Immigrants Face Red Tape in Obtaining Visas
By: Karen Smith, BOILA legal intern and third-year law student at American University
Photo Credit: The Republican | Michael S. Gordon
Immigrants who wish to obtain visas for the first time, renew their visas, or change their immigration statuses often face difficulties in dealing with the United States immigration system. The Immigration Policy Center attributes the problems in part to the current structure of the system. It gives the example of employment based visas and argues that the cap on the amount of visas that may be allocated each year, as well as the inability of a temporary worker to change his or her status and obtain permanent employment visas, does not give employers the flexibility they need to hire immigrants to fill in openings in the United States labor market. The Center’s report also cited backlogs in processing and rigid bureaucratic procedure as another problem.
Baijun Li, and his wife, Xi Wang, serve as real examples of how these problems impact lawful immigrants. The Chinese couple came to the United States on temporary visas twelve years ago, and their story was recently documented in the news. They attempted to get their green cards so they could stay in the United States permanently, but their applications were denied. Bajijun Li was laid off from his job and was unable to qualify for a green card because he did not have a permanent job offer in the United States. USCIS did not believe that Xi Wang, a famous professional dancer in China, possessed the “extraordinary ability” that would qualify her for a green card under the Immigration and Nationality Act. They have appealed the decision on Xi Wang’s application, but even if it is approved, they will have to go through a long waiting period before their green cards are issued.
Baijun Li has an advanced degree in chemistry and has used his knowledge in his work with manufacturing plants, but this was ignored when his application for a green card was under consideration. Similarly, USCIS rejected the contribution that Xi Wang could make to the arts in the United States with her dancing talents when it denied her application. The couple said that it seemed unfair that a person whom they did not even know had the authority to decide their future. They also said they disliked having to spend hours filling out paperwork and listening to automated recordings on the phone, rather than being able to work with a real person to get their applications processed.
Since their temporary visas will expire soon, Baijun Li and Xi Wang may be forced to return to China even though they have spent a considerable part of their lives in the United States and their daughter was born in the United States. If immigration policy consistently allowed transition between temporary work visas and permanent employment visas, they would be able to stay in the United States, assuming that at least one of them received a job offer. Instead, current policy prohibits most temporary worker visa holders from transitioning to permanent visas. Due to the high demand for visas and limited resources, applications are often approved or denied without any communication between applicants and the officials in charge of their applications, and applicants have to endure long waiting times while their applications are being processed, as this couple’s story illustrates.
It is the hope of the employees at Beach-Oswald that stories like Baijun Li and Xi Wang’s will make more people aware that reform of our immigration system is needed. We feel that every immigrant’s background and unique abilities should be considered when they apply for immigration relief.