The day before Christmas Eve, the news director of the KSRM Radio Group on the Kenai Peninsula received a letter in the mail stating she needed to leave the country. Three days later, the station's news was delivered with an Australian accent for what could have been the last time.
Catie Quinn's options have nearly run out. For months, she struggled to convince U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to let her stay, but in the end, her request was denied. The federal department declined to renew her E-3 work visa, which is specific to Australians.
The visa requires its holders "perform services in a specialty occupation," one that requires a specific pool of knowledge and at minimum a bachelor's degree. The immigration agency found that a news director does not require a college education, prompting Quinn's reluctant departure from Alaska.
"The funniest thing in all this is (that) the advice I've gotten, including at the (immigration) field office, is 'get married,' " Quinn said in a phone interview as she took a break from packing her belongings. "They suggest that's pretty much the only way I can get a permanent visa. Everyone's answer is, 'Go get yourself a handy Alaska man.'
"If I eventually want to marry someone I will, but I'm not going to cheat the system," she said.