The media world has obviously gone through a lot of upheaval in recent years—just today one prominent media company changed its name and appointed a new CEO.
In light of all these changes, what’s a foreign journalist to do when her job in America is in jeopardy?
The answer, at least for one reporter: crowdfunding.
Libby Watson, a British journalist who currently reports for the nonprofit Sunlight Foundation in Washington, DC, started a GoFundMe today to raise $6,000 so she can stay in America. She writes in her pitch that Sunlight has laid off several journalists, and is exploring a merger with another organization. As such, Watson will likely lose her job by the end of the year.
Unlike American reporters, however, Watson would have to leave the country if she got laid off—she is living in the United States on an H-1B worker’s visa, which is only in effect for as long as she has a job. If she lost her position, Watson would be considered an illegal immigrant and have 10 days to return to Britain (she also hasn’t been able to freelance to supplement her American income).
As such, Watson is asking the internet for help to pay for an O-1 visa, which is given to immigrants doing “specialized work” and would allow her to stay in the U.S. for three more years. She can also freelance or work at any news outlet (and stay in America if she loses a job).
“I’ve lived here four years and I still love it so, so deeply, from its sweeping plains and tallest mountains to its most underwhelming IHOPs,” Watson wrote in her pitch.
She elaborated in an email that crowdfunding a visa was basically the only way she could stay in America.
“I didn’t really have any other way to get the money,” Watson told the Observer
Watson would use the GoFundMe money to pay the many fees associated with the visa request- a $3,550 lawyer’s fee, $500 writers’ union certification fee, $325 filing fee with the Department of Homeland Security and $1,225 premium processing fee that expedites Watson’s waiting period from three months to two weeks. That totals $5,600 (though Watson is asking for an extra $400 so she can pay GoFundMe’s fees as well).
“I don’t think many millennials, especially those working in the media or at nonprofits, have $5,000 put aside to spend on an unexpected expense,” she said. “Also, time is of the essence here.”
The campaign is already off to a strong start, raising $5,250 in less than a day.
Even though she had to take unconventional measures to pay her bills, Watson concluded that it was worth it for other foreign journalists to come to the U.S.—as long as they get acquainted with visa law.
“Just make sure you know your rights and what your options are,” she said. “Have a backup plan.”