Tag Archives: illegal immigration

Top 5 Misconceptions about US Immigration

It is interesting amongst all the about US Immigration and foreigners trying to navigate the system to live, work and study in the US so many common misconceptions exists about the most basic elements of Immigration. So just thought it would interesting to do a mini piece on these fallacies which are held by foreigners and US residents alike.

1. The vast majority of illegal immigrants come across the Mexican border
This is not even close to true with Pew research suggests that up to 50% of the 11m illegal immigrants in the US currently are visa overstayers usually on the Visa Waiver and B-1/B-2 business and tourist visas. Thus a great portion of illegal immigrants in the US are from countries like the UK, Ireland, Canada, etc. Another argument used to stricter land border control is terrorism which may be sound but often the 9/11 attacks are used as the basis of this when all the hijackers arrived here legally on a visa by plane.

2. Foreigners can just come to the US, apply for jobs and start working and change jobs when they desire
This as far from the reality as can be the case. A foreigner needs to have a sponsor employer to begin working in the US under visas like the H-1B, TN-1E-3, or L-1. Each of these visas have very specific criteria around background experience and qualifications, nature of the role, annual visa quotas, minimum pay level, whether family can work, fees, etc. To get a job usually involves coming to the US and interviewing with many companies but there is no visa that allows that. You can only get a work visa after you have secured employment and coming to the US on tourist visas to search for work is both officially and unofficially frowned upon and can result in border agents preventing you entering the US at all. So you may see a Catch 22 here. Additionally if you want to change employers, this whole process largely needs to happen again and you can’t just start a new job because the work visa is tied to the employer. Additionally every work visa has a limit and some can only be renewed a finite amount of times and even the ones that can be renewed technically indefinitely may be denied.

3. An Immigrant can stay in the US and can apply for or are eligible for a Green Card
There are only 4 main ways to get a Green Card; being family sponsored, being company sponsored, investing a large amount of money in the US or winning the Green Card Lottery. There is an exception for truly exceptional individuals but this is largely used by elite athletes, global prize winners in the fields (i.e. nobel, oscar, etc.) and top 1% folks and it is strict process. Therefore someone who has been working in for US for 6 years on H-1B and may have studied here on an F-1 Visa for Undergrad, Master’s & PhD over up to 10 years and thus has been living and paying taxes in the US for 15 years has no more claim current on a Green Card than a new worker who just arrived.

4. Immigrants as a whole take more from the US welfare system than they contribute and lower US wages
On average across all foreign born adults they pay about $7,800 in taxes and receive about $4,400 from the major US Government programs. If the foreigner is university educated this gap gets a lot wider. 52% of high tech Silicon Valley firms have at least one foreign founder and they include some of the biggest names in the industry from Google, Yahoo, Paypal, eBay, etc. Immigrants start more business per month than US Citizens by close to 100,000 and earn 3x the number of patent awards. Additionally working visa holders don’t have access to things like Unemployment Insurance, Medicare and Social Security even though they taxes into all these programs.
Finally work visa Immigrants have to be paid at least the prevailing wage which is essentially the average wage US workers are being paid for the same job in the same area of the country. This is set by the US Department of Labor and is updated yearly.

5. Marrying a US Citizen guarantees a foreigner the right to stay or live in the US
Actually whether the marriage takes place outside or inside the US, a legal marriage be it straight or gay, is only the beginning of a costly process and arduous process to determine whether the foreigner is allowed to legally reside in the US. This includes multiple forms, detailed background and fingerprint checks, thousands of dollars in fees, financial support documents showing significant assets and income, reference affidavits and proof documents including joint assets/photos/correspondence/leases, at least one interview and several more steps and this takes places over a period of many months or longer depending on the case. Denial rates

Legal Immigrants Long Long Wait For A Green Card

The NY Times recently wrote a piece talking about the struggles of the Legal Immigrant and how they feel that throughout the whole current Immigration reform debate they feel that they are the forgotten figures of the whole debate yet the most deserving of consideration in the reform. This is because collectively this a group of hundreds of thousands of people who;

  • Have faithfully followed all the US Immigration rules from prior to entering the country to obeying all laws while present in the US
  • Skew to be highly educated and thus already (and in the future) contribute most to the US overall economic prosperity benefiting all
  • Have endured already paying thousands of dollars already in US Government fees, legal fees, general compliance and travel fees to ensure their visa status remains current
  • Many have been educated in US higher education institutions so largely a full fee paying students with a top quality education particularly in the much sought after STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) professions
  • Have faithfully paid all their IRS and other tax obligations even though as a group they don’t benefit from many of the taxes they have to pay like Social Security, Medicare, Unemployment Insurance, etc.
  • Have endured separation from family members, missed weddings/funerals/etc., lived in locations that are not their first preference just so they can comply with all laws and hopefully at some stage obtain a Green Card
  • Passed up promotions, raises and better job opportunities at other other companies offered to them in the US because to do so would mean to lose their place in the long wait lines for Permanent Residency
  • Have had to have every aspect of the life scrutinized from every home move they make, to every travel entry, job transfer, marriage, private medical information, etc., to ensure constant compliance with the system
  • Not fought cases of a legal nature against them when they have been in the right (i.e. traffic, workplace complaints, rental disputes) for fear that any issue might appear on a permanent record jeopardizing their ability to continue in the Immigration process
  • For the high skilled and employed watched people jump the queue in front of them b/c of things like sham marriages, phoney asylum claims, the green card lottery
  • If from India, China, Mexico and the Philippines in particular seen their wait times stretch to 15 years and more just to move along in the process and having to keep their life on hold
  • Watch President Obama and others before him continue to give preference to Illegal Immigrants plight over their own just because of the political benefits of pursuing that action (ultimately both causes need to be addressed but the legal immigrants are usually ignored)

The full list would go on and on because the US has a system currently where only 7% of all the Green Cards issue annually (abt 140,000) go to the skilled employees which compares very unfavourably with other 1st world western nations and thus is detrimental to the US economy as a whole. So many of the major technology and other companies that sponsor Green Cards and companies that sponsor H-1B, E-3 and other work visas have been screaming for years for increases to quotas and changes to Immigration system and is hurting their ability to innovate and detrimentally effecting them vs. foreign competition.

We even a couple of years ago had an avid reader so frustrated with they system he wrote a letter to President Obama which he published as an open letter here expressing his frustration of the multi-year delays he and many people he know faces and how it leaves them leading a compromised life for years all in the vein hope that something might change.

Ultimately this is not a case of pitting legal immigrants vs. illegal immigrants plight or the folks hoping to benefit from the Dream Act, it is a plea for those in Congress and the Media and the President to stop focusing on the political point scoring with Paths to Citizenship for Illegals, Border Fence Issues, Demonizing Hispanics and focus on a group that is always ignored in public arguments. If any group deserves some focus and reform it is this group.

There is a lot to fix in US Immigration as we have identified before, however if you as person can imagine being stuck in the same job, with the same title, with the same pay, in the same city, separated from your family and friends, being forced to pay thousands of dollars continually, undergo invasive medical tests, have any marriage scrutinized, undergo repeated biometric tests, wait in constant hour long queues at consulates, having any move of apartment monitored and all the while still pursuing the dream of residency in the US, then you may have some more sympathy too.