I’ve been AWOL for the most of
2008. Sorry guys. Now I’m trying to be back.
The short story is I moved to California in early February,
and settling in the western world proved to be harder than
it seemed at my age of almost thirty. I am working at HighTech Passport
(HTP), an internationalization and localization company
based in San Jose. I am HTP’s only
It was also very hard to get here. It all started when the
now famous Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected as the President
of Iran. I wrote a
blog post, explaining my understanding of the situation
and asking readers to point a way out to me.
Lot’s of friends and acquaintances wrote to me, with
comforting advice and encouragement. But the most useful
proved to come from Razvan
Vilt, who I believe read my post from either Planet Fedora or
Razvan suggested a position at Bucharest, Romania, at the
European branch of HighTech Passport. But after lots of
paperwork, it proved impossible to get a Romanian work visa
for me (there was no clear path). But after a short and
depressing hiatus, the US headquarters came up with an offer
for what I am doing now as my day job.
It took ages for everything to go through. Being an Iranian
was another problem: the usual path for Iranians to go the
US was either go as a student or win the green card lottery.
Direct go-to-US-for-work cases are very rare for Iranians.
The process of applying for my H1-B visa
started in November 2006. In February HTP applied to the US
Department of Labour, and in April 2007, to US Citizenship
and Immigration Services (USCIS). I was a happy winner of
the first ever H1-B lottery, and USCIS answered in June
2007. After finding that the US Consulate at Dubai had no
free appointment time in the next three months, I applied at
the US Embassy at Ankara in late August. (The trip proved to
be an adrenalin-heavy headache, which started because of a
travel agent losing our reservation, and ended in pink
yoghurt all over a plane, but that’s a story for
If all would go well, I was supposed to start working in San
Jose in October 2007. After all, a German colleague was
going through the same procedures, and got her visa the next
day. But of course, being Iranian complicates everything.
At the embassy, they applied for a Security
Advisory Opinion for me and Elnaz, which is basically
permission from several US federal agencies to issue the
visa (any single one of can make the procedure very long).
We went back to Iran, to wait for it to get ready.
Elnaz's acceptance came in two weeks. But week after week we
checked the embassy’s website, and there was no news
of mine. The problem was that Elnaz, as a dependent of me,
could not travel to the US before me, and her clearance was
only valid for three months. And well, it happened: hers
expired in December 2007. We were reserving new flights to
Ankara and cancelling the previous reservation almost every
We reapplied for a new clearance for her, and waited for
mine to come. When mine finally arrived in January 2008 (in
about four months and a half), it was now her turn. We had
assumed that it would be shorter the second time: it
wasn’t. After a few weeks we bit the bullet and
decided that I should travel to the US sooner: there was a
chance that my clearance would expire before hers came,
putting us into a forever-repeating loop.
I flew to Ankara again, got my visa, and flew to the US. The
next day, in early February 2008, almost three years after I
started seeking a job outside Iran, I started working at my
new job. Elnaz got her visa and arrived four or five weeks
later, with quite a few horror stories on the way.
Settling in the US has proved much harder than it seemed,
and I plan to tell the stories here some day.
The best news is that I finally have a laptop, a
Lenovo X300 that arrived yesterday. It’s quite
comfortable: they keyboard is a wonder, and the whole thing
is so light, one can mistake it with a book. Fedora 10 is
quite fast on it too (although a bit buggy).