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Aliens with Visas
83 minutes | Jan 4, 2021
EPISODE NINE: TRUE AMERICAN
In this episode, Rashan breaks down several aspects of American life including the importance of image in America and how that affects the psyche of not just immigrants but also the young black male. The nature and similarities when it comes to South Asian and black identity struggles is a major point of discussion in this no-holds-barred conversation.
57 minutes | Nov 12, 2020
EPISODE EIGHT: DESI TALK
In this episode, Vivaswan gives us a glimpse into the desi experience. He talks about the impact of his cultural identity on his psyche as a child and goes on to share how it evolved with his pursuits in sport and music. What it means to be a model minority, how that plays into pop culture and the responsibility that comes with being an Indian American today are some of the things that come up in this conversation.
40 minutes | Apr 15, 2019
EPISODE SEVEN: IS IT WORKIN' OUT?
Ravi takes us through experiences in work, relationships and daily interactions that have shaped his identity as an Indian expat in America. The “clique” mindset, 'international student privilege’, and freedom of expression, are some of the things discussed on this episode!
19 minutes | Oct 31, 2017
A huge thank you to the many folks who helped Season One of this idea come to life and a peek into what lies ahead. WATCH the VIDEO VERSION of this episode right here.Thank you to Brian Sanders for taking a Craigslist connection to a 2 hour long phone convo with so much free info, encouragement and advice. Juan Paul Linares for donating your Audio Technica at2020 & mixer. Neha Balthazar for the poppin' logo design - main logo & the separate episode logos. Navneeth Narasimhan for sticking it out through the 8+ months, quality control, mixing! Meera Sinroja for acting in the web videos, being a dope line producer on these micro shoots & generally being a very positive force! Thanks to all my guests for your honesty, trust and bravery in openly sharing your journeys - all parts of it. It was the single most important thing required to do justice to this show. Kulanandini Mahanta Star of Episode One, Arjun Shankar Star of Episode Two, Nipun Nair Star of Episode Three, Anushya Badrinath Star of Episode Six, Chloe Bean for the track 'Sea of Hearts' and so much more, Divya Gangadhar, Sundeep Joseph, Ghita Benslimane & all other guest bloggers, and Sharon Brenner and Liz Profumo & Lorraine D'Alessio of D'Alessio Law Group. To all those who answered the first survey I sent out way back in Aug 2016. Those who provided me emotional support to carry on when things got challenging and moments of hopelessness almost won over. You know who you are. Your energy fuelled this production at the most crucial points <3 Sandhya Ramachandran circa Oct 2017. She sports a septum ring & now rocks basic flannels. THE ROAD AHEADAliens with Visas will be back for a second season that will pick up where we've left off, with a focus on two big questions: What does it really mean to be American? What is success - a clearer definition - and more on the unique factors that stand in the way of getting there.I feel deeply apologetic about the dwindling regularity of content with this season. Social media management, even. This is purely due to AwV being pretty much a one woman show. You know that golden rule - time, money, resources. I took a lot of time due to a lack of the other two, which took a fair toll on me and the show. This is a self funded project that took about 9 months to finish, which required working 10+ hours each day. There have been no donations. Every contribution of skill was paid for out of pocket - even if it was a very meagre amount. I would love to build this as a movement to help future batches of international students and I'm even willing to work day jobs to fund my dreams but I worry if I will have the same willpower for 10 more months to work alone for free.I need your help with Season Two - mostly in marketing and publicity. My personal views are that money can be funnelled in with the help of a marketing team - even if it's two driven, efficient people. I'd much rather have people volunteering to provide marketing expertise. But who knows, I might have to go against that and launch a Kickstarter or a Patreon page. Watch this space!
41 minutes | Oct 11, 2017
EPISODE SIX: GRADUATE FEELS
In this episode, we take a look at the other option: going back home after study abroad. Anushya replays her experiences in the classroom and together we unravel and try to understand some of the behaviour and tendencies that surface when you find yourself in a foreign land. The nature of freelancer life, linguistic identity and the purpose of grad school for an arts student are some of the topics that come up in conversation.
