Quest for US Permanant Residency: The Story So Far

My wife and I, both Canadian citizens, came to the U.S. in January of 1999 when I was offered a position at Princeton University. We came down under the NAFTA visa, as it was the quickest way to get into the country, and Princeton’s intention has always been to work toward our permanant residency. Seven years later, and we’re still waiting, and the way things look, it could very well be another seven. Here’s where we are.

The first step was for Princeton to sponsor me for an H-1B visa, which happened within the first year we were here. After that, it was a waiting game, and it was never really clear to me where the hold-up was. It seemed like it was Princeton dragging their heels (and I think that was the bulk of it), but there could have been other factors. You would think that during the 5+ years following the H-1B that someone would have said something, but it was mostly silence.

Finally, in eary 2005, things started happening: Princeton actually hired a law firm specializing in immigration law to go ahead with my green card application. Things started promisingly enough, but in a wait for some legislation to pass, most of 2005 was again spent waiting. Toward the end, the information necessary for step one, labour ceritification, was compiled, and again, things seemed to be progressing. That, however, was short-lived due to the back-log of labour cert. applications, and it was necessary to get me back on the NAFTA visa in order for me to stay and work in the country.

Fast-forward to now: a few weeks ago, we had a conference call with the lawyers, which basically revealed that while the labour certification back-log had been cleared, the problem simply transferred to the next step: the actual green card process, and that if immigration reform legislation doesn’t go through, it could take another 5 years to get to me.

Well, it now appears we’re in for some, if not all, of that wait as the immigration bill fell apart last week. The focus in the media was all on the so-called “blue card” for illegal immigrants, but included in that were also the steps neccessary to get the green card process moving again. I think this is enough of an issue that it’s not just going to go away, so I don’t think it’s going to take the worst-case 5 years, but it’s not looking like anything is going to happen in my case this calendar year.

In the grand scheme of things, it’s not a huge deal – I can keep reapplying for my TN every year – but permanant residency would give me more flexibility in terms of doing some outside consulting, as well as switching jobs, should I ever want to do that.

Stay tuned for updates as they happen (but feel free to do other things while you’re waiting – it could be some time…).