Thursday, November 15, 2007

Still an Alien

10 year it has been I am still hunting for the all elusive green card. For issuing an immigrant visa (Green Card), US immigration agency, follows a weird procedure. If you are from India or China, getting a green card, is all about luck.
If you are trying to immigrate to US, there are 3 categories
EB1
- This category is for an ‘outstanding professor or researcher’
- This category is for a ‘manager or executive’ subject to
international transfer to the U.S.
EB2
- This category is for foreign nationals professionals with an
‘advanced degrees’ (masters degree or higher) and with a job offer
from a U.S. company
EB3
- This category is for ‘professional workers’ with a U.S. bachelor's
or foreign equivalent degree and with a job offer from a U.S. company

In addition to these categories, Green Card also depends on what is called as “Priority Date”. Each category has its own priority date. For example, if you are in EB3 category, then currently your priority date is in April 2001. What this means is, if you have applied for your green card on April 2001 then the INS will take your application for processing now. EB1 which is of a high category has its priority date current that is if you start your green card on this category now, INS will process your file tomorrow (technically). So far so good, now let’s discuss the issues

Issue A – Since immigration is a hot topic for election in this country politicians play it to their advantage. Now, in US Hispanics are the largest minority, overtaking blacks. As you can imagine, most of them come from south of the border and most of them have voting rights. They are highly loyal to their community thus, if a politician says, I will give green card to your family, the votes goes for him. On the other hand, if you take an action like that you are going aggravate the far right, which is the white majority who do not want any immigrants.
So if there are 100 voters, 60 do not care about immigration, in other words they have no bias while voting based on immigration, we have 40 remaining votes out of which lets assume 20 are Hispanics and 20 are from far right. Now Green card becomes bait, you play the field based on the environment you can either go for the 20 Hispanic votes or the other 20 from the far right. How do they do that, remember the “Priority Date”, during the election time or at a time of distress they will move the date to current. Thus who ever have applied for Green Card with out any consideration for EB1, EB2 or EB3 the INS will process your application. After couple of months, when the voting is done, they will move back the date, so that only your grandfather can apply.
Let’s take my case as example; I applied for green card during 2002, even though I came to this country in 1998. Friend of mine came to this US in 2001 and applied in 2001 itself. During 2001, they did a switch around with the priority date and he got his Green Card in the same year. By the time, I applied the date was moved far back. So it does not matter when you come to this country all it matter is when you applied and how lucky you are.

Issue B – This issue lingers around the technicality of the 3 categories we saw earlier. Remember the priority date is based on category. If you are in a higher category you have better dates. I have a master’s degree, I am certified project manger, and I have 12 years experience, but still I am in a lower category. Why, because the green card is based on your position when the process started. When I started my job I only had a bachelor degree, later I went to school and got my masters and my certification. But all these after my process started thus my category is much lower. Now technically you could have started working much later then me with a master’s degree thus you have a better date.
Now, another thing to add here is the clause that says experience could count as an alternative to your master’s degree. So depending on your bargaining skills, you can argue with your company and your lawyer and ask them to apply at a higher category based on your work experience. This clause has many loopholes. There are hundreds of consulting companies (most of them started by immigrants) who exploit the system using this clause. Green Card for them is a way to hire new employees. They cut a deal with you stating that they will hire you and they will file their green card process at much higher category. It does not matter whether you really have experience or not they just file with one. I even know many cases where these companies processed green card on EB1 category.

Issue C – This is the worst of them all. Companies know that until you get your green card, you are just a bonded labor to them. There is really not much you can do. So the longer the process goes the better they are. Again, I am a prime example for this. I work for a big American firm, my green card was filed in 2000, and I did not bother about the process that much since I didn’t expect My Company to play games with me. After waiting for couple of years, watching all my friends who applied after me getting green card, I asked the law firm what’s happening with my Green Card. I did not get an answer soon, after repeated pestering; the firm told me that my green card process was cancelled. After having a heart attack, I asked them why. The law firm pointed finger at my company and the company told me that there was a misunderstanding between the company and the lawyer and my process was cancelled by error. They promised they will do the best they can, which ended as restarting my process in 2002 and I am still waiting to get the Green Card.

Issue D - Got money? This issue is complete nonsense. For example, lets say company A started Green Card process in the 90's for Employee X. For some reason, if the employee X leaves the company, the company could give that date to Employee Y. Using this, companies now sell these date to a highest bidder. These goes for thousands of dollars. There is no control.

Anyhow, the bottom-line is I am still an alien. I am really frustrated. All these years my wife couldn’t work, I didn’t want to buy a house without a green card, I really couldn’t take any promotions, the list goes on. Sometime, I think whether all this is worth the pain, I really thinking about moving back to India. I talked to my wife, and she is always an easy going person, so she says lets go. I guess I got to make call now, whether to live as an alien or as a human being.

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