Tuesday, June 18, 2024

James Sang: I moved to US on visit visa, refused to return to Kenya, got green card

Getting the chance to immigrate to the United States of America is not a bed of roses. From visa application to the moment you take your flight, the journey is full of hurdles.

Then after landing, you will face untold challenges as you try to settle in and fit in. But if you are willing to persevere the tough early months, you woll definitely find your silver lining. This is what James Sang, a Kenyan who lives in US has shown through his story.

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Mr. Sang shared how he moved from Kenya to the US on a visit visa and how he transitioned, got a green card, and eventually got his citizenship. Here is his story:

When it comes to moving to the United States,the truth of the matter iis that unless a person is your immediate relative, (parent, child, sibling, or spouse), or you are coming for school, or you are lucky to get a work visa, nobody else has the capacity to influence the US Immigration system.


So, I would not lie to you that I can help you with your immigration process. If anyone does, then take it from me. They will liberate your money from you and ruin your chances.

Do not depend on hearsay and social media. Use the embassy website and other genuine resources for information.

But I will tell you my story of coming to America. I will not sugarcoat the pain that you can go through if you ever get lucky to migrate to America.

I am a living legend on that, even though my situation was slightly better because my employer in Nairobi helped me obtain the visa, and once I was in America, my new employer sponsored my work permit, and that’s how I was able to obtain my green card.

But my initial months in the US were far from rosy.  Like any immigrant, I went through some rather anxious moments.

First of all, I didn’t know any Kenyan at all. All my hopes rested on an American friend whom I had met in Kenya two years prior, and who had invited me to stay with him if I ever visited the US.

As a typical Kenyan, I saw this as an opportunity to relocate. He had invited me to visit and stay for a few days. But when I landed at the airport, he was shocked to see me lugging a huge suitcase!!

Clearly, I didn’t look like someone coming to stay for a few days. We happily drove to his apartment, and for the next few days, life was good. He showed me every part of the city and we shared our stories of Nairobi.

But after 3 weeks, I knew something wasn’t right. One day when he came from work, he found me watching TV. He walked in, barely gave me a glance, and silently walked into his bedroom and slammed the door shut.

I was uneasy for a moment, wondering what had gone wrong. When he finally came out. He announced to me that he needed his space, and that I should move out! It was 9PM.  “Get out? At this time of the night”? I pleaded hopelessly with a question.

“Yes. I want you to get out of my house! I need my space”. He repeated.

Imagine my shock!!! While I knew that I hadn’t given him the timeframe for my stay, this was still shocking. Looking back now, I know that I abused his welcome without shame.

That night, I slept on the sofa at the reception hall courtesy of the building caretaker, who told me to make sure that I should be gone by the crack of dawn lest the residents found me snoring on the sofa.

So, at exactly 6AM, still groggy, unkempt, angry and hungry, I picked myself up, dragged my suitcase, and walked out of the building. All my earthly wealth was in that suitcase!

It was Fall season, so the cold was beginning to set in. I took the last look at the building and walked away, shivering & feeling angry. I soon found myself at the CBD of Washington DC, about a mile away, outside the offices of United Airlines.

As I stood there shaking in the cold, I kept cursing my friend, and America in general. I just wanted to go back home.  By 9AM, the UA staff had begun to drift in, each one grasping a cup of hot coffee, a bagel, or a croissant. The wafting aroma of coffee made me even hungrier.

I watched them as they took to their seats behind their computers.  I had made up my mind that I was going back home, and so I took the step forward towards the entrance. But lo and behold, my feet refused to move.

I tried again, but my body couldn’t move either. By now, hundreds of people were on the street, jostling to get to their workplaces. With the clean streets, orderly cars, and glittering buildings, Washington DC looked so beautiful on that Fall morning!

My head drifted back to Nairobi, and the memories of heavy traffic, loud matatus, dirty streets, diesel fumes, conmen and muggers flooded my mind. Specifically, I remembered the five boys who had mugged me a few months earlier at Uhuru Park while everyone was watching and did nothing!

Ai, jowa! I picked up my suitcase and followed a group of office workers aimlessly until they disappeared into a building. But I kept walking, and walking, and walking.

About 30 minutes later, I found myself at the Kenya Embassy. I was tired, hungry, and unkempt. I worried that the embassy staff would think I was a vagabond and would call the police on me.

Worse, I was conscious of my body odour and morning breath. I hadn’t brushed my teeth, neither had I showered. But I sat at the reception anyway, pretending to read the Daily Nation that was a month old. Finally, a gentleman walked down and asked if I was being helped.  I said no.

He offered me a cup of coffee, which I grabbed like my life depended on it. In a way, it did. At this stage, I knew that I had reached the end of my tether, and if I did not pour my problems out, it would be the end of me. Sema kufika mwisho wa reli!!

So he sat there and listened. When I was done, he went “Woi”, and told me to wait as he went back upstairs to his office. When he came back, he handed me a piece of paper with someone’s name and phone number. He also gave me directions on where to find him.

With the energy of a hungry hyena, I walked briskly to where the guy was located. Imagine my shock when the said guy turned out to be an old friend from Nairobi!!!!

Apparently, he had been in America for a year, and I didn’t even know.  Long story short, my life changed completely from that day and the rest is history. Six months after I had set foot in America, my new employer sponsored my work permit, and within two years, I had obtained my green card.

Several years later, I still remember the day I was kicked out of the apartment, and the decision I made not to go back to Kenya.

In hindsight, it was a good decision, even though, I believe I could still have prospered had I gone back home. The gentleman at the embassy is now a senior ambassador in Europe proudly representing Kenya.

My friend who took me in and saved my sorry ass is now a prosperous coffee importer and dealer in Washington DC. Both of them are like blood brothers to me.

9 critical things you should know when applying for US Visa

Moral of my story: Grass is not always greener on the other side, but once you make a decision to relocate, think through every aspect of your decision. Never make decisions based on stories from other people.

They often leave out the details. Make sure to plan, plan, and plan again. Have plan A, B, C & D, because you may end up utilizing Plan D. For the young people, your Plan A should always be to go to university first.

I never had Plan B, let alone C or D, and so I almost ruined my life. It was all through luck and goodwill from others that I survived those first months. Most importantly, never give up!!

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