26 minutes | Sep 20, 2017
EPISODE FIVE: THE A TEAM
In this episode, the focus is on actionable steps like going out there and actually finding legal counsel. Liz Profumo and Lorraine D'Alessio of DLG Immigration talk about aspects to consider when choosing an attorney, while also explaining the artist visa from an entry level stand point.Narrated & Produced by Sandhya RamachandranMixed & Mastered by Navneeth NarasimhanMusic Credits: Flying Pea v.1 by Daddy ScrambleTERMINOLOGYOPT is optional practical training i.e. temporary employment in a student's field of study for the duration of one year, if it is post completion OPT. O1 Visa or the artist visa is awarded to 'aliens of extraordinary ability'. P1 is the performance visa meant for artists or athletes coming to the US as part of a performance group/athletic team. Not a student transitionary visa. SHOW NOTES:01:16 - CPT & OPT = work authorization during time of study. OPT is optional, CPT is needed to get your degree. Trump administration has hinted that an extension may no longer be possible (STEM fields). No impact on entertainment fields. 03:25 - Compensation is important on OPT, otherwise it won't count towards future visa application. Remember, you are aiming at 'extraordinary' ability!05:04 - Entertainment industry leans towards project based employment. Full time, multiple year employment offers are rare.06:23 - For the rest, O1 visa is the way to go as it allows artists to work for multiple employers as long as petitioner is some type of agent - talent agent/manager/business manager07:55 - Both are important - petitioner and multiple offers. Benefit: there can be a lot of flexibility on terms. Projects to cover the time you need the visa09:05 - P1 visa or performance visa similiar to O1 but applies to groups. Also international acclaim is required. Not an intermediate visa for a student. 09:53 - Biggest bottlenecks for artists coming out of school: no. of credits & quality of credits. Assistant positions don't work, primary positions on distinguished productions. Visibility is key.11:37 - While here, make relationships for job offers. Credits could be worked on even from home.12:36 - Clear demand for people who are already on top, not entry level especially in production. 14:45 - Do you know anyone else who got the visa? They could provide you with a collaboration offer. Foreign productions can provide offers. 16:36 - It all comes down to the A team you put together to conquer US immigration. 17:25 - Search for attorney: services offered, testimonials, will you have to do the writing and drafting based on templates? Social media is telling, active presence in art community.24:50 - There exists a framework, but burning question: do you want an American life? Lorraine D'Alessio (L) and Liz Profumo (R) of D'Alessio Law Group "D’Alessio Law Group is a boutique practice with that real cross-bordered niche of immigration, entertainment, and tech work. We help a lot also with production agreements, talent attachments, artist rights, reviewing and redlining contracts. As a full service immigration company, we help individuals as well as small to large companies – the gamut. We help people surpass borders with their ideas and in person, so it’s pretty life changing!"AwV DEEP DIVE
32 minutes | Sep 14, 2017
EPISODE FOUR: LEGALLY SPEAKIN'
In this episode, we tackle head-on the subject of work visa - for international students in the arts, in America. Attorney Sharon Brenner of Surowitz Immigration PC answers 18 questions that discuss the purview of an artist visa, factors that strengthen a petition and how to make the best use of that one year of Optional Practical Training (OPT).Narrated & Produced by Sandhya RamachandranMixed & Mastered by Navneeth NarasimhanMusic Credits: Flying Pea v.1 by Daddy ScrambleTERMINOLOGYDSO refers to Designated Student Official. OPT is optional practical training i.e. one year authorization for a full time job. O1 Visa or the artist visa is awarded to 'aliens of extraordinary ability'. The O1B is discussed in this episode. It is reserved for specialists in the arts & motion pictures industry.RFE stands for Request For Evidence. US Immigration sends an RFE to the visa applicant if the evidence provided in the original petition is not enough.O2 is a visa that allow professionals to accompany O1 visa holders. SHOW NOTES:01:43 - The difference between CPT and OPT. 02:30 - Can you get paid when you're on CPT and OPT? 03:51 - If you aren't a student (so no CPT or OPT), how would you as an artist work in the US?04:19 - What is the purview of an artist visa? What if your field of interest lies in the cusp of art and business? How do you pick what you are going to petition as? 07:05 - Is self sponsorship a defining characteristic of the artist visa?07:41 - Start the (legal) conversation early, once you get OPT out of the way. The school can't always support you fully in understanding the details.9:10 - How do you use your artist portfolio as legal evidence of your achievement?11:56 - If you don't have the necessary body of work. Should you revisit the artist visa later? Being your own PR person and staying very organized are crucial to making the best use of OPT.14:32 - What helps strengthen a good artist visa petition?15:16 - What are the options for someone who doesn't have as much direct evidence?16:29 - Importance of a good attitude and focus when you are working on a petition and why you need an attorney for this process. Note: There is no cap for the artist visa.19:17 - The arts in the US face struggles of their own. Does this in any way make the government unenthusiastic towards accepting artists of international origin? 