Wednesday, May 24, 2006

How Legal Immigration Works

While 12 million non-deportable illegal immigrants wait for their amnesty, here – based on my own experience – is how Brit nuclear physicists, brain surgeons, rocket scientists, etc. are faring in their attempts to enter the US.

They might start - as I did before college - by visiting the US as a tourist under the visa waiver program. At their port of entry, they’ll be photographed and fingerprinted – to ensure they don’t overstay the allotted maximum of 90 days.

After graduating, they might visit on business – my first was as a customer of a US company. For that they’ll need a B-1 visa, which will cost $100 and a visit to the US Embassy in London for an interview with the INS. You have to be patient:
The average Appointment Wait Time for all non-immigrant visa categories is generally 30 to 40 days.
At the interview they’ll be photographed and fingerprinted. The application should be processed in 3 days, so their stamped passport should arrive about a week after the interview.

To actually work in the US, they’ll need an H1B visa, which allows a US company to employ an alien for up to 6 years. The catch is that numbers are limited - just 65,000 of them worldwide this year, plus you have to be a professional:
The H1B visa is designed to be used for staff in "speciality occupations", that is those occupations that require a high degree of specialized knowledge.

Generally at least the equivalent of a job-relevant 4-year US Bachelor's degree is required (this requirement can usually be met by having a 3-year degree and 3 years' relevant post-graduate experience).
To get the H1B needs more form-filling, affidavits to back the forms up, and an interview at the US embassy in London. The company employing you may also have to jump through hoops:
...certain employers, called 'H1B dependent employers' to advertise positions in the USA before petitioning to employ H1B workers for those positions.

H1B dependent employers are defined as those having more than 15% of their employees in H1B status (for firms with over 50 employees – small firms are allowed a higher percentage of H1B employees before becoming 'dependent').

In addition all new H1B petitions and 1st extensions of H1B's now require a fee (in addition to the usual filing fees) of US$1,000 to be paid, which will be used to fund a training programme for resident US workers.
Finally, after you’ve worked in the US, and paid your taxes, you may want – as I did - to normalize your status by applying for a Green Card. i.e. an Immigrant Visa. Assuming you don’t marry an American, or have family members who are US citizens, you might think of entering the Green Card Lottery - but you can't if you're a Brit:
For this year's DV-2007, natives of the following countries are not eligible to apply because they sent a total of more than 50,000 immigrants to the U.S. in the previous five years: Canada, China (mainland-born), Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haita, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Pakistan, Philippines, Poland, Russia, South Korea, United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland which is eligible) and its dependent territories, and Vietnam.
So that leaves an employment-based Green Card:
EB-1 These visas are designed for certain multinational executives and managers; outstanding professors and researchers; and those who have extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics

EB-2 This category is for foreign nationals professionals with an 'advanced degrees' (masters degree or higher) and with a job offer from a U.S. company; for foreign nationals with 'exceptional ability' in the sciences, business or arts and with a job offer from a U.S. company; and for foreign nationals with exceptional ability, or an advanced degree, who can show that their activities will substantially benefit the U.S. national interest

EB-3 This category is for 'professional workers' with a U.S. bachelor's or foreign equivalent degree and with a job offer from a U.S. company; for 'skilled workers' for positions that require at least two years of training or experience and with a job offer from a U.S. company; for 'unskilled workers' for positions that require less than two years training or experience and with a job offer from a U.S. company.
When I applied for Mrs G’s and mine I’d been CEO of a US company and paying taxes in the US for years, and the process was much the same as the other visas. However you need an immigration attorney to deal with all the forms, and help you provide (as my attorney put it) “proof that you won’t throw yourself on the ample bosom of the US welfare state”. You and any family members accompanying you must take a full medical exam, and this plus wait time and interviews will take a full working day. I don’t have current costs, but mine cost multiple thousands of dollars and many days of prep. Plus I had to apply in the UK, even though I was at the time based in California.

The above procedures are probably similar to those Americans go through to visit the UK.

However in the US you now have the alternative of avoiding all of the above by flying to Mexico City, paying $1,000 to a smuggler to get you into the US (they don’t bill you until you’ve actually made it), and waiting for the next amnesty.

I wouldn’t recommend this if you’re a professional, since your employer is much more likely to obey the law regarding employing illegals than the average Republican-contributing day-labor outfit.

The net of all this is that the US has set high barriers to entry for English-speaking high achievers, and low barriers to entry for non-English-speaking low achievers.

From which it follows that the US Congress seeks an electorate of low-achievers.

Funny that.