earlier this year, i was told by the immigration lawyers that i would need an O-1 visa to work in the US. this fascinating piece of US immigration regulation is an example of why the US drains brains from everywhere else - while Europe, despite endless reforms, just makes it hard for skilled immigrants to work.
the O-1 visa is for “persons of extraordinary ability in their field”. it has no specific criteria. no formal certification. it is usually used for, say, concert pianists, but apparently applies also to open source economists. what you do need to provide is evidence of any kind, such as publications, conference invitations and - most importantly - letters of reference.
i am extremely grateful and would like to thank, once again, philippe aigrain, david axmark, david hammerstein, brian kahin, ronaldo lemos, larry lessig, eben moglen, simon phipps, petri rasanen, luc soete, louis suarez-potts, michael tiemann, jimmy wales and jim zemlin for their encouraging and generous letters of reference. thanks to their promptness, the US citizenship and immigration services approved my visa application 8 days. some kind of record!
it took rather longer for the original approval papers to come through; the actual visit to the US embassy to get a stamp in my passport was entertaining (note: l’occitan en provence hand-cream is a false positive trigger for explosives tests and will get you stuck in detailed “are you or have you ever associated with” interrogations). and the social security and other administration will take even longer.
but thanks to friends and colleagues, and amazing support from the law firm (you rock, olivia!) the biggest hurdle is over.
i now have an apartment in san francisco, where i will spend half my time every quarter. i still head the collaborative creativity group at UNU-MERIT and will thus spend the other half of my time in brussels (both apartments empty half the time, visitors welcome!). i’m planning to severely cut down on all other travel, so no more 170 000 flying miles a year to speak at conferences.
oh yes, what’s this all about? i’m co-founder of topsy labs in san francisco. it’s still hush-hush, but is the only thing for which i can imagine reducing my time in academia: a project that enables the trust networks that underlie social and economic interaction on the internet.
way back in 1997, i actually had running code for some of this, with my old friend and co-founder vipul ved prakash. computers weren’t fast enough back then, and the conversational internet, the living web, wasn’t there either. now the time is right, i hope.