Politicians posturing on television often claim that they’re not against immigration, they’re just against those who choose to immigrate illegally. Their claim is often that facilitating a pathway to citizenship for those who have not played by the rules would be unfair to those who have. Never do they acknowledge that the U.S. immigration system is unfair by design and broken to the point that even the most strident rule-followers often fail in their bid for a permanent residency. If politicians truly favored legal immigration, they’d prioritize fixing the system—but they don’t.
When attempting to immigrate to the U.S., what matters most is your “status.” Arriving legally on a student visa provides no direct pathway to permanent residency; nor does coming in on an H1-B work visa—the most common and often only available visa to aspiring immigrants—which is valid for no more than three years and renewable only once. Marriage to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident works, but only if it is bona fide, which means that those wishing to play by the rules must allow the timing of one of life’s most important decisions to be dictated by Homeland Security. The only other avenues available to prospective immigrants are narrow and far from secure.
Readers might ask “but what about an employee-sponsored green card?” It is true that this mythical creature exists, but getting a hold of one is about as easy as catching a leprechaun. The first hurdle is finding an employer who wants you bad enough that they are willing to shell out tens of thousands of dollars in sponsorship costs—an expense which federal regulations prohibit you from covering. In addition, you need extraordinary luck; after all, only 9,800 employment-based green cards are issued per country, per year regardless of the number of applicants or intensity of interest expressed by the employer. Lastly, you (and your employer) need to wait. The approval process for a green card takes months, meaning your employer will need to make an offer well before they can expect anything in return. Add to this the fact that your potential employer has no guarantee you’ll stick around once you’ve received your green card and most determine that the whole affair is not worth the risk.
The broken nature of the U.S. immigration system has another collateral cost. Employees in the U.S. on a sponsored work visa are only permitted to work for the organization sponsoring them, meaning no side hustles, no Silicon Valley-style start-up initiatives, and no lateral mobility. If a person is qualified enough to gain a visa or green card sponsorship, the limited terms upon which they may do so surely means they’d consider alternatives, especially when you take into account that the difficulty of even getting in the door leaves one with precious few bargaining chips in the job interview.
Any politician who says that they favor immigration, just not illegal immigration, is doing little more than posturing for the cameras, then. While immigrating to the U.S is not impossible, it is by no means easy, even if you follow all the rules. If, in spite of all this, you still hope to find a home in “the land of the free” your best bet is to hire an experienced immigration attorney. Without professional legal help, you might be best advised to knock on someone else’s door.
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At Choudhury Law, we address immigration law with a compassionate ear and hand. If you have a question, feel free to submit it for FREE using the form below. Our immigration attorney, Amena Choudhury, will respond with an answer to your most burning question, with the hope that a certain answer will bring you some peace of mind…even in today’s uncertain political environment.