Sometimes life is unfair.  The Model, one of my roommates, has been working for (exploited by) a trendy Tokyo restaurant that overlooked the fact that she has no visa to live in Japan.  This puts her in a weak negotiating position so she finds herself regularly working more than 27 days a month, staying overtime with no compensation, and getting paid a fraction of the restaurant’s advertised waitstaff rates.

It is partly a reflection of her character that she has endured all this with a smile at work, but those of us who know her personally understood how much of a toll it was taking – maybe even more than she did.

Her expired visa caught up with her, and she was served with deportation papers.  The restaurant tried feebly to help, but couldn’t to do much since they had already been caught employing illegal workers in the past.

For a brief moment last week, it looked like there was a solution.  The restaurant was opening a branch in Hawaii and was willing to try to sponsor my friend to work there for three months.  This was great news; she would be earning more than she was in Tokyo, she would get tips on top of it, and there was always the possibility of finding real work in the USA (I should mention that she is a specialist in international studies by trade.  It is complicated to find work in that field when your visa has expired, however).  On top of it all, she would be in Hawaii!  It was like payback for all the bad times in Tokyo.

Yesterday, she came home with the bad news.  It takes 5 months for Lithuanians to get work visas for the USA.  Meanwhile, her passport will expire, and anyways she cannot stay in Japan past the 21st of July.  Her only possibility would be to fly back to Lithuania, wait for her new passport, and then fly to Hawaii – a cost that would far outweigh anything she would earn there.

Visas, immigration regulations, passport renewals.  Sometimes they are just inconveniences, but it seems terribly wrong when good people miss out on great opportunities because of beaurocracy.

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