Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Long Wait is Finally Over With Immigrant Visas To The United States

By Alon Calinao Dy: Like many Filipino nurses, I have dreamed an American life, a luxury car like Mercedes-Benz, a brand new house, and a few dollars after 12 hours of work. Those were the days when I was young, single, and full of hopes and dreams.

When U.S. visa retrogression started after 9/11 attacks, I was a newly passer of CGFNS and NCLEX-RN examinations during that time. My dream to work as a professional registered nurse in the U.S. seemed to be falling apart. I hated it.

Those were the times I felt down and the only person I could share my hopes and dreams was my girlfriend, those were the days I felt my American dream appeared shattered, and those were the moments they called professional nurses as call center agents.

I was fortunate I have parents who were very supportive and encouraged me to stand on my own feet. But I was young and I sometimes made awkward decisions. Motivated with my strong desire to work outside the country, I was a victim of an internet fraud. 

I lost P50,000 from my parents' hard-earned money and sent the money via Western Union to a scammer in the United Kingdom. I was not able to get the money back. At that moment, so many painful thoughts and emotions came over me, and that was my first lesson about an online scam in 2007.

After an upsetting experience, I told my parents about my plan to work in the Middle East. At first, they were so scared and didn't believe me because of a fraudelent transaction that happened to me. 

At that point, I said to myself that I couldn't blame my parents and I wish it never happened to me. The only time they believed me when I had a plane ticket going to Saudi Arabia. I didn't want to ask money from them, so I borrowed a $100 pocket money from my girlfriend.

On January 2010, I started to work as a staff nurse at International Medical Center in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia after 3 years of clinical practice in the Philippines. I met a lot of hardworking Filipino nurses abroad and I also heard their touching life stories as they have high hopes to give a bright future for their families.

When I saved enough money for my civil wedding, I came back and married my girlfriend in the Philippines. Another work opportunity came knocking at my door when I found a better job based on salary in Ministry of Health, Kuwait. I transferred from Saudi Arabia to Kuwait where I started to earn a living for my family. 

I admit that life of an Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) is not that easy and responsibilities must be met regularly. I spent my Christmas away from my family for quite a number of years. Though my friends were throwing a party or messing around with me, it was different when I spent quality time with my family and I have never been so happy in my life to be with them.

It's true that temptation is everywhere. But the question by many, how can an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) avoid temptation? It always depends on the person whether to do the right thing or not. What I did was, I was fascinated into a lot of sports and attended prayer meeting invitations in order to resist temptation and overcome loneliness.

After waiting retrogression to be lifted, I returned to the Philippines in 2014. I had very high expectations to my previous agency because my priority date dated May 2007 was current. My agency ordered me to pay for my visa fee bill, but I informed Mr. Ferdie in advance, an agent who processed my documents going to the United States, to add my wife to EB3 petition. 

My agency's recommendation was to go by myself. Of course, I felt sad. I didn't appreciate their advice since all these years I was too far away from my family and was tired of being alone. All I ever wanted was to be with them this particular moment.

I could still remember the time when I was working overseas as I promised myself that my next travel destination is to bring my family with me no matter what happens. It was really hard for me to work in other countries when I thought much about family's safety.

I followed my former agency's advice to pay the visa fee bills immediately. My parents, who are currently living in America, sent the payments including my wife's visa application fees directly to Mr. Ferdie in New York. And I told them to keep the receipt for future reference. 

I constantly called Mr. Ferdie about the status of my application. I trusted him. But every time I talked to him, he couldn't keep his own promises. I started to doubt him. He kept me waiting for something that never happened. 

One thing I couldn't forget in our last phone conversation when he said to me that I have to slow down since I owed him a debt of gratitude as he was the one who helped me in processing the application to the United States. 

I didn't imagine I would hear something like that, especially from the agent whom I trusted all these years. I've waited more than 8 years and I think that's long enough for me to wait. I think Mr. Ferdie should understand the difficult situations of nurses and why many Filipino nurses work in the Middle East and in other countries temporarily.

I wondered why it took a year to add my wife to EB3 petition and until now her visa fee bill has not been paid by the responsible agent despite the fact that National Visa Center (NVC) has been trying to reach me, asking for my wife's payment and other necessary documents, which I already submitted to the agency. 

Trials came into our lives when my wife suffered a traumatic miscarriage. It was very difficult for us to accept the reality. She cried almost every day and night. She told me she experienced emotional distress at work as a dental practioner and was hoping for my U.S. visa application to come soon.

After three months of my wife's miscarriage, God blessed us with another baby. I made a bold decision to look for another agency. I posted a message asking for help in a growing number of members in Lefora group on Facebook about my interest for a new employer who could still recapture my earlier priority date. 

Nurse members in Lefora group were absolutely kind and very helpful people. Rason Chris, who is a nurse and one of a thousand members of the group, recommended me to apply to Health Carousel. I submitted my resume to this agency. 

After a few days, Health Carousel called me. I was interviewed by Ms. Nyra Colinares, a vice president of the agency. She was very accomodating and respectful. I was given a job contract, but I didn't sign it yet since Medpro also offered me an employment contract. I finally chose Health Carousel at the end of the day.

Health Carousel guided me through the whole process, starting from the requirements on how to recapture my priority date to embassy interview. Kimberly May Bancolita, a professional nurse and a processing associate of Health Carousel, provided me a list of things I need to comply before my embassy interview. 

There was a short delay in processing my application since I waited until my wife delivered a baby, have a baby's birth certificate and have her own passport as advised by immigration lawyer of Health Carousel. 

The agency really understood the importance of every family member. They ensured that no one gets left behind in my family. Though there are many requirements to comply, but it's worth it. Really. Thanks to the whole staff and the entire organization of Health Carousel. 

My heartfelt gratitude to Kimberly  Sena Bancolita, Roda Mae Cardoso, Maam Nyra Colinares, and to the rest of Health Carousel team who give their best, support and assistance in every way possible.

I believe that God works in mysterious ways. Like many Filipino nurses who were tired of waiting in their U.S. visa applications, there were times when I felt hopeless. I just looked at my wife and daughter as they're my real source of strength and hope. Without a doubt, I can do everything and anything for them.

It's the greatest moment of my life that a long time dream of mine to bring my family to America is finally coming true. My real success is not several places I've visited before, not even a number of nursing exams I've passed, but to be with my family and making sure they've got a lot of opportunities to succeed later in life.

For nurses who are about to apply for their U.S. EB-3 visas and for their upcoming U.S. Embassy interviews, don't lose hope. God is with you! The moment you believe in yourself is the moment that God already gave this wonderful opportunity in your life.

All of us have different stories to share in life, and I wish, my story will give you a lot of hope.  

Don't stop dreaming and believing in yourself! 

Three of us have given immigrant visas to the United States. God is good all the time!

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