Card holder is allowed to work for any employer, even at McDonalds
as a chef! This is the kind of flexibility that most employees
desire when they contemplate acquiring a Green Card
last column, I had talked about H1 visas’ and the temporary
work status that it bestows on the holder. H1 visa, although
very useful, is designed to be extremely restrictive. Many
employees who come to the US on H1 visas realise that working
here comes with an element of uncertainty. People want to
be in control of their life and career and want to have the
flexibility to change jobs if things are not going their way.
In a hire-and-fire work culture, with the cloud of layoffs
looming over the tech sector, it makes sense for today’s Gold-Collar
workers to seek an element of independence and flexibility.
This is especially true for those working for small employers
and body-shops. What does one do if one wants to live and
work in the US without restrictions? The answer is: Acquire
a permanent resident status (a.k.a Green Card).
Card allows one to permanently live and work in the US. Except
for some jobs that require ‘security clearance’ and US citizenship
(for example, working for FBI), a Green Card holder is allowed
to work for any employer, even at McDonalds as a chef! This
is the kind of flexibility that most employees desire when
contemplating acquiring a Green Card. Of course, there are
other fringe benefits that come with a Green Card. One’s spouse
and children acquire the same status and are free to live
and work. Incidentally, spouses of H1 visa holders are not
allowed to work, unless they can get an employer to sponsor
their own H1 visa, which is another story altogether.
a Green Card has another advantage. In the US, most of us
even those on H1 visas’ pay Social Security taxes. This tax
is supposed to assure the payee a “pension” of a specified
sum of money when they turn 59. The catch is that, to receive
Social Security, one must be residing in the US or should
have worked and paid taxes in the US for at least 10 years.
H1 holders are not allowed to remain in the US for more than
six years, so they forfeit all the benefits when they return
home. Green Card holders who work in the US for at least ten
years, on the other hand, are eligible for Social Security
Cards bestow so many benefits, why don’t most get one, instead
of continuing on H1 visa? The answer lies in the application
process. A typical application involves the most archaic and
cumbersome paper trails one can envisage. US Government’s
Immigration and Naturalisation Service (INS) states, “If you
want to become an immigrant based on the fact that you have
a permanent employment opportunity in the United States, or
if you are an employer that wants to sponsor someone for lawful
permanent residency based on permanent employment in the United
States, you must go through a multi-step process.” The document
also found on http://www.ins.gov/graphics/services/residency/employment.htm
goes on to describe the five stages:
foreign nationals and employers must determine if he/she
is eligible for lawful permanent residency under one of
INS’ paths to lawful permanent residency.
most employment categories require that the U.S. employer
complete a labour certification request.
INS must approve an immigrant visa petition, (a.k.a. the
the State Department must give the applicant an immigrant
visa number. Until recently most Indians faced a big bottleneck
in acquiring a visa number since each country was given
a ‘quota’ and Indians in each category were not allowed
more than 7500 visa’s.
if the applicant is already in the United States, he or
she must apply to adjust to permanent resident status after
a visa number becomes available.
to say, many employers balk at the prospect of going through
this complicated processing, hoping to retain the employee
after he acquires a Green Card. This is especially true in
today’s job environment where employers are looking to cut
costs and streamline their operations. Specialised immigration
attorneys generally do the paperwork involved in the Green
Card process which can cost upwards of six to eight thousand
dollars. One of the most ludicrous aspects of the application
is the second stage where the company’s lawyer has to petition
to the labour department claiming that the employee is nothing
short of a rocket scientist.
an employer is willing to sponsor a Green Card application,
the process can drag on for years. The application is not
easily transferable and if one were to switch to another employer,
the clock gets reset. Some employers, especially body-shops
use the Green Card process as a lure to keep employees on
a tenterhook. Given the uncertain business environment in
which we live, waiting for a green card to be processed can
be extremely stressful.
lot of lobbying from employers and H1 holders, lawmakers and
Congressmen (in the US) have realised the ludicrous amount
of time it takes for Green Card application to be processed.
They have been working to help streamline the process.
from the US, a number of other countries provide ‘permanent
resident’ status to foreigners. Singapore, Canada and Australia
are by far the most ‘immigrant friendly’, especially for Indians.
The application process for these countries is also not as
expensive and time consuming as that of the US Green Card.
Canada is by far the most generous country in the world when
it comes to attracting permanent residents, especially those
with good education and technical backgrounds. They have a
“point system” and if a person qualifies with the minimum
number of points, he or she is considered. The processing
time for applications is also relatively short a few months
as opposed to the US Green Card that can drag on for years.
software world becomes more global and Indians move to various
countries around the world, establish themselves, and launch
new careers, they are finding opportunities where others might
not even consider looking. Many credit the Indian immigrant
community for the success of Silicon Valley. Even with all
the bottlenecks associated with the application process, a
Green Card is perhaps one of the most potent tools an individual
can acquire while working to further one’s career in a foreign
contained in this article is not legal advice and should not
be substituted for legal advice.)