Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these the homeless, tempest-tossed to me;
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.
America the closed preserve That dirty foreigners don’t deserve
But why wasn’t I legally in the States? Because there are no certain legal paths to what I want: free agency. That is, to be able to live and make wealth, however and how long I want (the legal equivalent would be a permanent residence, a citizenship is that plus voting).
Sure, there are work visas, but I’m not particularly interested in being an employee. I want to make wealth myself or with others, in projects we start. And yes, a work visa can (notice the lack of certainty!), given years, be upgraded to a residence permit — I know a couple of tech guys who have done this after some 7 or more years. It takes that long because professional green cards have a shameful 5 year backlog and because why would employers give you the freedom to work for others or for yourself when they can just have you on a renewable per-year indentured servitude?
The problem’s not getting into the States to vacation work where the powers that be want you to work, the problem is being a free agent. And yes, were America the only option, paying the many-year uncertain penance wouldn’t look so bad. But the world’s a big place.
I had an employer willing to sponsor me but Big Sam didn’t countenance my lack of bachelor’s degree (I dropped out of math halfway, to pursue web dreams) and my total absence of work experience (this was my first work ever!). One of the world’s best firms in its field wants me to work with it, how’s it government’s business?
So I just went there to make something happen and ended up working “remotely”. I wanted to try something different and believed SF to be exactly the place for me to be (I was right!). After 6 months I realized that as far as big companies go, this was likely one of the best out there, full of happy, hard-working, smart people. And yet I knew right away that working wasn’t for me. I want to risk it all and give it all, and be rewarded accordingly. Not doing it feels riskier and harder to me.
My idea has for many years been to start a web project of the size and scope of, say, Yelp, Flickr, Craigslist, Wikipedia or even Google. I believe the best way to do it is to be a free agent in a mature and wealthy web market, like US/Canada, Europe, or even Japan. After turning down an offer for full time, my plan was to finish my outstanding contract and just be a free agent, de facto if not de jure — what country better than the US for mocking citizenship, tomorrow’s shame, today’s title of nobility, granted only by blood or marriage or place of birth?
I was to be an illegal tourist, with an easy part time job doing whatever, meanwhile pursuing web projects in the most vibrant web scene on Earth. Legal free agency would take care of itself somehow. I was, of course, over optimistic.
Far be it, though, for me to be rancorous. While my idea of the U.S. is now tinged with a sad fear, dissapointment, and detachment, I’ve found in me a resilience and an inner joy I didn’t expect. The support I’ve received from friends and family has surprised and touched me deeply. This may be what they call youth but seeing everything I built in a 6month torn down in a night just made me eager to start all over, giddy with freedom and possibility. There is now, a plan, as I will detail in the next post.