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Immigration Issues for a Canadian working for Microsoft (garyroumanis.com)
61 points by grouma 1404 days ago | hide | past | web | 64 comments | favorite

Degrees granted to me in the US: B.A., M.Eng, and soon, Ph.D.

Estimated cost of educating me paid for in entirety by American individuals (Private+Government): $600,000.

Chances of me getting to stay in the US:

Scenario 1: I get a tenure track job at an R-1 University, and I am exempt from the H1-B cap. The subsequent waiting time for my green card application is not long as I will be able to apply under the EB-1 track. Probability: Low to very low. The academic market is a crapshoot, and I need to churn out some serious publications over the next 3-4 years.

Scenario 2: I get employed at a Google/Microsoft class firm and they sponsor an H1-B. I wait the estimated 5 years for an EB-2 green card application to go through. Probability: very low to almost nil, as I don't want to be locked in for 5 years in such a job unless I get a researcher position (i.e. at MSR).

Scenario 3: I start a company. So I have a runway of about 29 months (which is how long the US allows a graduate to stay and work under OPT rules) to either make millions of dollars and reapply under O-1/H1-B. Otherwise, I am definitely out of the country as there is no way for me to stay in the US. Probability of success: low to very low.

Scenario 4: I marry an American girl and get a Green Card as a spouse of a citizen. Probability: low. I won't compromise my current/future relationships and/or hasten my life goals in order to stay in this country. Not when Canada is such an attractive option (with my degrees and partial French speaking ability I earn enough points under their system to get permanent residency on arrival).

Political status of this bullshit: http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/09/why-cong...

Return on investment for American interests: Likely zero.

You should seriously look at applying under EB-1 (extraordinary ability).

I had a coworker that obtained a PhD in China, got an industry job and then filed under EB-1 after publishing a number of scientific papers. He was a very good scientist, but not what I would regard as having "extraordinary ability".

The nice part is that you can self-petition, so no need to wait on your employer to start the process, no need to go through labor certification, which shaves a good year off of the process and typically priority dates are all current (even for countries that are typically affect by yearly quotas).

My coworker ended up getting his green card in a little over a year from starting the process.

Your probability for Scenario 2 is very low to almost nil. Why is that. You are aiming for R-1 university but you are not confident of getting into MSR etc? And you can still switch jobs while your Green Card application is pending. I think it's called AC21 though I am not exactly sure on the exact terminology.

On a side note, H1-B is cap exempt for ALL educational institutes and non-profit organizations.

You cannot switch jobs and keep the same Green Card application. It's true you can transfer an H-1B between employers but any associated Green Card application is lost if you leave them.

This is only true during the labor certification or PERM part of the green card application. There are typically three phases to an employment-based green card app:

1. Labor certification/PERM (proof there is a need by the company) 2. I-140 application (proof you fill that need) 3. I-485 (formal application to receive PR)

It's been a few years since I went through the process, but basically, as soon as you've completed step 1, you can apply for steps 2 and 3. Once you've applied for 2 and 3, you receive an EAD card (work authorization).

It's always a little dicey to switch jobs with just the EAD because employment-based greens card require that you _intended_ to work for the employer who sponsored you. If you leave right after getting the EAD, your application may be denied because they don't believe you ever intended to work for your sponsor.

This is actually a pretty sweet position to be in because the company that hires you only has to keep applying for an EAD card for you. Pretty simple and not a lot of money.

Typically, if you wait 6 months or so after sending in the I-140/I-485, you can switch companies (through AC21). However, you need to find another job that is substantially similar to the one that was the basis of your green card application, you can't just take any job you want.

I've never heard of this before, from either my lawyer or any of the lawyers for any of the firms I've worked for. And I have asked this question specifically, because in my case, it may take much longer than normal to get a Green Card. But I'll investigate.

I did a quick google search and it appears that in order to switch jobs you need to have your I-140 approved, so I did misspeak on that point.

However, since the labor certification part (PERM) is a much quicker process and you can file for your I-140 and I-485 concurrently, it's not unreasonable to assume that from the date you first start the process, you'll likely to be able to switch jobs after 2 years or so.

