Photo Cutline: British-citizen Carina Buckman lives on Daniel Island with her husband Matt and daughters Caitlyn and Olivia
By Charlie Morrison
Intro: In the last two issues of the Daniel Island News we’ve run the first two segments of a three-part series in which we’ve trying to put a local face on a national issue, that of immigration, and to hear from Daniel Islanders who have been through or are going through the process of becoming full-fledged American citizens. We conclude our series this week with the case of British citizen Carina Buckman, who unlike our first two series subjects has yet to go through the immigration process.
Case 3: Carina Buckman
As was the case with both Arienne Araujo and Rikke Fryman, the first two cases in our “Path to Immigration” series, British ex-pat Carina Buckman’s journey to Daniel Island was born of reasons both personal and professional. Buckman has, like Fryman and Araujo before her, her own horror stories related to coming in and out of the country but unlike her predecessors in our series, her path to citizenship remains in front of her. Buckman remains a citizen of the U.K. at present, but according to the Daniel Island wife, mom, professional and all-around do-gooder, that fact is likely to change someday soon.
Buckman’s story has one other facet to it that is unique to our series: in her case, America very much came to her before she ever came to America. After all, if it were not for the determination of U.S. financial firm Capital One to establish a presence in the U.K., she might never have left home in the first place.
And it was while working for Capital One in the U.K. that Buckman’s professional and personal life truly took off. She did well with the company, and the job led to her ultimately meeting the man who would become her husband, American-born Matt Buckman.
The U.S. now a major presence in both her personal life, Buckman took the first of what would become many trips across the Atlantic. And while many vaunts across the Atlantic would (and will) follow, none would be so dramatic as her first trip to America on the visa waiver program.
Buckman utilized the visa waiver program to take an extended vacation here in the U.S. back in 1999. While here, she waited for a position to open up at Capital One her in America, as foreign worker laws prevented her from simply transferring over from the bank’s U.K. office. Instead, the position has to be open for a minimum of six months before international candidates could be considered. On top of that, there are a limited number of H-1B work visas, the very visa she would later acquire, available.
“I started up on an H-1B visa,” says Buckman in a recent interview with the Daniel Island News. “I was recruited by Capital One as a highly-skilled migrant worker but to do that the job posting has to be open for six months and they have to have not found anyone with the skills required here in the U.S. to fill the position. At that point, they are able to increase the scope of people they’re looking at to international people.”
Buckman couldn’t wait the entire time here in the States, as her visa waiver only allowed her 90 days to visit, and not a day more. But as luck would have it Buckman became ill as her stay was winding down and she overstayed her visa, beginning, for her what would be a series of problems she’d experience beginning with her next trip.
That next trip came not soon after, but this time it was came with considerably more turbulence, even after the flight. During her next trip from the U.K. to the U.S. she was stopped at immigration – the reason, her overstay the previous trip.
“The officer was very professional but gave no indication throughout the interview as to where I stood, which was very unsettling. I focused on telling the truth and holding it together,” she remembers. “It’s pretty stressful, they’re trained not to give anything away with facial expressions. If anything, they’re trained to intimidate you. It was pretty intense, constant questions, the same questions mixed up, re-worded.”
“Eventually, the guy said ‘based on our policy I really should put you back on an airplane back to the U.K. but,’ and listen to how cheesy this is, ‘but I believe in love and I believe what you’re saying so I’m going to let you in,’” laughs Buckman before turning serious once more. “But I had no idea that once you broke a visa waiver agreement you could no longer enter under the program and would need a visa.”
Capital One took notice and soon after found a way to assist Buckman in getting an H-1B temporary work visa designed for professionals and companies who want to bring in an international candidate to fill a vacant position with the company here in the U.S.
“I worked for Capital One under an H-1B visa for ages and then I had kids,” says Buckman, who after a few years on the H-1B, was finally able to get her green card giving her permanent worker status when she got married. “I said ‘ok, I’ve got to do the green card.’ I changed my name to my married name so the green card was in the married name and I got it.”
The H-1B visa Buckman acquired through her connection with Capital One provided Buckman the ability to regularly travel for the company to and from the U.K. Eventually though, she left the company and in doing so lost her visa status. She had to do something to preserve her ability to travel, and so it was then Buckman attained her green card which gave her status as a “permanent resident.”
And while at that point Buckman felt she was out of the woods, U.S. Immigration soon after fired another curve ball at the British ex-pat when they lost her green card in the mail.
“They couldn’t have been less helpful,” begins Buckman. “And it’s a very unsecure process and when things fall outside the process. From what I could observe, things break down. I had to reapply, pay another $1,000, and do the whole thing all over again. So yeah, I have a green card.”
Green card in hand, Buckman hasn’t even had to face the question of becoming a U.S. citizen yet. That time will come later this year, when she will have surpassed the minimum three-year time period during which a green card holder must live here in the U.S. before applying for citizenship.
“I was the only one who didn’t have the dual-citizenship. I haven’t gotten it for a lot of reasons. What if all of a sudden America is in a massive war and I have to leave with my kids?” she continues. “Another thing is that if you’re in America but not a U.S. citizen, if he passes away you are stuck with a huge percentage to pay to the state out of whatever estate you have. You lose your house pretty much.”
“Now I’m getting a little bit older, I realize I’ve got nothing to lose by being a dual citizen, so I’m going to go ahead and apply so I can protect myself financially and so I can vote. Eligible for her citizenship test later this year, Buckman has begun studying and hopes to take the pledge later this year.