Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The card that is Green...

The US immigration system is antiquated and complex. The current system was designed for the 1970s. Any attempt to introduce reforms in the system has been stymied by legal and illegal immigration being clumped together. The illegals have the voter base and therefore they cannot be ignored by the lawmakers. However, the illegal debate is complex and won't be solved easily.

My struggle with this system began in 1996. My application for a student visa was rejected. After being rejected once we decided to apply again after all there was no reason for my application to be rejected. What I won't forget is how hard my dad worked to put together all the documents required to support my visa application for the second attempt. When my application was rejected a second time around I felt more bad for him than myself. He really wanted me to get a chance to study Engineering in the US. He always wanted me to have the best education he could possibly provide.

This rejection turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I got admission at McGill University which has one of the best Computer Engineering programs in the world...

After I graduated the US was more than willing to give me a work visa... The H1B visa. This was the beginning of the long struggle in the Green Card aka permanent residence process.

2001 was the start of the tech burst so my company started one of several rounds of layoff. When a company layoffs employees it is not allowed to apply for any Green cards for employees. This limbo continued till 2004 before they filed my application. The first step was the labor certification. This had a huge backlog. In 2005 the USCIS introduced a new process for the labor certification called the PERM which was supposed to be faster. However, they moved all the applications filed under the old system to "Backlog Processing Centers". There these applications lay in limbo.

If I changed my company my application would have to start from the scratch so I waited patiently while my old company underpaid me. Finally, in 2006 I got fed up and accepted an offer from Microsoft. My Green Card process had to start from scratch. I made sure that I negotiated that they work on my application immediately and in the EB2 category. My previous application had been filed in the EB3 category since I had not yet completed my Masters. This proved to be a crucial difference...

My labor certification and I-140 (step 2 of the 3 step process) went through in 4 months but then I got stuck in step 3. This was because of an antiquated rule that allowed only 7% of an already limited employee visa quota to be allocated to people born in any country. Indians and Chinese obviously had a huge number of applicants.

In July 2007, the USCIS made all visa numbers current (this is required to be able to file the 3rd step). Everyone rushed to get in their 3rd step i.e. I-485 applications ready to file. Just before the filing window opened the USCIS revoked their earlier bulletin. This lead to mass protests from a typically silent and peaceful community. WTF? How could they waste our time and treat us like this? The had to relent and allow us to file the I-485. The filing of the I-485 is crucial because it allows you to get 2 documents known as an EAD (Employment Authorization Document) and Advanced Parole. These 2 using the portability act preserves your place in the Green Card queue and lets you change jobs 6 months after your I-485 is pending...

During this period, I had to keep on renewing my H1B visas. Each time having to get a new stamp in a US consulate in Canada. The joke was that by the end of it I had almost visited all the US consulates in Canada... Of course there was never any problem getting this stamp since I worked for a company like Microsoft but it still was a time consuming process...

Paperwork... That's one thing everyone going through the process accumulated. Mountains and mountains of them. Documents.

Having gone through so much I pretty much became an expert on US immigration law. I knew every single law and act. When any of my friends needed advise the first person they'd call would be me :)

In contrast, in 2007 I applied for the Canadian Permanent residence. They fast-tracked my application and gave me the card in months... Yet, how could I leave the US :) Each time I'd cross into Canada the border officials would ask me when I planned to move to their country. I'd tell them in a few weeks... One country was welcoming me and another country required me to deal with these ancient laws.

Luckily, there was a provision that allowed the 7% rule to be bypassed if the employee green card numbers were not used up by the end of the year. With the 2008 real estate bubble, this allowed the Indian Green Card application queue to advance...

Fast forward to today, almost after 10 years (I came to the US on June 2nd 2001) my Green Card application was finally approved. This has been such a long long process that all I can say is that I am very very tired - I'm neither happy nor am I sad.

I will look forward to not having to hang onto these mountains of paper. I will miss the Canadian border officers asking me when I plan to move to their country. Canada has been good to me - it's been there for me when I needed it. I will continue to visit thee - O Canada!

I can't imagine how different my life would have been if I didn't have to deal with the restrictions that this process brought about. I would have probably joined a start up,.. explored a lot of different opportunities. Maybe gone back to school full-time. Oh Well... :) It's all good!

