Doing it the Right Way
By Sarah Jones
People often say things like, “they can be here; they just need to do it ‘the right way.’ ” One misconception about the process of legal immigration is that it’s an accessible, viable option for everyone. Becoming a legal U.S. citizen is actually tedious, extremely time consuming and expensive.
According to the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services website, you must follow numerous steps to become legal. First, you must obtain permanent residency through a green card. This can be done through the family, job, or refugee or asylee status. There are other specific cases such as an American Indian born in Canada, Cuban Native, or Victim of Trafficking, to name a few. Once someone has been a permanent resident for five years, then the process of naturalization can begin. This process includes an exam which has English, US History and Civics categories. So, even if someone is able to obtain a green card effortlessly, and is able to take the naturalization process right when they need to, which is highly unlikely, the process will still take at least five years.
A professional athlete, Pablo Infante, talks about his trials in becoming legal. “I have been trying to become a citizen for seven years now,” he says. He describes the process of first coming to the US with a tourist visa. “Just to get that I had to apply and then wait three months before even being allowed to set up an interview. The interview itself was about $100 and the phone call made to set up the interview cost money too; they have a special phone number that you pay to call.” They asked him for documents such as his Mexican Passport, his parents’ passports, proof of residency, and proof of employment. There of course is no guarantee of getting the visa after all that, but he was lucky enough to be granted his tourist visa.
He explained that, “the next step is obtaining a work visa”. He met with his first lawyer, who basically said he needed to be “some sort Michael Jordan to get a visa as an athlete.” He then met with a second lawyer who was willing to help him out a little more. His lawyer walked him through the process and they submitted a work visa application. After waiting several months, he called to check on the status and the immigration office informed him that they lost all his paperwork and he needed to start over again. “By this point I had been with Kristie for over three years, and had already proposed,” he said, “we were just waiting to get married until after I got my green card, because I didn’t want anyone to assume I married her for any other reason than love.” Because the process took forever, they ended up getting married.
In order to get his green card on the basis of marriage, he and his spouse had to attend meetings to prove their relationship. They brought in bank statements, bills, Costco memberships, wedding pictures, receipts from dates they had been on, Valentines cards they had given each other, just about every piece of paper they had that could prove they were a real couple. The immigration office did believe that they were a real couple and said they just need to run a background check before anything else could move forward. This happened months ago, and they are still waiting for his name to be cleared. His lawyer informed him that this process can take anywhere from a few months up to a couple years.