This is actually really important for those poor souls from India and China who have priority dates that still in the 90s and won't likely get the physical green card for at least 5 years if not longer.

One thing to keep in mind is that lawyers often disagree as to how to interpret the USCIS regulations. I've had lawyers say "Jesus! Don't even leave the country!" and others say "Yeah, it's fine to switch jobs, no problem." It just depends on how risk adverse they are.

1. The probability is low because the chance that I take it up is lower (these are two-sided decision processes).

2. The H1-B cap is not the issue. It is the green card line. Since I am from India (note: this would also apply to China) the wait is extremely long.

You don't have to wait for 5 years to become an EB-2. You can apply for the green card in EB-2 the next day you join MSR/Google or any company. You can switch your job as long as you have a valid I-140 cleared by the employer. Although you would be applying a brand new GC at the new employer you will keep your priority date you filed with the first employer. Clearning labour certification and I-140 takes only less than a year.

AC21 is when you have an EAD and want to switch before 180 days of filing I-485.

And EB-1 is still an option, if you have a PhD. The chances with EB-1 is pretty high for you.

I can't remember which TED talk I saw but they discussed this very issue. It's alarming to think one of America's biggest export is Master/PhD students.

I don't think it is alarming. Check out most lists that rank graduate schools around the world. The US is quite disproportionately represented among the top. We've got Harvard, Berkekey, Stanford, Caltech, MIT, CMU, Chicago, Princeton, and UCLA for instance. No one else comes close to having that many schools of that quality.

The UK has two to four, and nearly everyone else has none or one.

Given this, it is not at all surprising that a lot of foreign students come to the US for graduate school even if they do not intend to stay in the US after getting their degree.

According to this article[1], 46% of American PhDs in science and engineering were awarded to foreigners in 2007. For 2011, I've heard 52%, but I can't locate the source.

[1] http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142405274870490560457502...

Return on investment for American interests: Likely zero.

You know. Congress knows, and they won't change the status quo.

The obvious reading is that the H1-B track gives a ready supply of workers with very little leverage. The interests of the American public or, God forbid, of immigrants are second to the desire to depress wages at the high end.

Don't get me started on immigration issues.

2004 - I applied to do my Master's in the United States, I had great financial aid in a good school and great GRE scores.

Student Visa? Neither approved nor Denied : Placed in indefinite limbo because I have a muslim name which brought up some flag in their database. Btw. my surname is the 'John Smith' of muslim names.

I gave up and went to Canada to pursue my education at McGill. Fantastic experience. Eventually landed a job in US and got my H1B this time. Thought the visa issues were behind me. I was wrong.

2007 - My mom applied for a US visa to come visit me. Neither approved/nor denied (Section 221(g) - name check).

2008 - My dad and mom both applied for a US visa to come visit me. Neither approved/nor denied - same reason.

2011 - After living in working in US for about 5 years and having gotten multiple visa stamps, I got to Vancouver to get my visa renewed. Placed under limbo again! Stayed in Vancouver for weeks before they 'cleared me'.

2012 - My mom applies again. Result? you guessed the answer. Visa limbo.

I'm facing another visa renewal soon and I'm prepared for another night-marish episode.

Oh yeah, forget about green card - the queue for my country has ensured that I'll be lucky to get it in this lifetime, pretty much screwing up my ability to take chances with starting my own start-up in the US.

The thing is that I really like living in this country, the work opportunities and its people. But the more I deal with the immigration system, the more un-welcomed and temporary I feel here.

Had a similar experience. I came from Toronto and I am working in the states right now. I was hired as a computer engineer. I got rejected the first time for my TN visa simply because the officer asked me, does your job involve writing code? And I answered yes. Then he proceeds, so you are basically a programmer. We don't allow programmers into our country. He wouldn't listen to my explanation and further claim that I was not qualified and I was only hired because I was cheap. (which is not true, I am well compensated)

Then the second time around, I had to lie and claim that I do zero programming for my job, and only "design" and "engineer" stuff. Lol....

I've read countless stories similar to yours. It all seems like verbiage to me.

The Canada–United States Free Trade Agreement was negotiated between 1985 and late 1987, and was signed in January 1988.

