Thursday, February 08, 2007

Green Card Application Filed

The Greencard ApplicationLast week I took my Green Card application in to Duke International Office and walked back to my office with a spring in my step. This happy moment came after months of work on this application and a huge amount of time invested. The picture you see here is the application just before I took it in to the International Office. The amount of paperwork exceeded the size of my DPhil thesis. The days and weeks spent on this application were days and weeks sucked out of my research time, my family time, my sleep. I found the entire process unreasonably exhausting and sometimes depressing. So why did we go ahead with it?

At present, I am on an H1B visa. An H1B is employer-specific, i.e. your prospective employer sponsors you for this visa status so that you can work for them. An H1B holder can bring a family with him/her, all of whom will be H4 "dependants", a trailing spouse and children. Many who come to the USA to work remain in their H1B and H4 visa status until they return home. As an H1B or an H4, you are a "non-resident alien", which means that you are here for a temporary period only, and are not regarded as "resident", for immigration purposes at least. These visas give you three years from date of entry, and are renewable for a further three years, so you have six years in total. But you have the option of applying for "lawful permanent residence" (LPR, or more popularly "Green Card") at any point during that temporary stay, and this is what we have just filed. When granted, somewhere between six months and two years after filing, you become a "resident alien".

There are several advantages to filing for your Green Card. One of the most immediate is that it is possible for the H4 dependent, in this case Viola, to file at the same time for a temporary work permit. We have heard that the work permit is usually issued within two months of the Green Card application being filed, which means that Viola may be able to begin work in April. Apparently one has to take great care to make sure that the Green Card application is not what they call "frivolous" -- they only grant the work permit if they feel that you are taking the Green card application itself very seriously. A second advantage is that the Green card gives you much greater flexibility in the future. We are not bound to the USA for just that temporary period. A third advantage is that it will enable me to accept employment from others in the USA. At present, I can only receive payment from Duke, so when I give lectures elsewhere in the US, or read manuscripts, or write pieces for American publishers, or sit on PhD committees at other universities, I cannot accept payment. What I do at the moment in these circumstances is to ask the employer in question to donate my honorarium or fee to a charity of my choice, and so far they have always been happy to do that.

Those advantages made it pretty clear that we must go ahead and file for lawful permanent residency. The process, however, was so daunting that procrastination was often pretty tempting. I won't bore you with the details except to explain that there were two parts to the application, one our family's application and one the employer-sponsored part of the application. The latter was the most work. I am filing in category EB-1(B), which means that you have to demonstrate that you are what they call an "outstanding professor/researcher", and this involves the collection of piles and piles of paperwork of every kind imaginable. A couple of things made it bearable, though. Viola helped with a lot of the paperwork and so shared some of the frustration and anxiety. And Duke has an International Office that provided some fantastic support. One of the happiest of my several visits there was the first one where they took away at least half of the blank forms I was carrying and threw them into the recycling as forms I didn't need to worry about.

Oh, by the way, it also costs a fortune to do this. Including medical examinations, we have spent over $3,000 so far on filing. Here's hoping that it was all worth it.


claire said...

All the best. Hope it's not too long before Vi can work if she wants to.


Jacqui said...

Good luck with the GC application. It all seems a long time ago since we went through all that but it was only just over 2ys ago.

Fortunately, Gordon's company did most of the work and paid for it.

When you get to the medicals expect to pay about $500 each for you and Viola plus around $200 for the kids. You and Viola might need Chest Xrays as well because of the TB jags you had as teenagers. A lot of people end up with a positive result with the skin test because of it.

Not cheap this GC option!

Mark Goodacre said...

Thanks, Jacqui. Actually we have already done the medicals and they were expensive, something like $1600 for the four of us. Good to hear that you didn't have to do so much of the work. Duke were very helpful, but I did 98% of the legwork.

selwyn42 said...

What a blessing that you have at last succeeded in this Green Card business. Many congratulations. It must be a huge relief.

We have lovely snow.

Anonymous said...

Q notes that Kafka taught the Americans a lot about administration. He was also going to note that this all seemed very Teutonic, but as that might be considered racist, he won't!

Good luck with it all though, and just remember, they're the foreigners, not you!

Anonymous said...

You may think that the process of your Green Card application was cumbersome but, as an EB1, you were actually one of the lucky ones.
For anyone else it would be very wrong to say that "you have the option of applying for "lawful permanent residence" (LPR, or more popularly "Green Card") at any point during that temporary stay". Before H1b visa holders (and their families) can file for adjustment of status, they have to obtain Labor Certification and their visa numbers have to be current. There are currently many, many thousands of H1bs stuck in visa retrogression, having to wait many years before they can even file for permanent residency. During all this time, their H4 dependents are not allowed to work. Moreover, if the H1b were to lose his/her job, the whole family would have to leave the US immediately. As a result, there is a lot of misery associated with H1bs.

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