How did I obtain a work visa for the US

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I traveled to Cartagena a few weeks later, on a Sunday in which the guerrillas had decreed a no-transit day. I barely had enough money to pay for the gas of that 1,000 km trip. I started at 4 AM. There are mountains half way through, and then the great plains begin.

Something had happened that day a few dozen kilometers north of Aguachica. Either the guerrillas had bombed an oil pipeline, or a cistern truck loaded with gasoline fell into the river... There were floating patches of fire on the river. The air was brown and thick; it felt as if every breath I took was taking from the air particles that otherwise would have ended in a growing maroon crust in the windshield of my car. The scene was so surreal that I had to stop: I was escaping from hell and I had to cross a river of fire.

I stopped on the side of the road when I realized that, even though I was in the middle of a tropical jungle, there were no sounds of birds or insects. The highway was empty. I was tempted to take the road back, but I knew there was only despair in that direction. The only option was to move forward. My mind was fixated in the words of a writer from a century earlier in a jungle not too far from where I was: "I gambled my heart, and The Violence won it." I stood in angst not knowing what to do for what felt like hours, even though I knew I had been there only for a few minutes. Eventually I jumped back into my car and continued the trip to Cartagena.

The highway and its surrounds returned to normal after more than 100 km of solitude and dead nature where exuberant life should be. I saw many army patrols along the way, and very few cars. They stopped me every time and in every occasion they let me go. I was never afraid of the army. I had heard a few horror stories, but I never had a problem. There were very few cars that day; only the most desperate dared to travel.

I arrived late at night to Cartagena, penniless, knowing that I had to be at the office next day 8 AM. My car ran out of fuel a couple of kilometers away from my destination. I had to push it to the curb and leave it there for two weeks until had money to put gas in it again. All the food I had was in a half-empty box: few cans of beans and one box of cereal. Until I received my first paycheck two week later, my breakfast was comprised of four spoons of cereal with water, as was my lunch and my dinner. I left the canned beans for the weekends.

Two weeks later, with an income, my life changed radically; the kindness of Gertrudis, the maid who helped me at home, and many good people in Cartagena lifted my spirit. But at the same time it saddened me the indifference of the citizens and the persistence of the criminals. We were all cornered by The Violence; it was like a cancer, crawling and taking people, but we did not seem to care or notice. I remember my dentist, a nice working person, who made headlines for being a passenger in a boat loaded with cocaine a couple of years later; "innocent", he said, and I want to, could, believe him. I remember many others who under better circumstances would have lived uneventful and happy lifes, but just by the unfortune of being there were swallowed by that vortex.

I worked for Information Systems of Florida so enthusiastically that four months later they offered to sponsor me to come to the US under a H1-B visa. My guardian angels were Tom Solano, CEO of ISF, and Yolanda Castillo, manager of the Cartagena branch. They believed in me, and offered their generous support. Of course, they did not know that I had the powerful motivation of hunger on my side: once you are hungry, you do whatever it takes to never be it again.

We started the visa petition process in September 2000. My H1-B visa was approved starting March 2001. I arrived to the US on April 6th, 2001. Then, the painful process of obtaining labor certification started.

Keep reading: How did I obtain labor certification in the US?