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Garam Issues: For NRI and Indians in the US >> Features Achieve >> Issues of Green Card Families

In 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:

Further information about V visa, and bill H.R. 3701, is available at: 


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 is working to spotlight what its members say is
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 from Asia.

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 without breakfast.  

``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 a vote.

``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 here? None.''

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 nil.

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 immigrate.''

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 employment.

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 is called.

``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
their spouse.''

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 said.

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

WASHINGTON, 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 20, 2004.

A group of young professionals has started a website through which public can support this bill. In addition, a forum to discuss this bill and support the efforts towards enactment is available at .
-- Article Source: Indian

Draft mail from's visitor: Anis Kasmani [March'2004]

Reunite Families of Green Card holders. 


A 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 period.

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 yet available

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.

Best Regards,
Anis Kasmani [March'2004]

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