Helping a colleague on a path to permanent residency
March 3, 2015 3:53 AM   Subscribe

How can I help my very qualified colleague get through the US immigration maze?

I work as a molecular biologist at a multinational, Fortune 500, heavily R&D company. A group of about 15 of us started work at this company when our small company was acquired. A colleague and friend was part of this acquisition with me. He is a Brazilian citizen and currently in the US on a J2 visa with employment authorization. This expires in May 2015.

It seems to me that he is doing everything right, and yet he has received no good news as far as advancing his application for a green card. His petition for a green card under the EB2/National Interest waiver was replied to with a "Request for Evidence." He has an immigration lawyer and is working with our HR department on a response to the Request for Evidence, as well as an Outstanding Researcher application.

I would like to know what I can do as a US citizen and colleague to help with this. Which offices and types of representatives is it worthwhile to contact about this? What else can I do?

Other details:
• He earned a PhD in the US through a J1 visa.
• He is married to a fellow Brazilian citizen (who works at a state university on a J1 visa). They have a child who was born in the US and so is a citizen.
• I would be happy to vouch for a "this isn't taking jobs from US citizens because very few people can do it" sort of thing. My own background can look semi-impressive on paper, if that will help.
• His first shot at the H-1B visa lottery (as a fallback) was unlucky.

Since his J2 visa expires in May 2015, if his response and further application are denied, his time for an alternative will be very limited. How can I as a colleague, US citizen, and friend help? Thank you!
posted by Jorus to Law & Government (8 answers total)
You can advise him to get a better lawyer.

He is the custodial parent of minor US citizen - and he is an exceptional alien (an immigrant with a skill set likely to contribute to economic growth, ie. PhD molecular biologist). His lawyer should be able to resolve this.

As a colleague, citizen, and friend - I am not sure there is much you can do.
posted by Flood at 4:28 AM on March 3, 2015 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Other US citizens have very little influence on the process - you contacting DHS or anyone else in charge of the application will have little impact. DHS will provide explicitly what they are looking for in their Request for Evidence.

If he already has an immigration lawyer assisting him in this process, that would be the first and likely most important step, as there is someone familiar with the process who will be able to tell him what sort of evidence and background documents he'll need to get.

Things you can do:
* Offer yourself up to your colleague as a potential person who can write an affidavit of support or some other written declaration if he needs one, as determined by his attorney.
* If he finds that HR is slow to assist in some way, perhaps you could, if you find you may have more influence, gently inquire on his behalf.
* Ensure that he's spoken to his attorney as to what his options are if he does not receive an approved application by the deadline. There should be options available; just because the J2 visa expires it doesn't mean his chances of getting a green card are dashed, but it may mean he will have to exit the country for some time while he continues with his green card application. There may also be alternative avenues for him to get other sorts of visas to reenter the country to make up that gap.
* A little investigation of the attorney he's working with to ensure that he's an actual attorney and doesn't have any significant black marks against him may also help.
posted by Karaage at 4:30 AM on March 3, 2015

Best answer: A bit over a year ago myy husband got a green card through the EB2 - National Interest Waiver category (and so did I, as his wife), so here's our two bits after going through the process.

The EB2 - National Interest Waiver category is also known as a self-sponsored visa, because rather than your company or a university sponsoring the green card, your colleague is sponsoring himself. In that sense, the HR department can only help smooth the way, but essentially he is on his own. As a US citizen, there is not much you can do either, except if you are a big name in your colleague's field.

We had an excellent lawyer, whose name I'd be happy to provide if you MeMail me. She first reviewed my husband's credentials (CV), publication record, number of citations. At this point she either offers a guaranteed green card, meaning that she will refund her entire fee for $4500 if the green card is not obtained (if the credentials are impressive enough), or says that she can't guarantee the green card, because she feels that the client doesn't quite make the grade. She would still proceed if you want to in the second case, but with no offer of a refund. We were told that she would guarantee that my husband would get a green card, as long as he followed the process she outlined.

Next, she asked for the names of referees, big people in the field who could vouch for husband's "extraordinary contributions" to the field. To do this you have to write letters to each potential referee, asking if they would be willing to vouch for you. Note that it really doesn't make a difference if the referee is a US citizen or not, all that matters is that they are a big name in the field. She asked for 4-8, we provided 8. She also asked for a detailed description of the research my husband did. Using this detailed description, the lawyer's team wrote customized letters for each referee (they were surprisingly good at this), which my husband then edited, and asked each referee to sign, provided they agreed with what was written. (The letters were ridiculous, in that they used over-the-top language that no researcher would use about their own work, but there seems to be a tacit acceptance by everyone, including the big-name referees, that this is what works.) These letters were then sent in to the immigration authorities, as part of the evidence wanted in the Request for Evidence.

Here is where you could come in. If you are a big name in the field that your colleague works in, you could reach out to him and say that you are willing to sign a letter in his support. But this would only be useful if you could honestly say that you are more qualified than your colleague, since for this visa category, they only care whether other important people in the field your colleague works in thinks he's outstanding or not. Otherwise, there's really not much you can do.

We got a Request for More Evidence as a first response to the application. The lawyer just polished things up a bit, altered the wording somewhat, and sent it in again, and this time it was accepted. So your colleague might be fine, there's not necessarily more that he (or you) could do.
posted by peacheater at 4:51 AM on March 3, 2015 [6 favorites]

I also wanted to note that if you are a big name in your colleague's field, you shouldn't feel offended if your colleague did not reach out to you for a letter. Our lawyer told us that preferred referees were those unrelated to my husband, in the sense that he had never worked with them on anything. Of his 8 referees, 1 was his PhD thesis advisor, 3 did not work at the same institution as him, but had collaborated with him on papers and 4 he had only met at conferences and had never directly collaborated with.
posted by peacheater at 5:10 AM on March 3, 2015

Echo other's comments about getting a better lawyer. This does not sound like an overly complex case.

Different immigration attorneys seem to work in different styles and on different timetables. It's necessary to meet with a few before you can find one who strikes the right balance between caution vs. getting results quickly.

If the attorney seems to be taking too long or making the case overly complicated, that is a bad sign and it's time to find someone else, IMO.
posted by amy27 at 5:26 AM on March 3, 2015

Yeah, one thing to ask is if your colleague's lawyer specializes in EB2-NIW cases. Ours did and that's very important as the lawyer has to know how to make the dry academic details sound compelling to the immigration authorities.
posted by peacheater at 5:39 AM on March 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: It seems to me that he is doing everything right, and yet he has received no good news as far as advancing his application for a green card. His petition for a green card under the EB2/National Interest waiver was replied to with a "Request for Evidence."

But... in how long? USCIS is slow, if generally not as slow as INS was. Just glancing, it looks like your colleague would have sent it to the Dallas field office, which is right now working on applications from March 2014.

RFEs are pretty normal. If you want to be cynical, firing off an RFE is a way for a harried USCIS worker to delay things and throw the ball back in your court for a while so they can get back to some other part of their job. If anything, an RFE *is* good news about advancing your application; it means it's gotten to someone's desk.

Which offices and types of representatives is it worthwhile to contact about this?

None, unless and until USCIS says no or otherwise actively fucks up.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:39 AM on March 3, 2015

Response by poster: Thank you all for the helpful responses. My colleague has gotten letters of support from big names in the field. I will hope for the best and update the thread if possible.
posted by Jorus at 4:48 AM on March 6, 2015

« Older Should I tell my former employer why I left?   |   Astrophotography 101 Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.