Sunday, March 11, 2007


I just found out this week that my one and only staff's OPT visa will run out in June and she won't be able to get a H-1B visa until October. This means that she will be off our payroll in mid-June and need to leave the country by mid-August. Sigh... our only option is to put her on LOA or try to get a work permit in another country. As part of this process, I found out how much it costs for U.S. immigration the legal way.

If we decide to hire a foreign student out of school, they get a one year training work permit (OPT), then they need to get a H-1B visa. The H-1B visa costs around $5,000 and is good for three years; after three years, you can renew for another three years for about the same cost. After the second H-1B visa runs out, you can keep renewing one year at a time as long as you have a pending green card (permanent resident card) application.

If you want to work long-term in the U.S. (i.e., longer than seven years after graduation), then you need to either apply for a green card or marry a U.S. citizen*. The green card application takes 4-6 years, costs about $8,000 and is not guaranteed. The company has to prove that we've tried to recruit locally and the employee is irreplaceable. Well, no one is irreplaceable, especially in finance. Last time I posted a financial analyst opening in, I got 30+ resumes sent to me... all pretty lame though.

Anyhow, if you add up both parallel application processes for H-1B's and the green card, toss in some lawyers, it comes out to about $25,000. Our company is pretty generous since we pay for the whole thing, including legal fees, and HR says that 98% of H-1B visa holders apply for a green card. I know a lot of people that have gone through or are still stuck in this process and they had to pay for everything themselves. I got my green card along with my parents when we moved to the U.S.; I think our immigration application took over seven years while we lived in Canada. The naturalization process I went through in 2005 cost me ~$500 and took almost the entire year. My dad's naturalization application is stuck in limbo for the past two years pending some FBI screw-up.

I guess the major problem I have with this is fairness. On one hand, the government restricts the number of H-1B visas each year and charges an exorbitant fee, and also make the legal immigration process as difficult and expensive as possible. On the other hand, if you break the law and sneak across the border or overstay your visa, people trip over themselves to give you free stuff (healthcare, education, even a green card). I have co-workers that paid a lot of money to attend CSU Fullerton as a legal foreign student and out-of-state friends that also paid a lot to attend UCLA.

Meanwhile, I end up paying 40%+ in taxes so politicians can spend other people's money on "social justice", especially here in the People's Republic of California. If people want to feel better about themselves by helping those "less fortunate", then they should pay extra taxes. I'm already paying thousands of dollars to educate someone else's kids (Leon!).

Sigh... I can't believe I'm up at 4:30am bitching about this.

*BTW, I'm single again and have dual American/Canadian citizenship so take your pick... :)


ocgal22 said...

Can she work out of the office location I'm in for the short term? Plenty of room around my office.

Darryl said...

I hear you... My green card application has been waiting to "become current" since April 2006, after completing the I-140 phase. (2nd in 3 parts).

My 2nd H1B expires in November this year - so this whole process has been 6 years and pending (including the labor certification phase)

I'm very much afraid I'm going to be driven to marriage to sort this out... ;)