People ask me if it was worth spending so much time in my life on this in the US. After all Canada, UK, NZ, Australia and most other countries are welcoming folks like us with expedited processes for the PR. India today has so many opportunities. Would I have gone through this if knew this is what the wait would be...

My answer is a resounding YES! The US is still the land of opportunities. The land where you can dream... The land with the best schools... MIT, Harvard, Wharton,... The land of a fair tax rate... If you deserve it you have endless options here... Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Apple, Goldman Sachs, McKinsey, ... The land of boundless beauty and natural parks... The land of diversity...

If it didn't mean anything then people would not be here struggling for the card that is Green!

10 Comments:

Blogger SNK said...

Hi,
I really liked your article, its very interesting and meaningful. I, myself have experienced a similar situation. I'm an 18 years old Pakistani and had just completed my Advanced Level(high school). I got admission in Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah for FALL 2011. I have two elder brothers who got admitted to Brigham Young and both have graduated from there. It was my turn to do so.I went for my F-1 student visa last month, but I was denied. I reapplied and the result was unchanged. It was heartbreaking and gut-wrenching for me as I had been going to US since I was a child on the visit ( B1/B2) visa. Just like yours, there was no reason to deny me of getting education in United States. Now I have two options, first to study in Pakistan and second to study in Canada. I'm thinking of taking the second option, which you took also. But if I go to Canada I would have to take a gap semester and apply for winter term. Did you do the same thing,that is take a gap semester and then went to Canada?
Awaiting your reply.
Thanks.

7/07/2011 6:30 AM  
Blogger Sub said...

Hi,

Yeah. I had a gap for a sememster. In the long run that will make no difference. You will work for 45 years after graduating so 4-6 months is negligible. Also, you can take some classes in a college in Pakistan and try to get some credits transferred when you move to Canada.

Good luck!

7/07/2011 7:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good that you made the decision to move to the US and thanks for sharing your story! Being a graduate of one of the US schools you listed and coming from India, I can relate to you story.

I guess it would be nice if USCIS put you on their payroll, but it is the Advanced "Parole" not "Payroll" !

Secondly, it is not the portability act but the AC21 act of 2000 which includes portability among other things.

The 2008 great recession had nothing to do with the advancement of EB2 numbers for India but for the fact that the pre-adjudicated I-485 cases in the pipeline we getting exhausted and they wanted to fill it in again. Demand for new applications from India, if you see was not low in 2008-2011.

I know, I know, it is an old post but thought I needed to point some things out.

6/12/2013 11:12 AM  
Blogger Sub said...

Thanks for your comment and clarifications!

I'm a stickler for correct spelling so I made sure I changed "Payroll" to "Parole" in my original post.

If not for the recession of 2008, there would not have been spill-over numbers from ROW for EB2 India. This happens in the last quarter of their calendar year... If there would have been no spill-over there would be no need to fill up the pipelines again.

6/12/2013 11:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a Canadian and an American Permanent Resident. I have three options-go to IIT, McGill or to some univ in the US by giving SAT. What would you suggest me to do?

2/19/2014 4:52 AM  
Blogger Sub said...

If you can get into a top US university (MIT, Stanford etc.) then the US university else McGill. You would have better access to internships in the US. Top internships would help you land a top job starting off university. You'd have similar considerations if you're going down a research track.

2/19/2014 9:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dude, I have a question. I am an Indian, studying in 11th grade. I just got my passport stamped with the US Immigrant Visa, and I am already a PR of Canada. What i really wanted to ask you is, I am thinking of going to USA this March and continue on with my 12th grade there. If that's not possible, I need to repeat my 11th grade there. Do you think its a good idea? Waiting for your reply.
RAMA

2/22/2014 9:10 PM  
Blogger Sub said...

It would make sense to come down in March and deal with whatever adjustments are required. A lot will depend on the school and school district you are placed in unless you are planning to attend a private school. Also, you will have summer to sort things out. It will be easier to work through college admissions here than from India. Good luck!

2/22/2014 9:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I want your email ID to talk something private rgarding McGill. please do not consider this spam, i really want to talk to you regarding admissions to Mcgill.

4/28/2014 9:21 AM  
Blogger Sub said...

seattle35 at outlook dot com

4/28/2014 11:16 AM  

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