The language of the treaty hasn't been meaningfully adjusted in over 25-years.

Therefore when you are going through the process, you should relate what you'll be doing in mid-1980's terms, especially during questioning.

For example, something computer systems analysts supposedly do in the 1980's is draw flow charts. Call it that, because modern variants of that won't be on the checklist.

The border agents, who are all regular and normal people, seek what's specifically described in the treaty. So wise-up, and be prepared to hit the correct notes. Everything invented since 1987 isn't part of being a computer systems analyst under the treaty.

The border agents know this, and interpret the treaty to some degree under current circumstances. But forget about showing the border agent how much you know. You need to relate to what they know: the treaty, as written.

Very true. I tried my best to hit those bullet points but unfortunately failed.

Why did you continue to go to the same border crossing?

Using different border crossings is seen as a red flag by the agents.


I really feel your pain. For a lot of people reading this article, its not going to make a whole lot of sense. They are just going to think that you don't really deserve to be here no matter how much good you contribute to this earth.

I really can't stand this of ignorance!

Without going into a personal rant about this whole thing, I really want to find out if you are already "here" in the US?

If you are NOT here yet, I am going to give you fair warning NOTHING is garunteed until you are across the border!

I don't care if you have an approved H-1B visa! This means nothing. The border patrol agent has the FINAL say and can deny your entry into the US for ANY REASON AT ALL! I repeat! You can be denied ENTRY with an APPROVED H-1B!!

Make sure you have all your facts straight when you are going to cross! Your denial of entry is a HUGE problem. that is going to throw up RED flags like no other when trying to cross the border so please make sure you work closely with your lawyers here!

I really hope that all works out well for you and good luck! If you are already in the country and are just waiting to work! I'm really happy that you made it past all those bastard border patrol agents!

Yeah this really irks me, not just about the US but immigration in most 1st world countries is a pain in the butt.

"a million people naturalize every year, so it can't be that hard" - I'll bet none of the people that say that has first hand experience in immigrating.

It is an infuriatingly opaque and arbitrary process & there is often very little you can do about it.

Sorry to hear this. As a Canadian in the US on an H1B, I've stopped visiting Canada :( This really sucks because I can't visit friends/family easily any more. The last foreign trip I had (was a quick visit to Europe for a conference), the border agent went through every single page of my documentation pack and asked me questions (intention of the questions seemed designed to trip me up on minor details). I hope the situation gets better one of these days :( :(

Your situation sounds extremely bizarre. There should be no reason to avoid traveling outside the US if you're a Canadian on an H-1B. Except maybe if it's about to expire and you have an application for an extension pending. (My employer's immigration team suggested I not travel under such circumstances.)

FWIW, I've travelled in outside of the US around 20-30 times on TN/H-1B status and never encountered problems. On most of these trips I've re-entered at YYZ (Toronto), and most of the time the border agent doesn't ask me any questions at all. Occasionally they ask me what I do, who I work for, or where I live. One time I was asked about what type of software I write and possibly what my salary was. I've never been asked for any more details than that.

I guess it's possible I just get an easier time than you because of profiling: white, male, well-known employer, typical Canadian/US accent, no trips to strange countries, etc.

>"Although I am Canadian I spent my middle school and high school years in Raleigh, NC"

>"After I graduated from McGill in June"

Curious, did you pay out-of-country tuition rates to attend school here? I hope so, considering you didn't live, nor plan to work here.

Keeping in mind that all I have to go on is this little tale, I ask because it seems like you (and your family) have done a lot of walking through the grey area of immigration, skirting rules to take advantage of what both countries offer their citizens. Apparently it caught up to you.

Edit: For the downvoters: I'm Canadian. I don't appreciate that someone who essentially grew up in the US came back here to take advantage of our federal and provincial tax-dollar subsidized resident tuition, only to turn around and leave the country for the US again the instant he graduated. Had he never left the US for school, would this have happened?

I did not pay out-of-country tuition rates. I did have to pay out-of-province tuition rates though. (McGill is located in Quebec, Canada). I also applied to various NC universities and I would have had to pay out-of-country tuition rates.

On a personal level, I feel bad that your best laid plans were crushed.

