Many people in this country know little to nothing about immigration. I knew next to nothing about it before I got involved in the process, and have found out from conversations I’ve had, and things I’ve read, that I was far from alone. I am reminded of it every time I read anything (articles, peoples’ comments, etc.) that has anything to do with immigration, or someone’s opinion about it. The process IS very complex, and the inaccurate portrayals in movies and tv shows hasn’t helped. Add in the political hype about it, and so many people commenting about it when they also know little to nothing about it, and it’s no wonder why there’s so much misinformation. Many people are ill informed, and often perpetuate myths.
One of the basic issues is that many people don’t understand how visas and immigration work. First of all, not everyone who comes here on a visa is planning to stay. There are immigrant visas (for those who want to stay here permanently), and non-immigrant visas (for people who are planning to leave). It’s possible for someone to come here legally on a non-immigrant visa, but ‘become’ illegal by staying after the allowed amount of time, at which point they are considered “out-of-status”. Of course, anyone who comes without permission is here illegally from the start. Thousands of people come here on visas and then return to their home country – on time – as planned. Some come just to visit for a few weeks or months, some to stay for a few years for work related reasons.
To make things even more confusing, there is also the visa waiver program, which allows citizens of certain countries to visit the United States without a visa, for a certain amount of time.
One of the first things I’ve noticed is how many people lump legal and illegal immigrants together. I’ve seen far too many times, people complaining about immigrants and immigration as though every single person who came to this country is breaking the law by being here.
One thing that kind of amuses me and kind of irritates me at the same time (now that I know more about the process) is the confusion about “green cards”. Side note, they aren’t always actually green (depending on when they were issued). Anyway, some people believe that anyone without a green card is not here legally. That’s not true. Most people don’t receive a green card upon arrival in the United States. It’s actually a process that can take varied amounts of time. Some people never get one – they are just here on a visa. Not having a green card does not mean one is here illegally.
There are many different types of visas for many different purposes. One of the oddest visas to me is the “fiance” visa. It’s considered a non-immigrant visa, but the ultimate purpose is for the person to stay permanently after getting married in the United States to a US citizen. The process is long and difficult, and involves incredible amounts of time, money, effort, and paperwork. So many forms! It’s an inconvenient process, but a necessary one if you want to be with a person from another country. For anyone who is planning to start the process, I recommend reading as much as you can about it, and join a forum. I found VisaJourney.com to be extremely helpful.