The Visa Waiting Game

October 20, 2016

I think almost everyone who studies abroad imagines themselves going back someday. Some people dream of it, some people make a firm promise that they'll make it happen. There are the examples of people who did it--the girl who married her foreign boyfriend, or the woman who moved to Brazil to become a yoga instructor--but in reality, we all know the chances are slim we will get another opportunity to live abroad for an extended period of time.

This is why I felt so lucky and grateful to be offered a (paid!) internship with CBMM, a mining company in Minas Gerais whose CEO, Tadeu Carneiro, is a graduate of Pitt's Katz School of Business. I graduated in April and the company set the wheels in motion for me to obtain a work visa starting in August. Then I waited.  And waited. And waited. And waited some more...

And then started to feel as though I was making it all up when people asked what I was doing with my life and I said, "Uh, yeah, I have a job but I'm waiting for a visa...".

I started to envy my other friends with normal jobs (and incomes) in new cities with new friends (i.e. not living with their parents). When the wait stretched past the new year, I started beating myself up for what I could have done. If I knew it would take so long, I could have gotten a part-time job here and saved some money or I could have taken classes at Pitt. None of this made the waiting any easier.

I think several things came together to make this an unusually long wait: 1) Brazil has probably received a massive influx of visa applications in advance of the World Cup, 2) US-Brazil relations soured since the process started with the revelation of the NSA's surveillance activities, 3) this is the first time the company I will be working for has recruited an American student so there wasn't a streamlined procedure in place and then 4) of course, Brazil is known for its red tape!

My friend pointed out that it was rather impressive that Brazil makes Americans jump through so many hoops. We are used to being able to go wherever we want, pretty much whenever we want while this isn't the reality for people from most other countries, and especially isn't the reality for Brazilians traveling to the US. I have to admit, Brazil's willingness to give as good as it gets to the most powerful country in the world is something that I like about the country, even if it causes headaches for me at the same time.

I want to acknowledge all the people who helped me along the way--I certainly don't know what I would have done without them. CBMM hired a lawyer to process the paperwork on their end, and I had a great point person at CBMM to respond to all my emails. I also had a lot of support here from CLAS (especially Luis Bravo) and from connections I made at the consulate in New York through CLAS and Pitt. I'm very grateful for all their support and responding to so many emails!

About Author(s)

Lorraine Keeler
Lorraine Keeler graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 2013 with a major in Environmental Studies, minor in Portuguese, and certificate in Latin American studies. She received the Boren Award for International Study in 2011 to study in Brazil during which she performed research with the Landless Worker's Movement (MST) in the south of the Amazonian state of Pará. Since graduating she has returned to work for CBMM, a mining and metalurgy company in Minas Gerais, Brazil. In the future she hopes to work in the field of sustainable development.