June 15, 2006

Stuff I don't "get".

It's that time again. Filling up online forms that generate PDFs that cannot be edited, re-filling said forms re-generating said PDFs, spending more than what you would for a decent lunch on passport-size photos which should have your face covering at least half of the whole photo, noting down the exact dates of entry and exit into the United States (5 trips so far for me - if you manage to decipher the vaguely reddish, smudged stamps of entry on your passport, I shall declare you Master and Lord).

Anyway, I finally got tired of my ignorance on aforementioned subjects and decided to educate myself to the minimal extent permissible. So, here goes a totally lost person's (I refuse to use the word, dummy) attempt to embrace what she does not wish to - the dreaded world of visa forms and indecipherable acronyms.

OK firstly - what is a passport?

Oh boy! You are way behind. Please peruse Visa Documents 101 before you come to this post!

1. What is a visa?

An official authorization appended to a passport, permitting entry into and travel within a particular country or region.

2. What is an I-94?

A USCIS Form I-94 (Arrival-Departure Record) or Form I-95 (Crewman's Landing Permit) shows the date you arrived in the United States and the "Admitted Until" date, the date when your authorized period of stay expires.

3. What is an H1-B? (Sigh...don't we even qualify for a "Who"?)

An H1-B is an alien coming temporarily to perform services in a specialty occupation. (Alien :()

4. What is an LCA?

H-1B status requires a sponsoring U.S. employer. The employer must file a labor condition application (LCA) with the Department of Labor attesting to several items, including payment of prevailing wages for the position, and the working conditions offered. The employer must then file the certified LCA with a Form I-129 petition plus accompanying fee of $130.

This is a two-page form that contains information about the employer. By completing and signing the form, the employer is agreeing to pay the higher of the two wages, that the employment of this individual will not adversely affect the conditions of other workers and that there is no strike for their occupation at the workplace. Recently, Congress determined that employers must attest that they will offer H1B visa holders the same benefits as their other workers. This includes health, life, medical, retirement, stock options and bonuses.

Forms used: ETA 9035

5. What is an I-129?

Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker – US Employers may use this form to petition USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services) for an alien to come to the U.S. temporarily to perform services or labor, or to receive training.

After the Department of Labor accepts the LCA, then your employer can file your H1B visa petition. BCIS Form I-129 (Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services or BCIS).

6. What is an I-797?

An approval notice (Form I-797) is issued to the petitioner. The Form I-797 shows dates of validity for the foreign worker to work in H1B status for the petitioner.

7. What is a Visa stamp (H1-b stamping)?

A visa stamp is used solely for permission to enter or reenter the U.S. The visa stamp does not control how long a visitor may remain in the U.S. That is, a visa stamp is used only to cross borders. The visa stamp authorizes the visitor to enter the U.S. to engage in a particular activity using a specific visa type (e.g., J-1, H-1B, F-2, etc.).

You need form DS-156 (Non-immigrant visa application form) and DS-157 (Yay! Only guys need to fill up this form :).

Don't congratulate yourself yet. Once you emerge out of this slew of forms, a mutated version in the form of a green monster awaits, which we fondly call, "The Green Card" (which is not very green actually). Here's a quick description of the process:

1. Are you eligible for permanent residency? If you are a studied-at-top-indian-college-completed-masters-now-working candidate, mostly you are under category EB3.

2. The U.S. employer complete a labor certification request (Form ETA 750) for the applicant, and submit it to the Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration.

3. Third, CIS must approve an immigrant visa petition, Form I-140, Petition for Alien Worker, for the person wishing to immigrate to the United States.

4. Fourth, the State Department must give the applicant an immigrant visa number, even if the applicant is already in the United States.

5. Fifth, if the applicant is already in the United States, he or she must apply to adjust to permanent resident status after a visa number becomes available.

Forms: I-94, LCA, I-129, I-797, LCR, I-140, DS-156, DS-157

If your head swirls a tad, if the alphabets in your cereal soup seem to read BCIS and INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service), if you see flashes of green whereever your head turns, if you've already started revising the 120 or so questions that a person must know the answers to before becoming a US citizen in your sleep, yup, you've definitely caught the "Green Card Fever" :)



kamal said...

Good job! Nice compilation, now can we Quiz you?

PisaasWithPizazz said...

Enna GC apply panna poriya ? Not to scare u but welcome to the queue.

Prabu Karthik said...

here is one person who is giving immigration attorneys a run for their money :D

Anonymous said...


You have an interesting way of looking at things.Great blog!Keep writing ..

RS said...

kamal - that will be a definite No :)

pisaaswithpizazz - Nope, all these complaints for H1-b stamping :)

p~k - lol :)

anon - thanks :)

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