it worked out lol
The first half of this year was very stressful for me due to my US visa situation coming to a close.
As I've mentioned before, I came to the US in 2014 under an F-1 student visa, which eventually got extended to a STEM OPT visa up until May 22nd of 2021. The months leading up to my visa's expiration date were incredible stressful as my studio and I scrambled to find solutions in case the 2021 H-1B lottery didn't work out for me (more on that later).
My past experiences turned me into a very pessimistic (albeit realistic) person when it comes to immigration. It's funny because while I was on a visa, I also had a highly valued skillset due to being a tech artist. So it's always been a mix of companies really wanting to hire me but also not really lol
When you're in this situation, recruiters will tell you whatever you want to hear in order to get you onboard. One time, a recruiter mentioned a full-time conversion if I accepted a contract and the visa would somehow be resolved; after a few months, whenever I asked management about the conversion there was never a straight answer. They'd tell me to wait a little longer or whatever.
I've been scouted on LinkedIn multiple times with an opportunity only to be turned away or ghosted at the mention of my visa. More recently, a recruiter got on the phone with me, reassured me multiple times that the visa would not be an issue for the AAA company in question, said that I'd be a fantastic candidate for the position, then ghosted me right afterwards. I was pretty dead inside, people.
Needless to say, when the time came to talk about my visa once again, I was preparing myself for the absolute worst. And for a long time, it seemed like that would be the most likely outcome: I'd have to give up the North American games industry to go back to Brazil and do...something??? I guess??? Not to say there isn't a games industry in Brazil, but having to go back after working so hard to build my life here just felt very demoralizing. I was so done with this shit, I considered a change of career many times! Ohhh...how much easier would it be to just retreat to the countryside of Brazil next to my parents and spend my days raising chickens and baking bread...
The reason things seemed particularly grim was the H-1B lottery. If you're not familiar with the H-1B lottery, there are about 65,000 US worker visas to be raffled to 200,000+ applicants. That means there is about a 30% chance of being selected. If you have a Master's your chances are higher, but I don't have one yet.
So I had a 30% chance of everything working out and a 70% chance of things not working out. Now, I'm no mathematician, but these odds don't seem very good... Specially because for the longest time, we had no backup plan in case I wasn't selected.
Regardless, I always tried to keep everything as positive as possible, even if I knew it would be emotionally turbulent. I tried to keep my head up, and come up with a plan for all the possible scenarios. This is a diagram I made in the beginning of this year, when everything seemed very bad:
(Quick note on the Italian thing: I might be getting an Italian citizenship soon, and since the US has a visa agreement with Italy, it sounded like I'd have more possibilities then. That's what the immigration lawyer told me anyway)
(Another quick side note: I also started looking into the O-1 visa a while after making this)
I don't know if the universe has a sick sense of humor or what, but in the past 7 years that I lived in the US, any time I thought the visa situation was going to get resolved by whatever company employing me at the time, I'd get punched in the face with very depressing news. So it's pretty hysterical that the one time I was prepared to receive awful news, everything...ended up fine???
And it wasn't anything magical....I have an incredible team and managers who moved mountains to advocate for me. Thanks to them, we came up with a plan that allowed me to stay employed at the studio while working from Canada remotely.
Anyways I'm fine now LOL