But from an outsider's perspective, I'm not shocked that, eventually, someone stopped you and said, "Not all is as it seems here." It's a tough economic climate out there, and people tend to get defensive when it comes to jobs.

I'm not shocked that, eventually, someone stopped you and said, "Not all is as it seems here."

I completely agree. I mean, who is going to believe such an absurd cover story as a family moving around between countries and working and going to school and stuff. What did they think they were up to? I bet they didn't even get permission from their feudal lord before daring to be found walking abroad. Don't they know the penalty for being a vagabond? Get the iron hot so we can brand them as a warning not to abuse their fealty.

Next we can go and hunt down Paddington Bear, the little marmalade eating bastard. No one asks what he was doing at Paddington Station in the first place. It should be obvious to any right thinking people that he was nothing but a top Peruvian operative, embedded in the heart of London society to incite anarchy and loose talk.

I don't understand why people are down voting this comment. It seems like the OP is a "citizen of convenience" like those in Lebanon who only wanted to make use of their Canadian citizenship when war broke out despite the fact that some of them hadn't been back to Canada in 5+ years.

Not that this really has a place in the main discussion, although it does involve citizenship in a different way.

I understand your point of view. I didn't return to Canada for convenience though. I returned because McGill is phenomenal school. Moreover, I knew I would need to do internships during university. This would not be possible while under my mother's TN visa.

I appreciate your story, but it's very frustrating when people like you take away spots in tax payer funded universities from REAL Canadians who plan on staying and working to make this country a better place.

I hope the laws get changed to avoid loopholes like this in the future.

Do things become more real if you say real in capital letters?

It seems like the OP is a "citizen of convenience" like those in Lebanon who only wanted to make use of their Canadian citizenship when war broke out

How unimaginably selfish of them, trying to avoid death by manipulating poor hardworking taxpayers with their use of "documents" and "citizenship" and other bits of magic paper.

I'm not sure you fully appreciate the uproar that it caused during the last war in Lebanon.

It's a relatively straightforward process to get Canadian citizenship. Many Canadian started to question the process that allowed someone raised in another country to come to Canada, gain citizenship in 4 to 5 years, then go back to their home country with no intention of ever returning or contributing to Canadian society again, except under the situation where their current country is residence becomes uninhabitable.

Sounds to me like thoroughly sensible and responsible behaviour. If I lived in a country that was on the brink of war I would also cover all bases. If I had kids, I would almost definitely try and arrange something like this.

And besides, what skin does it take off your back if someone does this? When those people are in the country, they will generally be working and paying taxes. When they are not in the country they are working and paying taxes somewhere else. And what difference does it make if they come back to go snowboarding, or come back because their country has just gone boom? Patriotism is not a required trait to be a good person.

Oh, I don't disagree at all that it's a smart move. If I lived in an unstable country, I'd likely do the same.

However, the question is is Canada getting the short end of the stick? If you are a Canadian citizen, you get full health care coverage if you live in Canada, you get fully subsidized post-secondary education and your offspring get Canadian citizenship.

I guess the thought is, with Canada providing all of those benefits, maybe the hurdle for Canadian citizenship should be a little higher?

I guess my thought is that Canadians need to decide what type of immigrant they want. One that views Canada as their new home or just a residence of last resort?

You also need to factor the benefits to Canada of improved trade relations, as well as the saving in bureaucracy that you get from having a liberal immigration policy, rather than merely focusing on the direct cost or benefit of a given individual. Gut instincts of strict fairness when trying to judge people who are taking out but haven't put in yet don't always apply, especially if the cost of enforcement is higher than the cost of being more laissez-faire. And people under 25-30 pretty much can't be judged at all on that basis, for fairly obvious reasons.

Wow you really have no clue... that really amazes me.

The difference is for instance the cost of airlifting those citizens out of war zones will by far dwarf any taxes they may pay back while working in the country for 1-2 years before going back to the other one once the war is over. That's also IF they work and don't go on social assistance programs.

Canada is now experiencing this issue with a lot of Chinese who come here to get a passport as well. To most people, citizenship is the one thing you go all in on. By not doing so it hurts most countries and costs them a lot of money.