20:11 - What is the turnaround like once you submit your papers for an artist visa? 22:22 - Understanding the role of a petitioner and how it differs from that of an employer. The petitioner of an artist visa can allow for multiple employers, which makes it ideal for freelancers. 25:11 - Do you think the provision of an artist visa is disadvantageous to US citizens in any way?26:15 - Brief note on the O2 visa, which can be a great option if the O1 doesn't seem feasible.27: 36 - Does it make sense to look for a single company with a history of sponsorship as an artist? Sharon Brenner has worked in various sectors of immigration law since 2004. She is well-versed in visa matters for artistic professionals and has spoken on the topic at creative organizations and events including SXSW, Nova Scotia Music Week, and the c/o Pop Convention in Cologne, Germany, among others. Her clientele has included renowned musicians, film professionals, fashion designers, fine artists, graphic designers, and photographers among others. Click here to read more. AwV DEEP DIVE
39 minutes | Jun 8, 2017
EPISODE THREE: WHEN OPT STRIKES
In this episode, we talk about that transitionary period after school and before employment by focusing on music composer/guitarist Nipun Nair's journey. On one hand, there's the average issues with searching for a job as a musician. International students however have the added component of securing a work visa. This exerts its own influence when making life decisions. Narrated & Produced by Sandhya RamachandranMixed & Mastered by Navneeth NarasimhanMusic Credits: Flying Pea v.1 by Daddy Scramble, Jahzzar - Railroads Whiskey Co, Jahzzar - The Letter, Kai Engel -Something (Bonus Track), Kirk Pearson & BIT - Annie Lay in the Field, Drake Stafford - Dolos, Tiptoe (Instrumental) - YEYEY.TERMINOLOGYOPT is optional practical training i.e. one year authorization for a full time job. O1 Visa or the artist visa is awarded to 'aliens of extraordinary ability'. The O1B category of O1 visa is discussed in this episode. It is reserved for specialists in the arts & motion pictures industry.SHOW NOTES:01:30 - I talk about my move from Boston to LA and how friends, exercise and acceptance positively influenced my experience after the initial discomfort.04:39 - Applying to jobs straight out of school is often met with a resounding lack of replies. Nipun's goal is to be a music composer but he soon begins to reconsider his approach of directly applying for composer positions.07:59 - Dwindling finances lead to Nipun branching out as a guitarist. Being a jack-of-all-trades all his life now pays off. He cites Thumbtack & Craigslist as great places to hunt for gigs.11:08 - One of the biggest roadblocks rarely anticipated is the coveted day job. It provides stability but also tends to quickly take away from priorities. Another big turning point for Nipun as an artist was the art of saying no. 15:51 - He talks about forming a cover band called Groove Martini with his roommate. The trajectory of this pet project is a great example of how perfect timing and knowing the market predict success.18:50 - Nipun cites the importance of networking and L.A.'s own little ways of weeding out talent.20:21 - The appeal in working here was the diversity of work and supportive infrastructure for freelancers and artists (with royalties). On a personal level, Nipun's family kept him driven.22:48 - 'Making it' in the entertainment industry comes down to defining your terms of success. It also tends to have a cumulative effect so endurance is key.23:39 - Nipun recommends giving Los Angeles a shot to 'see what it does to you'. He goes on to explain the O1 visa and how he secured one. The central question for him was always: how do I do the one thing I love all my life?30:53 - I talk about my own experience during the OPT phase - a reality check that forced me to take a good look at my work as an artist, and how that reflected on my work visa process. "I’m 29 years old, having restarted my career twice - once from graphic design to music in India, and then again music in India to music in LA. I like nature, hiking, beaches, bad jokes, inventing food and living my life with no regrets as much as possible. I dislike dishonest people, trolls, haters, small spaces, darkness." View fullsize View fullsize View fullsize View fullsize AwV DEEP DIVE
1 minutes | Mar 16, 2017
EPISODE TWO: THE LEARNING CURVE
