Unfortunately, immigration in 2017 has become a highly contentious issue. We are constantly confronted with tragic stories about roundups–those who have lived in the US for many years, holding steady jobs, owning businesses, paying taxes and raising their families—who are now being deported. Those competing for the highly prized H-1B visas may be finding their opportunities threatened or curtailed. Now, as never before, a US Green Card is a prized commodity. We don’t yet know the extent of immigration reform, but there’s no question that it is more difficult to gain entry into the US and to obtain a coveted Green Card.
Immediate family members: visa numbers available, yet the process remains lengthy
At DP Legal Solutions, we work primarily with families who sponsor their immediate family members to come to the US. The US government believes in uniting families. To that end, they make visa numbers available for immediate relatives of US citizens or Green Card holders. “Immediate relatives” include spouses, unmarried children under the age of 21, and parents.
For this category of petitioners, obtaining a Green Card is still a lengthy process that involves filing detailed paperwork, a background check, a physical examination and an interview at the US embassy in the applicant’s country of origin. Petitioners here in the US are also financially responsible for the relatives they are sponsoring for Green Cards.
Numerous benefits to obtaining a Green Card
There are many benefits to obtaining a US Green Card, which is why many immigrants to the US apply for a Green Card as soon as they are eligible. Also known as permanent residency, a Green Card entitles recipients to important benefits:
- The freedom to work and live in the US permanently. With a Green Card, you can live and work in the US permanently. There are a few levels of security clearance for which only US citizens qualify, but Green Card holders can apply for virtually any job in the US, including government positions. With a Green Card, you are now able to plan for the US to become your permanent home and residence, the place where you will raise your family.
- Freedom of movement. With a Green Card, you can travel outside the US and return freely without fear of being detained or at passport control. You can travel anywhere within the US and live in the state of your choosing.
- The ability to sponsor relatives. Once you are a US Green Card holder, you are able to sponsor your relatives to get their own Green Cards, uniting your family in the US and ensuring that they have the same rights to live and work where they please.
- The ability to seek US citizenship. If you obtained your Green Card through marriage with a US citizen, you’re eligible to apply for US citizenship in three years. If you obtained your Green Card through sponsorship by another family member, the waiting period is five years. As a US citizen you have the right to vote and run for office.
- Legal rights open up. With a Green Card, an amazing number of benefits that US citizens take for granted become available. Social benefits include research grants, taxation benefits, insurance coverage, social security benefits, state sponsorship in education, research, retirement benefits and health benefits. You can also own firearms, a house, cars, and other property. Just as important, you are now able to secure financing for these high-end purchases.
- Permanent status. Nonimmigrant visas have limitations; you’re allowed a specific status for a short period of time, then you must reapply to extend your stay. With a Green Card, you do not need to worry about reapplying for your status, though you will need to renew your Green Card every ten years or so.
Merit-based immigration bill proposed by the GOP
Family-based immigrant visas could become much more difficult to acquire if the “merit-based immigration bill” proposed by Donald Trump and the Republican Party were to become law. The new system is based on points, and it would weigh each person’s age, education, ability to speak English, job qualifications, etc. The system favors those between the ages of 26 and 30 with a doctorate, English proficiency and a job offer with a high salary. The system clearly is designed to focus on those who can quickly become productive, support themselves and pay taxes. It will weed out those who require assistance with housing, language and job training as they become acclimated to life in America.
Note that Canada and Australia are now using the Merit-Based System, using a points (credits) methodology for reviewing visa qualifications.
If you’re planning to sponsor a family member for a Family-Based Immigrant Visa, we encourage you to do it ASAP
It appears that the bill, introduced by Republican senators, has failed to gain traction beyond Trump’s endorsement and is unlikely to pass Congress. But it’s not unlikely that this or some distillation of the bill will resurface. After eight months of Trump’s administration, immigration remains a highly charged issue in a volatile environment. We encourage everyone who is planning to sponsor a family member to come to the US to begin the process as soon as possible.