If you have ever traveled outside of the West you’ve probably been approached by someone asking for help immigrating to The U.S., or every once in a while, Canada. I got a lot of this in Asia and Africa. Sometimes it would be a checkout girl in a supermarket in Nairobi, other times it was a kid on a bus asking about college scholarships. I’m surprised that they think a complete stranger would lie for them. I saw a lot of men in suits in Africa sitting in internet cafes looking for “jobs in America” or “expedited work visas.” It was sad, really, because all of these people were going to lose a lot of money and come out without a visa.
In Rwanda a man in an internet cafe asked me to translate something from English to French. I don’t speak French but I saw what he was looking at and tried to warn him. He had received an email from the “U.S. Department of Labour” about a job opportunity. There were so many red flags that it was nearly impossible to fathom anyone would fall for this. The email was sent from a Yahoo address, the logo was badly photoshopped, the body text was brown and many words were misspelled. Apparently this man had already wired the contact a large sum of money (hundred of dollars, which was probably his life savings) and received a request for more money. I explained that this was not the U.S. government and that at this point it was best to give up and accept the lost money. I can’t imagine how anyone would think the U.S. government would ask an applicant to wire money to a bank in The Congo.
This man was from The D.R.C. (Congo) and was somewhat educated but not enough to qualify for a skilled laborer visa. I suggested he apply for a refugee visa, as it would be the easiest to get but his pride would not allow that despite telling me he was “going to die in The Congo.” He kept glancing back at the screen with the fake email and I insisted not to pursue it. I even showed him the real U.S. government’s immigration website. We looked at the requirements and there was no way he could fulfill them. The amount of money needed to immigrate is substantial for someone from Africa and I understand why. If someone shows up with little money and no family how will they assimilate and support themselves? He had thought about getting the money together for a plane ticket but nothing else. I felt bad breaking the news to him but can only hope he listened to me and didn’t waste his savings on an email scam.
I was reminded of this encounter when I came across this interesting chart depicting the immigration process to the U.S. To read the conditions you can go directly to the large version here. Apparently even if you qualify the wait is anywhere from six to twenty eight years. Maybe I need to print this chart out and carry it around with me on my next trip to help explain just how hopeless the reality is for most people.