The value of information

I sometimes wonder how many people are missing out on the best jobs, or relationships, or experiences for lack of better information about the expected value of pursuing them.

When I went to NYC, I stayed a couple nights with a friend. When I saw he was living in a beautiful Brooklyn high-rise with floor-to-ceiling windows and a pool in the basement, I got some idea of the amount of money he was making.

Don’t get me wrong – I knew NYC salaries were high. But having some idea of what your peers are making (as opposed to knowing the average salary) is incredibly valuable. With that information, I can start to price in what it would cost to explore getting a visa, and whether the expense and hassle of it makes financial sense.

Visas are similarly opaque. Reading official documents gives you a gist of what might be required to get one. But hiring an immigration lawyer is totally different. Their job is to exploit loopholes on your behalf to get you a visa, no matter how eccentric a scheme they have to employ. Another friend told me that initially he came to the US on a J1 visa, ostensibly meant for interns and trainees. His lawyers diligently drew up a “training schedule” for him to ignore once he arrived.

As the J1 isn’t a “dual-intent” visa, you can’t apply for a green card while holding one. You even have to sign a document promising not to. But that doesn’t stop someone else applying on your behalf – which is exactly what his lawyers did. His green card came through last year.

Being able to peek behind the veil and see how things are actually done – not just what the official rubrik says – is vital.