I'm not going to reply to you again, it's people with beliefs like yours who damage society as a whole.

"To most people, citizenship is the one thing you go all in on."

I've not seen that. I know English people who became US citizens in part because they were moving back to the UK, and if they decided to move back to the US then it would be much easier as US citizens.

I know a South African who views his Irish ancestry mostly as a way to get a Irish passport, which makes it much easier to visit Europe.

I know an Australian whose didn't visit the US until an adult, but who is a US citizen because of her mother's citizenship. She's lived in the UK for the last 10+ years.

I know a Romanian who got Swedish citizenship because it was easier to stay in Sweden that way. He didn't want to be forced to move back to Romania. He's then got US citizenship a few years later. (He actually got Swedish citizenship while waiting for the US paperwork to go through.)

Yes, my father got US citizenship as a teenager, and doesn't consider himself Canadian. So I know there are many who "go all in." But to say that most do that goes against my observations.

Canada has a lot of economic emigrants living in the middle east, mostly working for the oil fields. They follow the same pattern of moving to and from the middle east as the people you have a problem with, only they were born in Canada.

And I personally see no problem with stuff like dual-nationality, economic migration, or hedging bets in a dangerous world. For one thing, it encourages trade, and for another, many people do not feel that they owe allegiance to one particular area of land when compared to another.

Also, Canada is built on and encourages immigration. These people have not tried to smuggle themselves in, rather they were encouraged and invited. It is you that really has no clue on this and your suspicion of migrants and denigration of their general motivations does a lot more to damage society than taking the view that it is better to be a bit more relaxed about the desire of many people to wander.

[edit] It also reminds me of the story I read of this guy who was born in South Africa and moved to Canada when he was 17 to avoid getting drafted, without family support and with little money, only stays a few years and also goes to college there, then leaves to go to the US as soon as he can get a scholarship. He is called Elon Musk, you may have heard of him.

If he had stayed in the US he would have been considered an international student, and thus ineligible for local tuition. If you had your way, the same would be true in Canada. Now what does OP do?

Yes, how dare he go to school in the US while his mother was working there. Absolutely despicable. I mean, it is one thing for foreigners to try and steal all those cushy nursing jobs, but to have the gall to bring their kids along and above all expect that some of their tax contributions should go towards teaching them to read and stuff, well, obviously the world has gone communist.

And then to go back to Canada and go to university there after sucking the US dry of the words and numbers he stole with his brain while at school. Well that just beggars belief. That is exporting the intellectual property of the US school system to a foreign power, partly made of people who speak French. French! The language of terror.

There are those who will stand by you, in this, your bravest moment, although they may want to bring a stepladder and a drysuit to do so, as you do appear to be waist deep in your own shit.

[edit] Just read the edit, and I am relieved to hear that you are making a strong stand against the pernicious stereotype of Canadians being fairly reasonable people on the whole.

>"Yes, how dare he go to school in the US while his mother was working there."

Pull out as many straw-men as you want, big guy. I said nothing of the sort. Great tirade though.

>"And then to go back to Canada and go to university there"

I'm going to assume that you're not Canadian, since you seem to have no idea how this works. I don't care that he came back to this country to go to University. It's something we actively promote here. In fact, I worked part-time during my undergrad for an international students club, where part of the mandate was to help foreign students integrate into Canadian life. It wasn't as serious as it sounds, my job was mostly going to Spitfires games.

I do care that he came back here to take advantage of tax-dollar subsidized tuition. Huge subsidies. Some might even say controversial subsidies, that I support. You know, subsidies meant to go to tax-paying Canadians. It's a broken system that allows that to happen, and I'll stand behind trying to close loop holes that allow people to take advantage of it.

>"There are those who will stand by you, in this, your bravest moment, although they may want to bring a stepladder and a drysuit to do so, as you do appear to be waist deep in your own shit."

There's a certain irony to being lectured about open borders and minds by an American. If you're really upset about this nonsense, there are probably some local organizations and lobby groups where you can focus your rage. Rather than, you know, at some guy on the internet who doesn't remotely support things you accuse him of.

I am not an American, although Canadians are, last time I checked. And anyone can lecture on open borders and minds irrespective of nationality, that sort of goes along with the concepts.

