The Long and Emotionally Exhausting Journey to Getting a Green Card

United States Activism
by Jason Chatfield Nov 2, 2016

Not a week goes by where I’m not asked by someone how I got my US Green Card. I comes up a lot. Many people mistakenly think I just won the Green Card Lottery, but that isn’t the case. I’m always happy to try and pass as much information on as I can.

A lot of my talented pals want to live and work in the US and the conversation I have is now almost exactly the same each time. I hope this info is helpful and clears up any questions about the process. If you do have any, you’re welcome to reply/respond to this article below and I’ll do my best to answer your questions.

So, how does one acquire a Green Card?

Short answer? It’s not easy. Get an attorney. Be organised. Get ready for an emotional rollercoaster.

Long answer?

In 2014, I moved from Australia to live and work in the US on an EB-1 Green Card. It makes me a permanent resident of the United States and is incredibly hard to get. I’m very lucky to have got it and it makes me insanely grateful to be here.

This shouldn’t be mistaken for the Green Card Lottery, by which you could win an O-1 Visa/Green Card if you then adhere to the USCIS criteria. I didn’t win the Green Card lottery; I did it the long, hard way. I would have preferred not to.

The EB-1 is known as an “Alien of Extraordinary Ability” Visa, available to those who are significant achievers in their field. To qualify for an EB-1 Green Card, You must meet 3 of 10 criteria below, or provide evidence of a one-time achievement (i.e., Pulitzer, Oscar, Olympic Medal).

Eligibility Criteria

Extraordinary Ability

You must be able to demonstrate extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics through sustained national or international acclaim. Your achievements must be recognized in your field through extensive documentation. No offer of employment is required.

* Criteria for Demonstrating Extraordinary Ability

You must meet 3 out of the 10 listed criteria below to prove extraordinary ability in your field:

  • Evidence of receipt of lesser nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence.
  • Evidence of your membership in associations in the field which demand outstanding achievement of their members.
  • Evidence of published material about you in professional or major trade publications or other major media.
  • Evidence that you have been asked to judge the work of others, either individually or on a panel.
  • Evidence of your original scientific, scholarly, artistic, athletic, or business-related contributions of major significance to the field.
  • Evidence of your authorship of scholarly articles in professional or major trade publications or other major media.
  • Evidence that your work has been displayed at artistic exhibitions or showcases.
  • Evidence of your performance of a leading or critical role in distinguished organizations.
  • Evidence that you command a high salary or other significantly high remuneration in relation to others in the field.
  • Evidence of your commercial successes in the performing arts.

My application was 167 pages long and took over a year and a half to compile. My wife and I ominously referred to it as “The File”. It looked like Tolstoy’s filing cabinet by the time we were ready to submit it for consideration. I ended up qualifying for 10 out of the 10 criteria. What a show-off.

We did also have the help of friends and professionals to apply. Our Immigration Attorney, David Garabedian was incredibly helpful and professional. (Hit me up on Twitter if you want his details.)

I also had several reference letters from significant people in the art field. John Glynn (The President of Universal), the late Stan Goldberg (Archie), Tom Richmond (MAD, President of the National Cartoonists’ Society), Sam Viviano (MAD Art Director), Michael Jantze (The Norm) and Adrian Sinnott (Chapter Chair of the Berndt Toast Gang, Long Island Chapter of the NCS) were all incredibly generous and I’ll be forever indebted to them.

I had come to the US many times, every year with an interest to doing research on the industry here, finding out more about how one works and lives in the US and generally making great friends. Some of my dearest friends here are also fellow cartoonists and comedians.

The process took over 2 years from applying to landing in the States. The most nerve-wracking, gut-wrenching and sleep-deprived 2 years of our lives.

Our lives were put on hold, every stage of the approval process was drenched in nerves. We ground our teeth down to nubs from the anxiety of waiting to find out if we were approved for each thing.

Our jobs were in constant flux, as we didn’t know when we’d be approved or rejected. One can’t make plans about their future if they don’t know what country they’re going to be in. You can’t commit to professional or personal events as you don’t want to have to cancel them in case you get approved.

We were approved for the first part of the process and celebrated (albeit a little prematurely) at the start of 2014. We then had to wait 3 more months for our interview at the US Consulate in Sydney.

We flew up, nervous and sleep-deprived, for our interview. After we got through the security on the floor (a good preparation for what to expect in the US) our name was called and we went to the interview.

My stomach almost dropped out of my pants when the interviewer said they couldn’t accept my birth certificate as it looked like a photocopy. (As it happened, the WA Birth Certificate I had was the only copy in existence. That’s just what they gave to you when you were born in Perth in 1984…it’s not fancy.)

After an hour of nervous waiting, the interviewer eventually had to get someone higher up to approve the birth certificate as an authentic proof of birth before they could approve our Green Card. My wife got a spousal Green Card/Visa and is also now a Permanent Resident.

I don’t want to bang on about how hard it was, but it really was a long and emotionally exhausting 2 years. If you want to test the strength of a marriage, apply for a Green Card.

But if that doesn’t sound like fun, you could always just find an American and marry them. Also works.

This story first appeared on Medium and is republished here with permission.

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