In this episode, we examine factors that influence the STEM student’s journey as an immigrant in America through an interview with Arjun Shankar. The weight of finances is always on the STEM student’s mind and we see how family, prestige and other deep-rooted mentalities play a vital role in shaping the experience.Narrated & Produced by Sandhya RamachandranMixed & Mastered by Navneeth NarasimhanMusic Credits: Flying Pea v.1 by Daddy Scramble, Plans for The Day by Cory Gray, Why you Saying That by Yshwa, Be Mine & Be Kind by Loch Lomund TERMINOLOGY‘correct’ is Tamil slang that means ‘land a date’STEM is field of study in Science, Technology, Engineering, MathOPT is optional practical training i.e. one year authorization for a full time job. STEM students get an extension of 2 years.SHOW NOTES:01:30 - The first few months in America challenged Arjun's notions of social life in America and required a good deal of learning when it came to everyday life.07:55 - STEM students have an established network that helps in course research, but it comes with its issues. Due to strength in numbers, South Asian students can remain in cliques unless they seek out a multicultural experience, which becomes especially necessary during the job search.14:37 - Money influenced decisions from housing to social life. Arjun talks about how this sometimes meshed with family relationships and he shares an anecdote, which throws light on entitlement.19:57 - The truth is financial aid these days is a rarity. This comes as a shock to those who weigh success in merit. 26:21 - The American education system is unique in the way aid is extended to students, and it requires a fair bit of initiative to understand this. Huge block for those who are used to making the best of what they have.29:53 - Arjun moved to the Bay Area and began to look for a job for the OPT period. He found work in the nick of time, which he attributes to a number of factors. His Masters degree is not one of them. He talks about character growth during this phase. 35:12 - Arjun explains why he could not consider going back to his secure choices back home at the time.39:41 - I emphasize the importance of understanding the system in order for America to be the land of opportunity. "I am a happy-go-lucky kind of guy. I like conversations over good whisky. When I'm not working, I spend time playing video games, running, going on hikes, and cooking/eating." View fullsize View fullsize View fullsize View fullsize AwV DEEP DIVE
33 minutes | Mar 7, 2017
EPISODE ONE: WHY WE MOVE
In this episode, we examine factors that motivate moving abroad for higher study through a look at Kulanandini Mahanta a.k.a Kula's journey. Hers is one that involved pre medical courses, Computer Information Systems, a Bachelors in Business Administration & an attempt in Marketing along the way to a career in cinematography.Narrated & Produced by Sandhya RamachandranMixed & Mastered by Navneeth NarasimhanMusic Credits: Flying Pea v.1 by Daddy Scramble, Podington Bear by Bass Rider, Dan Lerch - O Tannenbaum, www.purple-planet.com.TERMINOLOGYSTEM is field of study in Science, Technology, Engineering, Math.i20 is the document issued by a university that says 'you're in!'CPT is curricular practical training i.e. authorization for internships/co-op.OPT is optional practical training i.e. one year authorization for a full time job. STEM students get an extension of 2 years.SHOW NOTES:02:50 - A peek into Kula's childhood in Guwahati, Assam (North East India) that involved a Sony handycam, comparisons with her sister and the very relatable struggle of Arts vs. Science/Commerce.06:28 - She coped with her move to Gurgaon (in the Greater Delhi Area) through theater, a passion that was soon eclipsed by US college prep and the student visa process.14:16 - Eastern Michigan University was a good experience overall and she was back in touch with theater through a college club. 16:49 - After graduating with a BBA, Kula explored Marketing through internships and then wrote both the GRE & GMAT to pursue it at a Masters level but a drastic turn of events led to Kula moving to Denver.20:48 - Colorado Film School had its ups and downs. Soon after, she headed to Los Angeles where working on student films at the American Film Institute (AFI) speedily improved her skills.26:03 - She reflects on her journey so far and her definition of making it.29:12 - I compare this account to my own experience in film school & the city of Boston. "I like simplicity, but often complicate sentence structure. I find peace in cooking, music and of course the love of my life - cinematography. I love standing on top of a ladder and fixing lights (I HAVE THE POWER). I am a big foodie. I love Panang curry and Tiramisu. I dislike Math, counting bills, showoffs, talkative (uninformed) pessimists, and people who use excessive logic in almost everything." View fullsize View fullsize View fullsize View fullsize AwV DEEP DIVE
3 minutes | Mar 6, 2017
A quick rundown of what's to come in the next few weeks. Sort of like FAQs.Narrated & Produced by Sandhya RamachandranLogo & Artwork by Neha Ann BalthazarMixed & Mastered by Navneeth NarasimhanMusic: Flying Pea v.1 by Daddy ScrambleSHOW NOTES:Duration, episode format, number of episodes.Who's your host? (Psst. Pictured below).Why is the show called 'Aliens with Visas'?Is it a legal show, specially for immigrants?Why did I set out to do this show?What are the broader themes discussed on the podcast?How can you support this initiative? Sandhya Ramachandran circa Feb 2016. She sports hipster glasses & short hair these days but that look has only been captured in selfies. AwV DEEP DIVE
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