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Monday, June 11, 2007

Where the Grass is Greener

According to the March 2007 Annual Flow Report submitted by The Department of Homeland Security's Office of Immigration Statistics, in the year 2006, a total of 449,065 individuals were granted immigrant visas, wherein 9,539 were eligible for special immigrant status, and another 5,836,718 were granted non immigrant visas, allowing these lucky individuals to enter the United States. The report also showed that 1,266,264 became Legal Permanent Residents of the U.S., in which 65% already lived in the United States. Mexico ranks number 1 as having the most immigrants with 173,753; China comes 2nd with 87,345 and Philippines ranked 3rd with 74,607 legal permanent residents. Non-Immigrant admissions for 2005 account for 175.4 million. Since non-immigrants may enter the US multiple times a year, this figure is based on the number of arrivals rather than individuals. The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), currently known as U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), estimates that in January of 2000 there were 7 million illegal aliens living in the United States, a number that is growing by half a million a year.

So why do more and more people migrate internationally? You don’t have to come from a third world country to understand the burning desire to cross borders. The National Geographic and Travel Channels (preferably in HDTV ) open the doorway to these impoverished countries in the comfort of your own home, with the occasional plug that a dollar goes a long way to help feed and educate a child from one of these countries. All of sudden, you become more appreciative of the coca~cola you have in hand and feel a tinge of guilt for leaving the water running while you brush your teeth. While documentaries of child labor can stir your compassion, you need to have a first hand experience to truly internalize and comprehend the mindset of these individuals and why the longing to escape their brutal environment grows as their hope for a brighter future dwindles. Unlike birds migrating south to escape the bitter climate of winter, people do a mass exodus for a number of reasons, whether to flee from social or political turmoil or the prospect of an increased economic opportunity is too great to ignore. In any case, people decide to leave when conditions in their homeland are no longer satisfactory and when conditions in another are more attractive. For these people, they’d rather fight the loneliness they’ll feel while in a foreign land and take their chance to make a better living for themselves and their family, than die in a futile attempt in their own territory.

People will do just about anything to have the chance to try their luck and roam where the grass is greener, like girls on the internet, searching for their “prince charming” who will sweep them off their feet and bring them to the promised land. The US embassy is bombarded everyday with hopeful tourists, immigrants, skilled and unskilled worker applicants and only a small portion are granted a visa that will open the doors to the realization of their much awaited dreams. Some of those who are not fortunate enough, go home with sad, defeated look on their faces, not sure how to tell their loved ones that they have just been denied, while others walk out with a stronger conviction that next time lady luck will be on their side.

Others may oppose the growing number of immigrants, with claims of migrant workers taking over jobs that should otherwise be filled by local residents, increase in welfare claims and cost of immigration which the tax payers are burdened with, etc. But if our ancestors were given the opportunity to start anew on U.S. soil, why can’t others be afforded the same chance? On this note, I’d like to share a link that hopeful applicants may find useful. Although the website targets immigrants from India, the website contains general information on applying for a visa (i.e. visitor, business, H1, fiancĂ©, spouse, student) as well as applying for a green card and U.S. Citizenship. The interview preparation tips are a must read for someone applying for a visitor visa and read about other people’s consulate experiences through the discussion forum.

Here are some tips when applying for a visa and when going for an interview:

--Get information on the visa process
--Prepare your documents neatly and completely
--Prepare for the most commonly asked questions
--Arrive early for your interview
--Ask for an interpreter if you are not fluent in English. (or don’t be afraid
to ask to repeat the question if it’s unclear)
--Be physically prepared (dress nicely)
--Provide concise answers. Be confident with your answers (don’t give more
details than necessary. It may only lead to more questions)
--Communicate politely and in a comprehensive way.
--The primary goal for the interview is to verify all information presented in the application and to make sure that you have enough ties back in your home country and will come back after your visit to the United States.Documents and interview questions are a few ways through which the consulate officer tries to determine the eligibility for the visa grant.

As I always say, things happen in perfect timing. If you get denied a visa, it’s probably not the right time for you to migrate. Have faith that God (whoever you believe to be your God is) has only good plans for you and being denied a visa could only mean that something better may come your way. If you are one of the few lucky ones, remember to give thanks for your good fortune and share your blessings with others! Good luck and Godspeed!

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