>"I am not an American, although Canadians are, last time I checked."

I don't understand this...

>"And anyone can lecture on open borders and minds irrespective of nationality"

Absolutely. But if you're an American, your yelling at me on the internet about immigration is the equivalent of a Facebook "like" campaign to stop hunger in Africa. Plenty of work to do in your own back yard. I assume, with your passion and all, you're all over it.

I don't understand this...

Well it is lucky I came prepared then. Here, I brought this map along. Have a look, this bit is a continent called "America". The bit at the bottom is what was first referred to as America by colonists from Europe, although the name was eventually used for the whole connected landmass, and the bit at the top is generally referred to as "North America", in which we have Mexico, the USA and Canada. But everyone in the continent are Americans, as they are all from America.

But if you're an American,

No, I am not an American. Which is why I said I am not an American. I can understand your confusion however, as earlier I think I may have slipped into a trance and started channeling the soul of Henry Kissinger. Sorry about that, it happens sometimes.

>"But everyone in the continent are Americans, as they are all from America."

You're just itching to have a ridiculous argument, aren't you? Take your pseudo-intellectual nerd-rage elsewhere.

There are genuine problems with the immigration rules in the US. Some are described in this very thread. The author's case is marginal.

Ok, sorry for my somewhat colourful expression of annoyance. It is completely true that I shouldn't get so wound up by bobbins on the internet.

However, I got annoyed because I thought you were being extremely closed minded by seeming to find it somehow dishonest or greedy for someone who spent the first part of their childhood in one country and then the second part in another, to go to university in the country they were born in without paying money that they were not asked for or required to pay, and to then try and look for a job in the country in which they went to high school and in which their mother still lives.

I found that to be such an outrageously bleak, ridiculous and restrictive view of the obligations of migrants, that I decided to ridicule it.

>"However, I got annoyed because I thought you were being extremely closed minded by seeming to find it somehow dishonest or greedy"

I do find it somewhat dishonest and greedy. That's my opinion, and I'm entitled to it as a Canadian who is personally affected by such things. You know we're running huge deficits here, right? I don't think my tax dollars should subsidize the education of someone who has not or does not plan on contributing to the tax base of this country. That's an unsustainable policy. Next thing you know, people are angry and we have immigration policies similar to the US.

It's as simple as that, even though you tried your hardest to turn it into some Lou Dobbs-type xenophobic argument. But you're more than welcome to come here and get educated. I'd even love for you to stay after you graduate, unlike the US.

And yes, it looks to me like the author did his best to take advantage of "the best of both worlds" and found out the hard way that things don't really work that way. Immigration is no joke; ask people who are taking it seriously. He tried to slip one past the decision makers (I'm not a programmer, I'm an analyst!) and they shut it down and told him to follow the proper channels. He did, and now all is well. Sad story?

>"I found that to be such an outrageously bleak, ridiculous and restrictive view of the obligations of migrants, that I decided to ridicule it."

That I expect people who don't live here to not receive tuition subsidies? Yeah, ludicrous. If you think that is so outrageous, the world must be a dark, dark place in your eyes. Not that I couldn't tell by your anger.

I do find it somewhat dishonest and greedy. That's my opinion, and I'm entitled to it as a Canadian who is personally affected by such things.

And I'm entitled as a random person on the internet, to point out that I find your stated opinion to be completely and utterly insane on several different levels. It is almost fractally wrong.

And if you really have a problem with this case on economic grounds, let me reassure you, there is no mass imbalance of people from Canada who moved to the US when they were kids, then moved back to Canada to go to university, then left to work in the US, when compared to kids from the US who move to Canada, leave to go to university in the US and then come back to work in Canada. Issues like this are just noise in the system, monetarily speaking they tend to cancel out.

Also, this guy is only trying to get a work visa and temporary migrants regularly move back to their country of origin after a while. Which is likely to be better for the Canadian tax office in the long run, depriving him of education and therefore a job and therefore making sure he will probably never pay much tax and possibly even end up on welfare, or on the other hand educate him, despite that he has not managed to pay much tax yet, mainly for reasons of being a kid at the time, then let him work at Microsoft in the US, with a reasonable probability of him at some point moving back to Canada with a first class resume and tons of money to spend?

