The biggest shock that F1 students get as soon as they arrive in America is that they are legally not allowed to have a job anywhere other than in college. The collage jobs are not always available, so you are lucky if you get one. The jobs can only pay minimum wage and a student cannot work for more that 20 hours in a week. The wages earned can only be enough for lunch and nothing else. If you have to raise money to pay rent, get your own transportation, pay your fees, buy clothing and maybe sometimes send something back home, then you have to live a double life.
The American double life starts by making sure that your social security card does not have the stamp that says “Valid for work only with INS authorization”. The things that people do to get rid of this stamp are amazing. I will not go into those details here.
The next step is to walk into an organization or business and apply for a job. You will have to pretend that you are an American, born and raised in America. This can be a very dumb thing to say sometimes because in many cases when you are fresh out of Kenya, it is difficult for anybody to miss the accent. Amazingly almost everybody I know has always gotten away with it. There is a law against racial and ethnic profiling in America so, employers would rather go with the information they are provided with and stick with what they can prove.
Individuals with visiting visas, who opt to extend there stay do not even get the social security cards. What this means is that they cannot legally work anywhere. The things they do are even more hilarious. It is a psychological fact that white people cannot easily differentiate black people. So people simply share identification documents. Imagine of a guy walking into an office to apply for a job with an identification card that has someone else’s photo on it. Once again, not even one person I know has ever been caught.
People live with the fear of being caught someday. Once in a while, the INS does audits in organizations to make sure that there are no illegal workers in there. Well, this happens only and only if they have a reason to. Losing a job is also a scary thing because no one wants to go through the scary interview process again. To get away from all these fears, people are forced to get even more creative to survive.
If you entered the United States as an F1 student, and you are happily married, then you must be one lucky person. Well love and happiness may have developed with time, but chances are you did not get married for love, but for convenience. That is the story of almost all students. If you are in Kenya and your girlfriend, boyfriend, wife or husband went to America as a student, and he or she is doing well, it is very likely that he or she is married in America. Just get someone else. Do not mistake this to be hear say. No! I am talking from an eight years experience.
The sad thing about all this is that, in most cases, people get married to ‘looser’ Americans just to get the green card. I have seen guys getting married to women that they are afraid of being seen around with. Ladies end up with guys that are either too old for them or those kind of guys that she cannot confidently show off to her friends or even family. Think about committing to spend the rest of your life with someone that you can’t even look at. It is even worse when it comes to family gatherings. I have been to a few of those functions. In all the occasions, I was invited by a friend to be there for him, just to make sure he has someone to talk to when the in-laws start isolating him, or rather not including him in their conversations.
Non resident love birds have once in a while gotten married or lived together. The problem is, they live with the fear of deportation. After sometime together, they start seeing each other as the biggest mistakes they ever made in their lives.
What happens next? Your guess is as good as mine…