Vamshidhar Kommineni

November 30, 2006

Legal immigrants and Green Cards

Filed under: Miscellany — Vamshi @ 12:12 am

Yahoo news has an unusually spot on article about the plight of legal immigrants applying for permanent residency:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20061129/pl_nm/usa_greencard_dc

This is a pertinent issue for every legal immigrant in this country (including me) who wants to potentially immigrate to the country. Without a green card the following things are true:

  • Switching jobs resets the process (until a late stage in the process), so this limits career mobility for people. I am lucky in that I can switch what I do completely while still under the umbrella of Microsoft, but not everyone is so lucky
  • Your spouse who may be qualified to work (teacher, social worker, etc.) but will not independently qualify for an H1-B work sponsorship will be unable to work till the green card comes through
  • Issues around out of state/in state residency for things like university tuition
  • Your are still qualified as a non-immigrant for most of this process, so you have to go through a whole stack of legal hassles to maintain your legal status.

And of course, getting a green card is the first step towards becoming a naturalized citizen of your adopted country. I’ve lived in the US for most of my adult life (been here since I was 17) and I’m still 5-7 years (depending on how this mess is sorted out) away from permanent residency and another 6 years after that from becoming a citizen. During the past 8 years, I’ve lived here, formed life long friendships, paid my taxes, social security and medicare (even though I don’t get to use the last two without being a citizen, but no matter, I consider that a worthy social burden) and for the most part come to regard the US as my second homeland.

This is an unfortunate state of affairs both personally and I think in a larger sense for the country. For better or worse, what makes the United States so special is that it has always been a nation of immigrants working to make their lives better and in doing so benefiting the country as a whole. The fact that skilled workers from across the world want to come to the US to live and work is a huge competitive advantage. I fear that if this situation continues and working situation and opportunities improve in the largest skilled labor sources (India and China), this competitive advantage will be eroded. More people will chose to move back home or not even come to the US for higher education. That’s a not good outcome for the country.

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