I’ve always been fascinated by the American way of life. For as long as I can remember, I’ve read more about US trivia than I ever did on Belgian ones. Probably because the latter came more organically and I needed to find a hobby. As an software engineer, the US also has another attraction: the mythology and lure that is Silicon Valley. Most people would agree that if you’re a success in Silicon Valley, you kind of made it. Moving to the US has been a livelong dream and I’ve devoted countless hours towards that dream.
However, this has changed. Don’t get me wrong, I still love the US, perhaps even more than some Americans do nowadays. I still know the US national song. I can probably recite way more trivia about American private and public life than some Americans. I still talk to my wife more than often in English. But at some point, I had to make a decision. So I’d love to share what it took for me to abandon this dream or at least pressing pause on it.
Getting a job in the US shouldn’t be that hard, with over 10 years of professional experience and extensive knowhow in my field. Boy, was I wrong… Granted, there were a couple of prerequisites I put forward in my search. I had to find a job that earned me enough to cover my expenses and those of my family. With current wages in IT, that didn’t really pose a problem for me, as I’m not really someone to put much value on luxury. I sent out dozens of job applications where I was an exact match on what they were looking for. I applied all over the US, but to no avail. If I received a response on a decision, it was often an automated one. Talk about a cold shower. Since I didn’t want to and couldn’t move to the US without a job, that presented a significant hurdle, but I’m certain if I kept up my effort they would’ve eventually paid off.
However second of all, and this proved to be the hard one, I didn’t want to enter on an H1-B visa. You see, H1-B visa are non-immigrant visa and as such, posed a lot of restrictions on my family. My wife wouldn’t be able to work and my kids would be under the H-4 visa as well. So that left only a couple of options open for me. First was the diversity visa lottery, which is basically a gambling game. I enrolled for 5 years in a row, no result. I never was lucky at gambling (except poker, but that’s another story). Then you have the range of EB visa, where EB-2 would have been my safest bet. However, EB visa require a significant effort by the potential employer and it takes a while to get through the red tape. And unfortunately, no company I talked to over the last 4 to 5 years wanted to go through the EB process. So without a visa, I was presented with another hurdle. Sure, I could have entered on the H1-B with dual intent and once in the US start the process for EB qualification or kept enrolling in the DV lottery, so chances are that would not have posed a permanent issue.
But then came the proverbial last straw. You see, I’m a parent of 2 fantastic sons, age 2 and 4 now. They’re my pride and joy, my highest achievement in life. However, my dream even affected how we named our sons, as we gave them names that would’ve been easy to pronounce by English speakers. Declan, my oldest, knows quite a bit of English (thanks to the fact that my wife and me communicate a lot in English around the house) without not really being exposed to it in kindergarten. My youngest, Ayden, mimics his brother, so he’s starting to count in both Dutch and English. His favorite song is in English. It’s not like they would have real issues adapting to life in the US. But with what has currently happened in schools all over the US, I can’t bring myself to the point that I feel it’s safe for me to bring my kids to the US. While I realize that they are a rare phenomenon, we’ve never, ever (as far as I can remember) had a school shooting here in Belgium. As a parent, my kids safety precedes any dream I might have. So when the next fork in the road came, I had to make a decision and I chose the safer route. I started my own company here, which basically rooted me to Belgium for the next couple of years (exceptions apply).
I still believe that I can bring a lot of value to US society. I still believe my wife, who speaks both Spanish, English and French fluently, can. I’m absolutely certain my kids can grow up to become some of the best US citizens in the world. But there are lines in the sand that I cannot cross. That being said, my dream has been paused, not abandoned. I now work for a fantastic US based company and get to work with US colleagues. And these encounters only strengthen my beliefs that this culture fits my professional beliefs. I’m incredibly grateful that I got this opportunity and perhaps if I have found it sooner, my dreams could’ve taken a completely different turn. But I now work from Belgium and I’m fine with that. And I’d like to thank everyone who’s helped me over the last couple of years to pursue my dream and the support they gave after I announced my decision to press pause. Their words meant a lot to me. So thanks.
I look to the future with bright eyes. My new American colleagues will give me more than enough opportunity to be enveloped in US culture and customs. And thanks to them, I might even be able to visit the US more often, like I will next week when I go to SpringOne in Washington DC. But I know the dream will linger and every time I set foot on US soil there’s the possibility the dream will ignite once again in full force, despite me pressing pause. It’s hard to ignore something you’ve aimed for your entire life. Who knows where I might be in 5 years?Tweet this article