Getting my Green Card

Richard Weeks

     Many people are rightly angry about the state of immigration; they take offense to the large numbers of illegal immigrants flowing into the country. However, many do not know about the complex immigration system that unwittingly sustains this flux. To be honest, why should they? If you’re already a citizen there is no real reason to know how to become one. However, the process of gaining a green card is much harder than is thought. As one of the lucky ones, I received my green card after months of application after application, but my case proves to be the exception rather than the rule.

     My experience with the American immigration system started a little over five years ago. Shortly after my dad received an offer to transfer to the country, the ordeal began. While many people assume that you need a green card to live in the country as a foreigner, that isn’t entirely true. Rather than applying for permanent residency (green card), it is possible to apply for a visa which is shorter term. The dizzying varieties of visas cover everything from diplomats to victims of human trafficking. The result of this and the amazing number of forms required is the need for lawyers to fill in the paper work. This, as you might imagine, is not cheap. Thankfully in my case my family and I were sponsored by my dad’s company.

     After several trips to London for interviews and finger prints at the US embassy, we were accepted for L visas (the kind for intra-company transfers). Our passports were taken away to have the visa attached, that way we could travel. These visas only lasted three years then the ordeal began again. To renew our visas, we had to travel outside of the country to get a particular stamp and to have all of our finger prints taken again. For this, we had to schedule an appointment several months in advance and spend almost a week out of the country without a passport. We decided to make a holiday of it in Mexico. Driving past the slums in Mexico City it is easy to see why people are so desperate to get out of there. The queue for visas at the embassy was hundreds of people long and was renewed each hour as people arrived for their appointed time.  After waiting for hours, we were interviewed on the reasons for applying and about our employment, questions that they already knew the answer to because of the forms. Once the week was up we finally recovered our passports and headed home.

     Since then, the family has decided that there isn’t enough work back home so the best option was to get a green card and stay in the US. For many people it takes years to just get an interview. However because, once again, it was part of an intra-company transfer the process was relatively painless. Usually, it entails interviews, serious passport style photos and finger prints of every finger and thumb. Luckily, we got away with just the photos and finger prints. This would have been fine but the day we were scheduled to have them done was the snow day. All of the immigrants turned up but the contractors who worked in the office didn’t. Once we sorted that out, it was a matter of waiting.

      This isn’t the usual process. The tenants in our UK house for example, applied a few months before we left for the states five years ago. They still haven’t been called for an interview. This is more like the process that most experience. Without company sponsorship, it takes ages of waiting and pestering lawyers just to get a visa, never mind a green card. Combine this with the massive numbers of poor people who want immigrate but can’t afford it and it is no wonder that the US is experiencing massive problems with immigration.