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Have you ever wondered how legal immigrants are treated by the US???

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MARY KAY PIC

My friend and neighbor, Linda, has been stuck in the UK for over the past two months. Now, don’t get me wrong, the UK is Linda’s homeland and she dearly loves it, but she has lived in Florida for the last six years and considers this to be her  home now. Tragedy struck in mid-August and she had to fly ‘home’ to England because her mother unexpectedly died. She has been staying with her father there for the past two months, and because of all the bureaucratic–let’s call it baloney for politeness sake–she hasn’t been able to come back home to the United States. I wonder if this seems as peculiar to you as it does to me? Let her explain her story in her own words. This visa she’s working so hard to acquire has remained relatively unchanged for the past 140 years. Could this possibly be an outdated document and process? Hmm…you be the judge.

Once you arrived in the UK, how did your husband start the process of getting you back to the US?

Once I arrived in the UK, my husband had to take  our 300+ page visa renewal application pack to the attorney, and once she did her bit, my husband had to ‘autosign’ the online paperwork which was submitted to the embassy in London, the attorney then FedEXed the 300+ page pack to London.  They then examined the paperwork, finding it in order,  gave us a choice of interview dates, which occurred two months after I arrived in the UK.

How did you feel being away from Florida, your husband, and your kids who are attending college?

I really missed Florida and the longer I stayed in the UK, the more I realized I wouldn’t be coming back soon, even though my father still lives here. Next year I will have to do the same visa renewal application for my kids who are attending college in Florida. (another 300+page application)  The Midlands people I grew up with are lovely, but it’s just that I have grown away from the UK and the US is my home. I like the fact my kids have a life not centered around pubs and drinking because there is more family-oriented entertainment in Florida.

I’m pleased to have my neighbor, and one of my best friends, posting today on immigration issues in the US and the difficulties experienced by a UK citizen who has been trying to settle in the US with her family for the past six years. This is what happened when I suffered the unfortunate loss of my mother and had to make an emergency flight to the UK.

Thank you, Linda, but when you say ‘stuck’ in the UK, could you explain what that means?

The E2 Investor Visa can take 2 forms … the application and renewal done through Washington – with the advantage of not having to leave the US and our business to renew, as we can just submit the same documentation submitted to the US Embassy in London.  The disadvantage is that we have to do the renewal every 2 years and we are landlocked, meaning we can leave the USA, but it’s incredibly difficult to  get back into the country.  If the renewal is done through the US Embassy in London (called change of status) then we’d have the ability to fly into and out of the USA at will, and renewal is usually every 5 years.  The disadvantage is that we’d have to leave the USA and do the renewal with a US Embassy in another country … some Brits do their 2nd and subsequent renewals through the US Embassy in Canada or even Mexico.  If we did this, we’d have to allow up to 2 weeks away from our business, our adopted home, and friends while the visa renewal is processed.  If there are any issues or hiccups, then it can take up to 6 months to sort out, which means 6 months away from the business and home … and in our case…our children.

Since you have a family, home, and business back in the US, so why couldn’t you just ‘fly’ back to the States? 

Because the Washington Visa states there is no entry back into the USA on departure.  Why?  I cannot tell you as the immigration experts and attorneys cannot answer this question satisfactorily. Why the same visa should be so restrictive in one way and not in another is a mystery.

You mentioned to me that this visa you have has remained virtually unchanged for the past 140 years. How long is this visa? What kind of questions do they ask on it?

It depends on the Embassy … and some countries are now restricted to annual renewals, making it almost impossible for these visaholders to run their business in the US.  In the UK the initial applications are usually valid for 2 years.  The person must identify the  business he/she wishes to buy and own,  make a minimum investment … usually no less than $20,000 … where we invested 10 times more than that.  We were required keep a property in our home country, as the visa states that once we’ve finished business in the USA (even if it’s 50 years of having a business) we have to leave the USA.  We have associates who have had their visa renewal refused after 30 years of living and owning a business in the USA, because of the recession and them not making as much as immigration stipulates they should have done … the fact that they were still paying taxes and employing US citizens – who were then subsequently ‘let go’ – made no difference and these people had to pack up their belongings, try to sell their business, home, find homes for their pets, and leave the country.  They were given 90 days in which to do this. These legal immigrants aren’t even allowed to retire in the US, even though mandatory social security contributions are deducted from their salaries.

Now this seems exceptionally harsh and unfair to immigrants who have worked hard and have come to this country legally. Is there any legislation in process to make things more equitable for legal immigrants?

The feeling is E2 investor visaholders are the forgotten and untold side of the immigration story. A group of Democrats from the House have introduced an Immigration Bill. If you’re interested in viewing it, I’ve left links below.

