After the Green Card post, NavajoKeti mentioned that her Nepali bf was born in the US so luckily they don’t need to deal with all these frustrating immigration hurdles, and it reminded me of a story.
One of our Indian friends is currently in the process of getting her Green Card. Out of the five people in her family, she was the last to make it to the Green Card/Citizenship chapter.
When her parents were a young married couple, her father came to the US as a graduate student. After some time her mother had a baby, her first child, my friend’s elder sister. Since her child was born in the US the baby was automatically an American citizen.
A few years after that, her mother was pregnant again. Perhaps being a bit nostalgic for home, she decided, “I already have my American baby, but I would really like to have an Indian baby.” So she traveled back to India to be with her family and have her second child, our friend. Due to her birth in India, our friend had Indian and only Indian citizenship. Once the baby was old enough to travel and had all the visa documents needed, our friend’s mother traveled back to America—American baby and Indian baby in tow.
Eventually her father finished his program/work in the United States and the entire family moved back to India, where several years later their final child, our friend’s younger brother, was born. A second Indian baby.
This is where my details in the story get a bit hazy, but somewhere along the line the family was able to apply for Green Cards (I think through her father’s work, even though they were still in India). At the time our friend was in college back in the US, and was already on an F-1 student visa. Even though her parents submitted the paperwork for her to be included on the family’s Green Card, she “timed out” of being able to apply with the family because she turned 21 and was no longer considered a “minor” and had to be put in a different Green Card category (unmarried child, not a minor) with a much much longer wait. Her younger brother, as the younger child, didn’t “time out” and was able to get his Green Card along with his parents.
So now the family had 1 American Citizen, 3 Permanent Residents, and 1 Indian Baby.
Of course life in the US without citizenship or a Green Card feels more precarious. Certainly lots of people are in this category, but to know you could have had citizenship or potentially a Green Card probably feels a bit unfair (although I am certainly adlibbing her potential feelings). Instead she had to worry about applying for her F-1 student OPT work authorization in order to be eligible to work, finding a job that would be willing to sponsor an H1B work visa, and the stress of the economic crisis where people were losing jobs left and right—there are no “grace periods” with H1B, technically if you lose your job, you lose your H1B status immediately unless the company makes some sort of provision for you in your compensation package, and without status, you are illegal in the US or you have to leave the US immediately.
Luckily our “Indian baby” friend weathered all the storms, and relatively recently had a visa number for her Green Card become available after years and years of waiting. She has been able to start the process, which again could be lengthy, but at least she is in the queue.
It’s kind of interesting to think though that most of this stemmed from her mother’s nostalgic idea of having an “Indian baby.” I’m sure 30 years ago people didn’t necessarily think about immigration repercussions in the same way.