles with this U.S. company and a bitter feud over a military contract with a Canadian company, which also involved the Canadian government, and ended with the Royal Canadian Navy storming the U.S. company’s ship in international waters just outside of Canada (and the Russian captain of the ship sending out an emergency call saying that he was being boarded by “pirates”), we all soon left Annapolis for New Orleans, Louisiana.
AP photo of the Royal Canadian Navy boarding the GTS Katie.
While my father would begin working in New Orleans for another U.S.-based shipping company following our short-lived stay of one and a half years in Annapolis, we would also experience our first bump on the road in terms of the U.S. immigration process. While it used to take only 2-3 years to complete the Green Card application, what our new lawyer in New Orleans would explain to us is that, when an H1-B holder leaves the former sponsoring company to begin working at a new sponsoring company, the entire process starts all over again. In the years to come though, rather than getting any easier, our immigration story would continue to get even more complicated…
Introduction to My Immigration Story | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
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