You had to get an attorney to help with your papers, is that a very expensive process?

We chose using an attorney because we felt the process would go smoother. It’s not cheap because we paid per applicant,  just doing it for my husband and myself at the moment.  So the whole process from attorney fees, Embassy fees and air fare comes to at least $4000 because  Phil had to organize a suitable flight back to the UK to be present at our interview at the Embassy.

Now you will have to go through this expensive process again next year for your kids?

We’re not changing our kids visa since they are in college and we don’t want to disrupt their education at the moment … but we will have to go through this process again for them in February 2014.  Especially for our son who will turn 21 in June 2014 and will lose his visa status.  To enable him to continue his studies, we’ll have to apply for an F1 International Student Visa.  The advantage is it allows him to continue his college education, and also look for a job (which he’s not able to do at this time because the children of E2 Investor Visaholders are not allowed to work, unlike their illegal counterparts who are now protected by the Dreamer’s Act.  The disadvantage of him having an International Student visa is that we will then have to pay out-of-state tuition fees, even though we have, and will continue to live in the state for the foreseeable future.

If given the chance, would you become a citizen of the US?

Of course we would since this is our home, we already pay taxes, our kids are going through the educational system, we employ US citizens, and we would like to invest even more in our business, employ more US citizens, and also look at investing in a 401K.  However, we can only plan for 2 – 5 years at a time.

You have a business in Florida and you also are very much a part of the St. Cloud community. Could you discuss some of your contributions to Florida and the city of St. Cloud?

We love our adopted hometown and chose St Cloud because it was a real town, and not a vacation area, and the schools more closely represented the ethos we were looking for.  I am a member of the St Cloud Business Exchange, a leads group of the St Cloud Chamber of Commerce.  Through this institution, I have been and will continue to be a volunteer for the St Cloud Xmas Parade – if you recall I roped you in as a volunteer one year. (yes, I recall)  I volunteer at the St Cloud Life Expo each March and usually the annual Oktoberfest. I am  a member of the Banquet Committee.  I am  a licensed realtor.  I am also involved with Oasis Youth Campus (a rehabilitation center for youngsters from across Osceola County, recovering from drug and alcohol addictions). My son spent many hours as a volunteer at St Cloud Hospital and Gives Kids the World and my daughter is also a volunteer at Give Kids the World and now that she has turned 18 she is able to volunteer at the local Animal Control Center … and I will join her with that.

Gee, Linda, is that all you do? LOL! I’m a natural born citizen, and I wish I did half so much!

Are there any groups that can be contacted in order to change these seemingly unfair immigration practices?

To be honest with you E2 Investor Visaholders have a great deal of difficulty in voicing their issues, as we are of little interest to most senators because we are non-voters so ‘non-people’ … but with over 100,000 investor visa holders bringing in billions of dollars of investment and income, we should be treated better.  We do have the support of more senators each year … Senator Marco Rubio being our most recent ally, especially as one of his best friends is an E2 Investor Visaholder.  I am a member of the E2 Investor Visaholder Reform Organization, whose co-founder and most tireless campaigner, Zoe Adams, has managed to get a toehold into many ‘closed doors’, but it has taken 7 years of constant and consistent campaigning.  We had been told that E2 investor visa holders would be included in the current Immigration reform bill, but the this possibility becomes more remote as other issues push us onto the back burner.

What are your goals as legal immigrants trying to become citizens?

All E2 investor visaholders wish for is a fair chance.  We invest in businesses, we employ US citizens, we pay taxes and assimilate into our adopted country – all we ask is that in return we are given a ‘line in the sand’ whereby we can have the security offered other visaholders … a specific timescale and requirements to enable us to apply for a Green Card and to call the USA home!

Thank you so much for sharing. This is the happy part where I can say that after 2 1/2 months and $10,000 later, you are now back home in Florida with your family where you so rightfully belong!

I realize this is quite long for a post, but I think these issues are important for all of us to know about, even if we might not understand it all to the fullest. Thanks so much for stopping by! Below are some links if you’re interested in checking this immigration issue out further.

 

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2013/10/02/house-democrats-introduce-separate-immigration-bill/

Below is a summary of the bill:

http://chu.house.gov/sites/chu.house.gov/files/documents/House%20Immigration%20Bill%20Summary%2010-02-13.pdf/

Below are some links on the bill for E2 Investor Visaholders

http://e2visareform.org/e2visareform.org/Welcome.html

and these are the Links for the YouTube pages

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wsCa1mG1pHc

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2rxDNbzRhrw

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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