My last night post about our immigration status did not really convey the feeling of relief we felt (and still feeling). Our four years journey of emigrating to the U.S. started with me getting an American company to employ me from the U.K. Sound easy right? Not until you realise there are strict federal labour laws that requires the company in question to prove that they can’t find American to fulfil the vacancy and that it is a specialised occupation. Lots of paperwork involved, not to mention the actual relocation of me to New York. This got me the H1-B work visa which entitled me to stay and work for that company, and that company alone, for two years. After which I can apply for another two years extension.
However, another immigration law allows me to apply for “adjustment of status” after I’ve been working in the States for a year. This “adjustment of status” means that I applied to change my immigration status from a work visa status to a permanent residency status. This entails getting a certification from the Department of Labour and that took over a year. Then we had to submit all of our original legal documentation (birth certificates, passports, marriage certificate, etc.) along with a battery of medical tests. After that, it was just plain old waiting for another year. By now, three years into the process we were then asked to provide our fingerprints to the DOJ. Then back to waiting.
(See the theme here? We did a lot of waiting with no news of the case progress. And since the adjustment of status case is for myself only Leah and I were forced to consider getting married before our permanent residency application so it will include Leah.)
Remember that through out this process, and until autumn of last year, I was not able to change employer because I was still in the work visa status. This means I am tied to this employer which I was not happy with for awhile. And if I were made redundant then it is back to the U.K. for me. No reprieve, no grace period. Even after we received the letters from INS acknowledging our application of Permanent Residency and that I can change employer as I wish, it is still uncertain whether we can reside in the U.S. permanently. If INS denied our application that also means bye bye U.S., hello U.K.
But now that we are granted our permanent residency and that means we will be able to plan our lives longer than 6 months, 9 months, or 1 year into the future. We can think more about long term plans; moving to another apartment, may be get a car, Leah to go back to school and get a career, etc.
I joked to my colleagues at work that my broad shoulders are not due to my exercise in the gym, they are due to the huge weight I feel on my shoulders all these years 🙂 And now that the weight has been lifted I probably will get muscular dystrophy!
I was chatting to one of my friend over IM last night. He is a British expat living in New Zealand. Although he may not mean it that way, he belittled our effort in getting permanent residency in the U.S. He felt that getting permanent residency in N.Z. which took 6 months, and citizenship in 2-3 years is as difficult as us getting our residency. I, being tactful self that I am, did not mention that the U.S. has the toughest immigration laws in the world and it took us 4 years just to get residency (and another 5-8 years from now to get our citizenship if we want). But then, that’s why we are in the U.S. and he is in N.Z.
On a lighter note, may be when we becomes U.S. citizens in 5-8 years time we will be able to vote Hillary Clinton for President? 🙂