My Work Visa

In the last 3 years while working with Saflink, Verdiem, and Invisible Software Inc, I’ve been through the legalities, and process of acquiring several US working visas … L1-B, H1-B, and 3 TN’s. Oh, and I was also working with Microsoft on getting TN status to work with them.
Here’s the top 5 things I’ve learned:

1. Although big, scary, and intimidating, Imigration officers are your friends.
Yup, those guys sure know how to make a person feel guilty …. Even if there’s nothing for you to feel guilty about. Each time I get through the application interview, I feel a bit dirty. I feel like I’ve done something wrong … even though I haven’t. But …. I’ve learned that these guys actually are your friends. While it seems like it, there, not actually out to get you, or to stump you on your work history, or job role. They’re simply looking to do their job, and gather the information they need to stamp your working visa.

2. These guys have heard about google.
It really floored me the first time I applied for a visa with Invisible Software the information they had on the company and myself. They knew who worked for the company, where some of the people had worked before, when I’d worked with some of the people currently with the company, information of the product. While I knew that they had access to immigration information, I’m not sure why I figured they didn’t have access to google, and the wealth of information available for anyone on the internet.

3. Make your application package complete and professional looking.
While working at Saflink, we had several lawyers draft up the documentation needed for application. The lawyers coached me on how to conduct myself during the interview. Immigration officers spend their days reviewing and conducting these interviews. Make it easy on them by having all of your documentation ready, ordered, and professional looking. When applying with Invisible Software, I had the needed documents, but they didn’t have the look of something placed together by lawyers. It makes a difference

4. They mainly just want to know that you’re not sneaking into the country.
This may seem stupid to say, but it took me a while to realize this. Meeting the requirements of a NAFTA position and proving that your company has the ability to pay you, isn’t their way to best have fun with a stressed out traveler. It’s not a game of *how can we stump them* that they like playing. At the root of these questions is “Is this guy trying to game the system and create a porous border for himself?” Did this guy just doctor up documents for himself, withdraw $50 and show up at the border?

5. Just tell the truth
This of course seems obvious, but when under the critical eye of the scary Immigration officer it might seem tempting to stretch truths to make the process easier for yourself. Invisible Software is a small software company. It’s received funding (but not like Verdiem ala Kleiner Perkins) and is financially stable (but not like Microsoft), but not at the same level as Microsoft. While it’s tempting to claim billions in funding, and Microsoft revenues, there’s nothing wrong with just saying “Invisible Software received funding that will provide runway for at least a year, and the goal is that revenue will extend the runway. Currently there are only non-paying beta users, but there will be a paid version available in the future.”

My Own worst Critic

For some reason, I find myself sitting in Edmonton International terminal, contemplating my response to self-criticism, as I wait for my flight to Seattle. Maybe it’s that holiday time of year where I begin to reflect on the year that was, but I’m reliving a few moments within the last year where I became critical of myself, and thinking about how I handled my own feedback. I guess you could say that I’m being critical of the way that I criticize myself.

After a terrible performance in Bozeman Montana I was convinced that I’d lost whatever ultimate Frisbee skill and talent that I once had. After receiving negative feedback on my attempts to generate demo videos for our product, I was convinced that I had no place in producing marketing material.

In both situations, I think that by admitting fault, I did the first thing correct. I passed a self reality check. Instead of ignoring the facts, I accepted that my performance wasn’t at the level that I expected of myself. It seems like this is the righteous decision to criticize ourselves for our shortcomings. After accepting such criticism I think there’s 2 ways where I go wrong handling this information.

1. I use the criticism as a dodge.

I think that a lot of time, self-criticism serves as a way of me avoiding doing something much harder. It seems odd, but I think it’s true that often it’s easier to call yourself fat rather than diet and exercise, easier to call yourself a poor programmer and logician, than to take the effort to get better.

2. I focus on the criticism instead of what I can do about it.
“I’m fat, and unattractive. I’m never going to meet anyone and have a family.” Why instead don’t we say “I’m fat, and unattractive. I think whenever I’m bored or anxious, I fall into the habit of eating pretzels. Maybe I can grab a water instead”
I read something from Eric Maisel a while ago about this. He suggests that whenever dealing with criticism, either self or external, is to state the facts, and then say “and ….” I spent a week generating a demo video, and it didn’t meet the standard of what our team expected and ….. while I realize that I failed this time, it was my first time doing such a thing, I learned that I need to focus on the higher level goal of the demo video rather than subtle details such as smooth transitions and voice overs. I realize that I need to produce a script that makes sense as the first step to generating a video. I realize that I need to let the script drive the actions instead of the actions drive the script.

The alternative to self criticism isn’t denial or wandering around in ignorance. Never would you say “I don’t make mistakes. I think for myself, the most effective alternative is stating the facts, feeling the bit of pain, then moving on to what I can do about it, and what I learned from the mistake.

BTW … I’m actually not fat and lazy ….. but I am a poor programmer … which is why I focus on breaking the software with internal tools ☺