Aliens with Visas

The Student Immigrant Journey

Podcast about student legal immigrant journey in America. Blogs, interviews, perspectives from students, professionals and lawyers. 


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, the average issues with searching for a job as a musician persist. International students however have the added component of securing a work visa and this exerts its own influence on how this crucial one year of Optional Practical Training pans out.

Narrated & Produced by Sandhya Ramachandran
Mixed & Mastered by Navneeth Narasimhan
Music 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.

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 category of O1 visa is discussed in this episode. It is reserved for specialists in the arts & motion pictures industry.


  • 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 soon began to reconsider his approach of directly applying for composer positions.
  • 07:59 - Finances dwindling led to Nipun branching out as a guitarist. Being a jack-of-all-trades paid 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 formed a cover band called Groove Martini with his roommate and 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 the city's own 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 and '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."