I can’t tell you how many times my plans have changed since November 18th, 2013. I have talked to the immigration office about any and all options, I dropped $200 on my lawyer for legal advice, I’ve read U.S. Code (legal statutes) and case law in order to find loopholes, and I even seriously considered getting married despite the fact that I am not dating anyone (I might cover this whole issue and prove why this would not have been illegal in a separate post).
Monday, November 18th was the day I found out that my employer might not be able to sponsor me after my year of OPT (Optional Practical Training) and I was going to have to be proactive in order to save my job. Up until November 18th I had a plan B: I was going to apply to really good grad schools in Europe so that I would have a fallback plan if I was unable to keep my job. But now, I’d let the early admission deadline pass [by three days, mind you… talk about timing, right?] which made it more competitive to try to get into those same universities.
Honestly, I let the early admission deadline pass partly because I got lazy but mostly because I had decided that I really wanted this job.
Well, now was my time to prove it.
Given that the current problem was a work visa, and I was more acquainted with all this than my employer was, I decided to find out what the problem was and what I had to do to make it happen. From my prior research into the issue, I knew that my two best [and possibly my only two] options were an H1-B and a TN. The H1-B is the most common one and it costs about $4,000 for companies larger than 25 people. Meanwhile the TN visa is part of NAFTA and it allows Mexicans, Canadians, and Americans to work in each others countries with a lower cost than other visas. What’s the catch? Well, for the TN visa, your job title has to be on their list of ‘approved positions’ and you should have the required education/experience for the job (for example, accountant is on the list and you should have at least a bachelor’s in accounting). Here‘s the list in case you’re curious.
TN – My job title of Loan Officer was not on the list, so I couldn’t really go with the TN option (even though I did look into loopholes).
I’m not going to waste time showing that this wasn’t going to happen, it just wasn’t, trust me.
H1-B – The H1-B is the most common type of work visa that immigrants get. I’m sure if you look it up, you can find all sorts of solid information on it but I suppose I’ll just give you this link to save you some trouble (man, I hope I don’t regret linking into two government websites in one post considering all the “Big Brother” news going around lately). The position has to be a specialty occupation, which means that it has to require a bachelor’s degree or equivalent.
Believe me when I say that the story of how far I went into this visa is interesting in itself, but for this one I will just say this:
I spoke with my lawyer, my employer, and my employer’s lawyer trying to see if this was possible. My lawyer gave me the leeway to look more into it by saying “you would need to show market data that suggests your job is a specialty occupation and most people in your position have a bachelors.” I looked into it, and it reeeeaally looked like I had something going, but in the end it wasn’t going to happen either. The final shutdown was when my employer’s lawyer said “I’ve probably been doing this job longer than you’ve been alive, and I’m sorry but you’re going to have to go back to school.”
It seemed like to save my job, I was going to have to find something other than a work visa.
My HR person at work mentioned that maybe what I could do was enroll in school while I worked. It would be tough to balance a full-time job with school, but it’s not like I had many other options if I really wanted to keep this job, and I figured I could make it happen, especially if I studied something that I am interested in and that I would want to learn during my free time anyway.
Fair enough, let’s do that.
I had already been under a student visa, so as soon as I started looking into it, I was reminded of a few things:
#1: You have to be a full-time student under a student visa.
This meant that for me to take this option, I would have to enroll into another full undergraduate program and take 12 credits per semester, or enroll into a Master’s and take 9. The only way to make an exception of that is if you prove that you’re entering financial hardship and you would need to do part-time work and reduce the courseload so that you could afford everything.
#2: In order to get the student visa approved, you have to prove that you already have enough money to finance your studies.
This means that I can’t really ask for the reduced courseload in option #1 because I would have to show that I don’t have financial hardship just so I can get accepted into the program/visa.
#3: You can only work a maximum of 20hrs per week while you’re studying, and the job has to be on campus
Well, this one pretty much killed this option through-and-through and by itself. Even if I could try to work my way around this, the combination of all three would mean that I have no solid basis to enroll in school (not even JuCo) and keep my job.
So there goes that idea too. Unless I go back to school full-time which defeats the purpose of trying to save my job.
If you follow immigration news (not gonna assume you do), you’ve probably heard of Deferred Action, or DACA. This is meant for kids who were brought into this country when they were kids, and they had no intention on breaking any laws because they were so young. Therefore, they are given a break by way of a two-year permit that allows them to stay here and study/work/whatever and it can be renewed for two more years after that.
