The wheels of government bureaucracy turn slowly: Green cards

When foreign nationals come to work at Microsoft, the legal department gets to work with the paperwork of applying for permanent residency (colloquially known as a green card even though the cards haven't been green for a long time). Obtaining permanent resident status in the United States takes a ridiculous amount of time, and I remember the irony when one of my colleagues finally received his green card... on his last day working at Microsoft.

Still, at least it arrived in time, if only barely. :: Wendy :: received her green card two months after she left the country.

Comments (13)
  1. Dennis Piccioni says:

    It used to be quite bad, before 9/11, now it’s even worse. My wife and several friends of mine from various countries went through this and it’s a total nightmare.

    Not to mention how badly these people are treated during the process, as if they were criminals. They’re introduction to this country makes them hate it.

    I even have some friends in Europe who simply refuse to come here anymore because just during immigration for a vacation they are treated like crap. They just decided to go visit other countries and spend their money there instead of putting up with this crap.

  2. dg says:

    Just sneak in across the border.

    You can have free education and medical, and a good shot at amnesty for auto-citizenship later this year.

    Short-circuit the whole process.

    Have a kid and you’re golden.

  3. Tom says:

    dg tries to be ironic, but actually demonstrates one of the many problems with the immigration debate in the US.

    We are totally unable to reform our skilled immigration system, because "immigration" has become electoral suicide and a dirty word.  You talk about H-1Bs, and your Congressman thinks about the Mexican border.

    Meanwhile, other First World countries have adopted points systems, specifically to help them steal people away from countries with stricter immigration policies.

  4. Brian says:

    It may be tough, but the USA is much easier than some other countries. In Japan you are required to wait 10 consecutive years before you can even apply. (Or 5 years if you marry a Japanese citizen.) And even then the arbitrary process takes a full year and many are rejected for undisclosed reasons.

    By the way, speaking from experience, Microsoft of Japan does not help with permanent residency.

    Immigration is bitch.

  5. Harisenbon says:


    The 10 year thing is kind of old now, as my friends got theirs in 5. When you’re married to a Japanese national, you can get it in 3.

    Also, if you’re married, you can apply for a spouse visa, which is essentially permanent residency as long as you’re married. It takes 1 month to go through, and you can apply the day you get married.

    The permanent Visa (eijyuuken) process also now takes exactly 6 months, but I have to admit: it’s an incredibly nerve-wracking 6 months (especially if you need the residency to get a house loan).

  6. Philip says:

    U.S. employment based green cards have several different categories. If you’re not Chinese, Indian or Filipino and you have a master’s degree you’re in the EB-2 category which really isn’t too bad. I got my green card, or rather "permanent resident card", a couple of months ago just slightly over a year after first applying. I was even treated quite well the one time I was in contact with a USCIS person for my fingerprinting.. everything else was handled by e-mail with the immigration lawyer provided by my HR department.

    On the other hand, pretty much every category other than EB-2 is completely broken. If you’re Chinese or Indian especially it is ridiculous with +10 year waiting periods. Some of my colleagues have been in the system for more than 5 years with no end in sight.

  7. Worf says:

    It’s the whole reason why Microsoft opened up a campus here in Richmond, BC, Canada (just south of Vancouver). Attracting skilled labour is hard enough.

    Getting the visas even tougher, even if you don’t go through the green card program. Hell, even a TN visa can be annoying (sure there’s NAFTA and all, but it don’t make it easier, and not like the US actually obeys it).

    Hence the Microsoft campus, opened up a few years ago. That way Microsoft gets their employee, and not have to mess with diffifult-to-get visas.

  8. Timothy Knox says:

    Reminds me of my days as an IBM mainframe hacker (*gasp*). The assembler quick reference was called a "green card" because that’s what it was, originally. But I remember the befuddlement on a colleague’s face when I asked another coworker if I could borrow his green card, was handed a yellow booklet, and nodded thanks. :-)

  9. Anthony says:

    When I went through the process, what I found laughable was how you get an official document at each stage telling you the exact number of days before you will hear from them again (was something like 272 and then 158 for me).  It’s not as if there’s any real processing going on – probably just a couple of plods slowly taking documents off a work queue

  10. Sean says:

    Mine took 7 years and that was coming from a H1-B Australian national.

    Our Chinese co-workers are around 8-9 years currently.

  11. Joel says:

    Here’s a graphical illustration of the process:

    If *that* is how you have do it legally, no wonder so many people prefer to hop a fence, overstay a visa, etc…

  12. Andre says:

    Immigration? Now that is a touchy subject :)

    I’d love to work in the US. I was there some time ago on a J1 visa for an internship, and that same company then extended me an offer to join them full-time. I’d like to go back to the US, but given the draconian law that is not an option… especially because I’d like my future wife to join me and find work too.

    Because of that I’ll be staying in Europe, and don’t expect to ever go to the US unless the laws change dramatically. Which is a pity, because I’d really love to go.

    From what I know people who study there aren’t guaranteed a visa either after their "grace period" ends (the time they’re allowed to work after they finish their studies in the US). Basically the US is training and educating highly skilled workers, and then showing them the door.

    For me anyone whose work is needed in a country should be allowed to live there and perform that work, skilled or unskilled. The problem is, unfortunately, defining when exactly a worker is needed…

    How do you prove that the foreigner that a company is trying to hire is definitely better than all programmers looking for work in that country? Defining that the salary can be no lower than a national would receive is not good enough, as one programmer might be offered 50k and another 100k.

    Are there plans to change the system any time soon? If so, what will the US government try to do?

  13. John Wiltshire says:

    I worked in the US for 7 years on a H1-B with my green card application processing from the first year I was there.  It finally came through the week the company I was working for closed the office and I’d already made arrangements to return to Australia.

    I’m now back in Oz and have no inclination to ever try immigrating to the US again.

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