Sometimes living in another country, despite all the excitement of the new experience, has its ups and downs being an outsider. Today while riding home with two co-workers, one of them asked me about my visa situation how it was going. Somehow that led into a discussion about getting a visa to visit or live in the U.S. and how unfair it can be for an outsider. I couldn’t agree more, and it’s actually one of the more shocking things I have discovered throughout my travel experiences. How difficult the U.S. government and its agencies make it for foreigners to visit the U.S., even just on holiday. I find few people back home are even remotely aware of these policies.
My coworkers made the point that it seems only fair that Argentina give the same treatment to its outsiders. As of December of last year, Argentina began charging U.S. citizens $140 USD to enter the country as part of a reciprocity treatment. I have no problem with that. My point in our conversation, however was that there is a relevant reason why the U.S. is so strict with foreign visitors given the level of people around the world who want to work in the U.S., legally or illegally, and earn U.S. dollars. Having lived in Thailand and now Argentina, I now fully understand the power of earning U.S. dollars. Argentina, I explained, doesn’t exactly have quite the same economic appeal, though makes it difficult enough for foreigners outside what is called “Mercosur” (Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia, Chile, Colombia Ecuador, and Peru) to get a work visa. What I said next, which I now feel was a bit ignorant of me, was that I didn’t know anyone in Argentina who if presented with a legitimate opportunity to live and work in the U.S. would turn it down.
Both my coworkers responded that they would turn the opportunity down without a second thought, each citing their own reasons from the health care system and the foreign policies of the government to the unfriendliness/closedness of the people, and one of them going so far to say that the U.S. would be at the very bottom of his list, with places like Holland or Scandinavia seeming much more appealing.
I felt quite upset and frustrated hearing this, even though I have had exposure to this kind of negative sentiment in many places I have visited around the world. Let’s be honest, many U.S. foreign policies are not in line with what every citizen would want, in fact in many cases they end up being the opposite. But that doesn’t mean that the entire country has bad intentions or that it’s not a good place to live or experience as an expat. Hearing my coworkers make generalizations about a country makes me more sensitive and aware of how I might speak about another country, especially one that I haven’t lived in before. Like my dad always says “keep an open mind.” It’s the same way I feel when people rant on about how obese we are in the U.S. and then mention how they have only visited Florida – and I am quick to educate them that Orlando is the fast-food capital of the country!
The conversation was cut short before we could really get into it but given the very limited job opportunity and earning potential the average person has in Argentina, no matter what the education level, I can’t see how an opportunity for something greater couldn’t be at least somewhat appealing I’m no big U.S. patriot but I do believe in many of the systems and organizations in the U.S. and their efforts to keep the best interests of citizens in mind, especially in terms of keeping people safe and protecting their human rights. These are perhaps two major reasons people from other countries might want to live in the U.S. and ironically two liberties I think are missing living in Argentina.