I had already looked into it a bit and was told that it wasn’t going to happen for me, but I decided to dig in deeper because this was crunch-time.
The requirements to apply for DACA are:
-Under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012
-Came to the United States before reaching your 16th birthday
-Have continuously resided in the U.S. since June 15, 2007
-Are currently in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a GED, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States
-Have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety
-Entered without inspection before June 15, 2012; or your lawful immigration status expired as of June 15, 2012
-Were physically present in the U.S. on June 15, 2012
This is where you’ll hopefully lose your shit like I did.
Guess how many of those I fulfill? … Pretty much all of them… except for the last two.
Let me translate, the only things preventing me from applying for this are the fact that I am not [and never was] illegal. I’ve been legal the whole time and I even switched to an F-1 visa in order to remain legal after my 21st birthday, which was mere months before my mom became a permanent resident (and my brother, through her).
The second requirement I don’t fulfill? Oh, I wasn’t in the country on June 15, 2012. It just so happens that I decided to study abroad the spring semester of 2012 and I stayed until late July in order to travel Europe.
Tough luck, kid.
I decided that I was sick of temporary solutions for a seemingly-permanent problem. So I was going to go for the big kahunas of permanent residency. People always say “Gosh, why don’t you just apply to become a citizen?“
Well, you can’t. Not in this country, and I’m not sure about others but I’m pretty sure you can’t do it that simply there either. The first step is to become a permanent resident (there’s definitely a difference between this and citizenship) and then you can apply for citizenship after a number of years. I knew applying for residency wasn’t simple either, but at this point the law was literally telling me: Go Big, or Go Home! [considering the fact that my legal status was going to expire in August and I’d have to go back to Mexico where I was born]
Fuck it. Here goes nothing…
I looked into the ways to get permanent residency and there are mainly three:
There are only a certain number of permanent residency spots every year, so these aren’t limitless.
I already knew the work sponsorship route was not going to happen considering that fact that I couldn’t even get a work visa, much less a permanent-residency-through-work visa.
I also knew the lottery wasn’t doable. At all. You see, the U.S. has this lottery where they give out a number of PermRes visas based on a lottery. You put your name in and maybe you get drawn out. This isn’t a regular lottery though. It’s actually pretty cool, in theory: there are a certain number of visas that are especially reserved for people from countries that don’t have a lot of immigrants in the U.S. So for example people from some really tiny and obscure African and Asian countries are able to apply for this.
Well, clearly, Mexico does not fall into this category whatsoever.
So, family sponsorship it is. The way it works is roughly: people who become permRes/citizens here can ‘petition’ to ‘bring’ a family member into the country. Priorities are given depending on the relationship of that person to the permRes/citizen, so spouses and minors come first, etc, etc and it also matters what country the person is from (i.e. if there are a lot of people in the U.S. who are from that country, the ‘wait line’ gets longer). Given that I am a son over the age of 21, from Mexico, I basically get to be in the back of the bus. Let me once again remind you that I missed out on becoming a permanent resident through my mom, as a legal dependent, because I switched my visa in March 2010 to become an international student so that I wouldn’t automatically became illegal on my 21st birthday in July… then my mom became a permRes within a few months after that.
Deadlines are deadlines, right? So if I missed out, I guess I missed out.
What this meant was that even after I looked into all the loopholes and all the possibilities, I was stuck with the “priority deadline” that I was given when my mom petitioned for me. Let’s not worry about explaining how the priority deadline works, let’s just worry about how long I will have to wait to receive permanent residency through this method. Are you ready for the magic number?
Not 19 days… or weeks, or god forbid 19 months, which would be glorious…. Oh no… Nineteen fucking years.
My lawyer and I went through all the options. All of them. And we hit one point was so ironic that it actually became funny.
After brainstorming a whole bunch and seeing that nothing worked, we were quiet for a minute until he said:
“You haven’t been a victim of a violent crime, have you?”
I answered “No” but I already knew where this was going with this.
“Hmmm… has anyone in your immediate family?”
“Unfortunately not,” I told him.
That’s how far down we were. We were literally hoping that me or a close relative of mine had been victims of a crime just so that we could apply for a refugee visa.
Excuse my French, but that is fucking low. You know things are fucked up when you are almost hoping for bad things to happen to people that you love just so you can fix your legal situation.
So finally, I decided to go right to the damn source and find out just what the hell was going on.
“I’m gonna read more goddamn legal documents”