Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Rules for LEGAL Immigrants

I have a friend I'll call Vera from a solvent European country with a name that starts with an 'S.'
Vera has fallen in love with the US desert southwest.  She is a retired civil servant of that 'S' country, and has investments, property and a pension. She is also fluent in English and probably knows more about this country than most Americans. She decided she wanted to have property in the US almost a decade ago. She bought a few acres, which increased the tax rate on those acres from 'agricultural' to 'residential' which is good for the local government. She has also improved the property with a small cabin (about 250 square feet) and hired someone to drill a well.  I guess you could say she is helping people stay employed.

Last time we spoke, she talked about wanting to build her permanent home on the property. She wants to be here for the full construction, but it's a problem. You see, she is from a country that takes laws very seriously so she respects and abides by US law as well.  Under the current US Visa rules, she can only spend as much time in the US every year as she spends outside of the US. If I understood her correctly, she can get a visa for 90 days and then must leave and be out of the US for 90 days before she returns.  It will take close to 6 months to build her house. She can't find anyone willing to work on the house for 90 days, take a 90 day break, and then finish it. It might be easier if she were building it in a big city, but she likes the area because it isn't a big city, like the one she lives in back in Europe.

The only ways she can legally stay longer include: win a visa in her country's official lottery (less than 10 per year are allocated for most European countries); marry a citizen; go to school but leave as soon as her studies are completed (nearest college is about a 90 minute drive each way); enter on a work visa to do a job that her employer hasn't been able to find an American to do (nearest employment is about a 90 minute drive each way), or open a business that employs more than 10 people.  If she had family here, they could sponsor her, but she doesn't.

While MILLIONS of illegal immigrants are here using government benefits, many without contributing, a self-financing retiree is unable to spend her last 10 or 15 years in the place she most wants to live -- at her own expense and contributing to the local tax base.   A few million children of those illegal immigrants just got temporary and likely will get permanent amnesty, scholarships and other benefits while Vera must figure out a way to build her dream home 90 days at a time. Makes me a little crazy if I think about it too much. Go figure.

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