Features Achieve >> Issues
of Green Card Families
this section of GaramChai we feature select articles on the
issues and challenges of family reunification faced by Legal
Permanent Residence (Green Card holders) in the United States.
Visa holders (including H1, F1, B1 and others) can sponsor
their spouses to live with them in the US. Similarly, American
citizens can also sponsor their spouses and fiancées to live
with them in the US. It is just the Green Card holders who
slip through the cracks of legal system and cannot be re-united
with their spouses and children who have to wait for years
(sometimes upto 5 years) to get an "immigrant visa number"
to enter America.
Other sites focused on this cause include:
information about V visa, and bill H.R. 3701, is available
BY TRUONG PHUOC KHANH (Knight Ridder Newspapers)
SAN JOSE, Calif. - Since his wedding day four years ago to
a young lady from his boyhood village in Bangladesh, Masud
Syed has been back to see his wife exactly 10 times. The last
visit, in September, was both exhilarating and excruciating.
He witnessed the birth of his son;
In a post-Sept. 11 world, extremely long separations between
newlyweds across continents are a fact of life for many immigrants
who come to the United States to work. They end up staying
as permanent residents, but their hearts summon them back
home when time comes to choose a mate.
three weeks later, Syed flew back to America, alone.
Many Asians, from India to Korea to Vietnam, belong to cultures
that still engage in the practice of arranged marriages. Instead
of ``love at first sight,'' some call it ``love after introduction.''
But U.S. immigration laws do not allow permanent residents
who marry after they obtain their ``green cards,'' such as
Syed, to have their spouses or children stay with them in
America while their green card applications are being processed.
The wait time varies from country to country, but it is currently
about five years for India, China and the Philippines.
A group started in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2002 called
UniteFamilies.org is working to spotlight what its members
unreasonable immigration policy. Its leaders protest that
recent rules leave thousands of legal, tax-paying U.S. residents
in emotional limbo, often forced to choose between marriage
and a green card.
Many in Syed's predicament come to the United States as temporary
workers with an H-1B visa, which allows them to become permanent
residents once they obtain a green card. Of the 386,821 H-1B
visas issued in fiscal year 2004, 152,723 were for workers
Thousands of miles apart, Syed says he and his wife, 24-year-old
Linia, have forged a deep bond. The couple talk by phone at
least five times a week. She scolds him if he leaves for work
``I have a picture of my son and my wife right in front of
me at work,'' said Syed, a 31-year-old electrical engineer.
``At the end of the day, I feel very empty. I call just to
hear him cry, anything.''
UniteFamilies has the backing of four Bay Area congressional
leaders. They co-sponsored a bill, HR 1823, that would allow
families to live together in the United States while waiting
for green cards. The bill, written by Democrat Rep. Robert
Andrews of New Jersey, was referred to a committee earlier
this year, but with a conservative Republican majority in
power a pro-immigration bill has little chance of coming to
``They say people ought to play by the rules, but it ends
with absurd results sometimes,'' said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif.
``If you look at it broadly, what public policy is being served
Another way to gain entry to the United States, through the
State Department's visitor visa, is all but impossible since
the law requires applicants to prove they are not coming to
stay. Anecdotally, many say as soon as they disclose they
are visiting a spouse in the United States who is a permanent
resident, their chances of getting visitation rights are practically
A spokeswoman with the State Department said the government
primarily cares if your ``visit'' might become permanent.
``You must overcome a presumption of immigration,'' said Angela
Aggeler, spokeswoman for the Bureau of Consular affairs. ``It's
incumbent on the applicant to prove their intent is not to
Last year, there were 946,142 new immigrants to the United
States; a quarter of them were family-sponsored and 155,330
- like Syed - earned the privilege to stay permanently through
If Syed were in the United States as a foreign student or
a temporary worker with an H-1B visa, and he married overseas,
his wife and children could almost immediately join him with
a visitor's visa since neither spouse would have permanent
privilege to stay in the United States.
But since Syed became a permanent resident first and then
married a year later, his wife and child wait 7,600 miles
away and he dwells in Sunnyvale, Calif., until her visa number
``It's important for people to take immigration laws into
consideration as they plan life events,'' said Sharon Rummery,
a spokeswoman for the immigration agency.
The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) is split
on the issue. While it supports placing a priority on uniting
nuclear families, it also wants to restrict immigration to
300,000 people a year.
Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for FAIR, reflected this ambivalence
when he said,
``No one is stopping them from going back to their country
to reunite with
Under the Clinton administration, the Immigration and Naturalization
Service implemented a V visa program to allow certain spouses
and minor children of permanent residents to reside and work
in the United States while waiting for their own green cards.
That program, created specifically to clear a heavy INS backlog,
has expired. The proposed bill would revive the V visa.
Alex Maslov came to the United States in 1995 as a graduate
student studying physics. Ten years later, he's a researcher
in nanotechnology for a company in Mountain View.
Now that he is a permanent resident, Maslov said his hope
to marry someone back home in Russia is dim.
``If I marry someone who doesn't have residence in the U.S.,
I will not be able to live with her in the U.S.,'' said Maslov,
30. ``Five years' wait is just too long.''
It's also too long for Guarav Negi, a Cisco software engineer.
