Help with emigration of German best friend to the US
February 28, 2010 7:27 PM   Subscribe

My German-citizen best friend and I have been talking about him emigrating to the US for a few years now, and now that he's about to graduate from college, we're getting serious about it. So far, it looks like the best route is a graduate degree program, but money is a problem with that (namely, he doesn't have any). This doesn't have to be exclusively how he gets here, we're open to any suggestions.

He's not picky about how he gets here, and he'll have a place to live (the two of us moving in together isn't an issue, financially or otherwise), but it's just getting him here that's the problem. He's about to graduate with a Bachelors in Journalism and Media Management, with emphasis on the Media Management end of that degree.

The long-term goal of this is naturalization, and we're both open to help from any direction, whether it's advice for financial aid or loans for graduate school, help finding companies in the southern California area that are hiring, or anything at all, really. We're just trying to find a way for him to come here to stay.
posted by Punkey to Law & Government (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
How many languages does he speak? He should probably look for jobs that capitalize on that skill: translating, international media, tourism (if he speaks several languages this is a really good option) etc.

imho, going to graduate school for any reason other than a burning interest in the subject and without a post-grad career already mapped out is madness. Why take on the debt?
posted by fshgrl at 9:43 PM on February 28, 2010

You school probably has a career center (which may be able to put you in touch with alumni who could help with a job, among other things) and an international students' office. Be sure you exploit the hell out of both of these resources, in addition to whatever you get here.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:52 PM on February 28, 2010

Immigration laws in the US are very complicated. Your best bet is to consult with an immigration lawyer about options for your friend.
posted by dfriedman at 12:17 AM on March 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Seconding consult with an immigration lawyer. I just had my naturalization interview going the other direction, from the US to France. And I've lived here (France) for 11 years.

In general, countries know full well that someone coming over on a student visa could stay longer, and they complicate things for people who try to do that.

You really need to consult with an immigration lawyer. These things are very complicated, and what you can find on the internet will only give you half the story — there's a lot of "inside knowledge" that you generally only discover once you're on the wrong end of it.

Also, since a previous commenter suggested it, know that at least in the field of translation, freelancing is the norm (I was a freelance translator for 8 years, have a global network, so I know this from the inside). Your friend knows how health care/insurance works in the US, I hope? Especially as regards freelancers?
posted by fraula at 12:49 AM on March 1, 2010

What kind of grad program? fshgrl is right, but it might be slightly less crazy if he could get into a program that guarantees funding. I think this is pretty common in the humanities - funding isn't much, but I know several people who have done/are doing grad school without taking on new debt.
posted by phisbe at 8:21 AM on March 1, 2010

He should apply for a Diversity Visa --ie the visa lottery. It's free and as a Westerner his chances are very good (1 in 6 or so).
posted by costas at 9:13 AM on March 1, 2010

Even if he gets into a graduate program, that's no path to naturalization by itself. You can only naturalize after 5 years of legal resident status, AND a permanent resident visa*. Which, in practical terms, (unless he gets married to a US citizen in the mean time) probably means an employer-sponsored employment-based green card. That means AFTER he graduates an employer would have to sponsor a temporary work visa for him, then apply for a Green Card on his behalf (which is a ~2 year process for people with graduate degrees). That's a lot of long-term investment by the employer - I don't know how likely that is in his field of work - and in any case a lot of unknowns.

He may want to get a graduate degree in the US, and he may want to move here, but those two things are, for the most part, two separate things. Having a graduate degree puts him on a "faster" track for the Green Card, and having a US graduate degree makes puts him in a fast track for a temporary work visa, as well as making it easier to get a job at an employer that will sponsor him, but for immigration purposes, at the end of it he'll still be just "an alien with a US degree applying for an employment-based visa".

*There's some confusion here around the reading for these conditions. The current official reading is that you need 5 years of legal permanent resident status, so your friend would only be able to naturalize 5 years after obtaining a Green Card (which on the other hand would be ~2 years after graduating).
posted by qvantamon at 2:34 PM on March 1, 2010

By the way, I think a 2 year graduate degree then applying for "faster track" visas is still slightly faster than coming with a college degree. There's currently a shortage of college degree H1-Bs (they run out of slots on the first day applications open, and there is a lottery to pick among those that arrived on that first day, and the Green Card process for college graduates is something like 5 years. It also reduces the amount of time he has to remain with a sponsor employer.

(After writing this I noticed this comes off a little too discouraging/pessimist - I'm not saying he shouldn't try, I'm just trying to give a reality check - immigration is a bitch, and immigration to the US is WAY more so.)
posted by qvantamon at 2:48 PM on March 1, 2010

Response by poster: We're both well aware of the difficulties, this is just a "collecting ideas" question. If getting a graduate degree in Germany is the best way, or in the US, or working until he can find a company willing to sponsor, or simply working until he hits the Diversity Lottery, that's what we'll be working towards.
posted by Punkey at 10:30 PM on March 1, 2010

Response by poster: It's just that it's a big thing to try to do, and we're trying to knock down the uncertainty, fill in our knowledge so we can make a plan of action.
posted by Punkey at 10:31 PM on March 1, 2010

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