And if the argument about tax is that his mother didn't pay tax in Canada while he was a child being educated in the US while living with her, or that he should somehow be stopped from emigrating for an offer of employment at Microsoft until he has worked off his university bill, then I think the appropriate response is ridicule. As that is nothing but pure economic calvinism of the meanest and small minded sort.

Your comment doesn't add any value to the discussion, nor is it a very good attempt at humour. What the parent is trying to say is that the OP is coming back to take advantage of a tax payer funded institution even though he doesn't plan on working in the country. If you disagree with his views perhaps you should work on rephrasing your comment.

If my memory is correct, the immigration team at my company recommended that I cross the border at an airport. Apparently these kind of problems may occur more often at land crossings. One might speculate it's because airports process a much higher volume and are therefore more used to this sort of thing, but I don't know if that's true.

Another thing my employer's immigration team definitely warned when I did apply for an H-1B was to be careful about traveling while the application was pending. The TN visa requires non immigrant intent, and they were concerned that a border agent might interpret an open application for H-1B as intent to immigrate. They strongly recommended that if I did travel that I not volunteer the fact that I have an H-1B pending. It's interesting that MSFT started your H-1B case before you were in the US, and I wonder if that had any effect.

According to the lawyers I have had, and my own personal experience, it is a bad idea to try to obtain a TN visa at a land crossing. Your chances of success are higher if you go through the airport.

I got 3 TN visas on Buffalo border , if your papers are decent there should be no issue and I was applying under Management Consultant category (arguably hardest type of TN to get) Why would you risk wasting your airplane ticket in case visa is denied ?

I think that's the point. It shows that you're the kind of guy that can do that (and/or the company you work for). They are trying to stop immigration scams with TN visas filed by dummy corporations.

The distinction between capital and labor perpetuates and absurd protectionism and is a major obstacle to economic growth. Immigration is a free trade issue.

Is both a free trade and a human rights issue. The desire to migrate and live and work in different places around the world should need no greater justification than mere idle curiousity and I believe that the current approach to state borders does nothing but stoke xenophobia and mistrust around the world.

Also, I come from the UK, which has more UK citizens working abroad than foreign citizens working here, all while some sections of the press runs stories about how foreign workers are crowding people out of jobs. I keep trying to ask people who support banning all foreign labour, what they think will happen when everywhere else bans UK labour from their countries in return and all those UK expat workers, with their wealth of experience, come flooding back in greater numbers than the foreign workers that have just been kicked out, so leading to even greater unemployment, while at the same time guaranteeing that nobody would really want to trade with us anymore. These kind of conversations often end somewhat badly for some reason.

Perhaps it might be because I tend to also mention the view that it is a bit rich for the UK to be complaining too loudly about immigration considering how big the empire grew from us going around and rudely sticking flags in other people's stuff.

Do not go through land crossings in Washington State. Just don't do it. Your friends were right.

Of my graduating class, a large enough number were going to the United States, most of which got through without a hitch.

The only problems I've heard happened at the very crossing mentioned in this post -- Blaine, WA. I know that I'll make sure to never cross there to get a "Computer Systems Analyst" TN.

The entire process is horribly broken.

While in theory one can switch jobs during the Green Card process, in practice it is a paperwork nightmare, with plenty of IFs and BUTS to slow you down.

It is compounded by the fact that it is not in the companies best interest to let the employee acquire a green card asap. The company lawyers are therefore never in a hurry, and may not go for the most expeditious process.

In addition, there is rampant fraud committed by H1/L1 sweat shops. And the checks created by the Govt to check fraud, place an un-necessary burden on the employee, as opposed to the Govt agencies and employers.

One tip to make life easier after obtaining a visa to work in the US : Apply for Nexus as soon as you can.

That's rough. I know a couple Canadians who went through a similar process (also for Microsoft) and had no problems. Shame to hear this guy had such a shitty experience.

That seems like an awful lot of effort just to go work at Microsoft. Now maybe if it was Google, Apple or Facebook. Or one of those super-cool SV start-ups.

tongue planted firmly in cheek

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