Before he received his green card in July 2004, Negi had heard
about the marriage pitfalls for green card holders. At the
time, he had no marriage plans.
Then on a visit home to India in October 2004, his parents
introduced him to 24-year-old Rohina Rawat.
``She's not a technical girl,'' said Negi, 29, ``but the thing
is I want to marry her.''
He has seen his fiancee three times, and their wedding is
planned for December.
``In the U.S., marriage doesn't last five years and now we
have to wait five years to start our married life,'' Negi
Negi is looking for an employer in Canada willing to sponsor
him with a work visa.
Asked which country his fiancee would prefer, Negi replied:
``She doesn't care, she just wants to live with me.''
Hope of family reunification rekindled
D.C., March 21, 2004:
A group of young professionals is spearheading support for
bill H.R. 3701, in order to revive the lapsed V visa category.
Section 101(a)(15)(V) of the Immigration and Nationality Act
(INA) governing the process of unifying immigrant families,
expired on December 20, 2003. As a result, and due to backlog
in processing of immigrant visas, hundreds of thousands of
spouses and children of Legal Permanent Residents are separated
for many years.
Spouses and children of Legal Permanent Residents have to
wait for an immigrant visa to become available before they
can be allowed to enter the United States. Currently the waiting
time is about six years, during which the spouses and children
of Legal Permanent Residents are not even allowed to visit
their family in the U.S. The above section of INA made V visa
available for the non-resident spouses and children of Legal
Permanent Residents, reducing the separation period. However,
the V visa expired in December 2003.
On January 20, 2004, Representative Robert E. Andrews (NJ-1)
introduced bill H.R. 3701 to amend the INA and forwarded the
same to the House Committee on Judiciary. This bill, which
has two cosponsors from the Judiciary Committee, extends the
deadline for V visa until year 2011, and reduces the waiting
period to 6 months. This bill, if enacted, would most effectively
solve the problem with a minimum impact on the federal government,
while allowing families to be united, because the pertinent
procedures and infrastructure already exist.
During the first 2 years of the V visa program for which numbers
are available, over 20,000 families and over 40,000 children
were united with their Legal Permanent Residents in the U.S.
as a direct result of the V visa program. However, the Judiciary
Committee has taken no major action on this bill since January
A group of young professionals has started a website www.united4life.org
through which public can support this bill. In addition, a
forum to discuss this bill and support the efforts towards
enactment is available at www.immigrationportal.com
-- Article Source:
mail from GaramChai.com's visitor: Anis Kasmani
Families of Green Card holders.
Legal Permanent Resident (a.k.a green card holder) has to
be separated years from his/her spouse/family if he/she marries
after getting his/her green card. The fallacy of the situation
is while there is provision for family unification without
any limit/deadline for all other visa holders including temporary
H1 and F1 visas there is nothing for green card holders who
technically would be eligible for citizenship in 5 years after
getting their green card.
The Legal Immigration Family Equity Act and its amendments
(LIFE Act) established a new nonimmigrant category (V) within
the immigration law that allows the spouse or child of a U.S.
Lawful Permanent Resident to live and work in the United States
in a nonimmigrant category. The spouse or child can remain
in the United States while they wait until they are able to
apply for lawful permanent residence status (Adjusting Status),
or for an immigrant visa, instead of having to wait outside
the United States as the law previously required. The above
section of INA made V visa available for the non-resident
spouses and children of legal immigrants, thus reducing separation
But LIFE act had certain caveat. To be eligible the person
should: --Be the principal beneficiary of a relative petition
(Form I-130) that was filed by the Lawful Permanent Resident
spouse/parent on or before December 21, 2000 --Have been waiting
at least 3 years since the petition was filed for status as
a Lawful Permanent Resident because the petition is still
pending, or has been approved but an immigrant visa is not
Due to this LPR filing for I-130 after Dec 22 2000 combined
with the enormous backlog in BCIS processing of immigration
petitions, has caused over half a million spouses and children
of Legal Permanent Residents forced to be separated. Spouses
and children of Legal Permanent Residents would have to wait
for an immigrant visa to become available before they can
be allowed to enter USA. This process is currently taking
up to six (6) years, during which spouses and children of
legal immigrants are not even allowed to visit their family
in the US.
Recently, a bill H.R. 3701 was introduced in the House of
Representatives and forwarded to the Committee on Judiciary.
It extends the deadline for visa to year 2011 and reduces
the waiting period to 6 months. This bill, if enacted, would
most effectively solve the problem with a minimum impact on
the federal government since the pertinent procedures and
infrastructure already exist and are in place. It would also
allow the federal government to do better security checks
and perform any other existing and new procedures without
punishing families that would be allowed to stay united.
In all aspects the bill H.R. 3701 is an excellent piece of
legislature. That's why it already gained traction in the
House of Representatives, as indicated by recent co-sponsorship
of four (4) members of the Committee on Judiciary. So far,
the bill is pending consideration. Every day this law is delayed,
hundreds of thousands of spouses and children of Legal Permanent
Residents remain separated. This is a violation of the American
notions of family values and justice.
We appeal to all people who care for family values to stress
the importance of family unification on their Congressman
and Senators. We ask people to call up their Senators and
Congressman/Congresswomen to co-sponsor H.R 3701 and pass
the bill for family unification.
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