Sixteen-year-old Mily Herrera grew up in the United States. She and was brought here at age 6 by her parents, who came here from Mexico legally on E-2 “treaty investor” visas. E-2 visas allow people to come to the U.S. to start businesses – but they are non-immigrant visas, meaning that they don’t lead to green cards and U.S. citizenship.
Mily’s status as an E-2 dependent expires when she turns 21. After that, Mily plans to stay in the U.S. using a student visa for college, but that’s only temporary. With a college degree, she could qualify for an H1-B visa from an employer, but H1-B visas are capped at 85,000 a year and randomly allocated. There are other options, but so far her family hasn’t been able to qualify.
If Mily’s parents had brought their kids here without any authorization, Mily would almost certainly qualify for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which would protect her from deportation and allow her to work.
Mily and other American kids with non-immigrant visas are at a comparative disadvantage. That seems unfair to many people because their families did their best to follow the rules. If Mily can’t get an immigrant visa, she will be forced to return to Mexico, where she has no ties.
There are many ‘documented Dreamers’
According to some experts, there are more than 200,000 people in the U.S. who share Mily’s problem. They have legal status now, but it won’t translate into a green card or citizenship. But one of the requirements for the DACA program is having had no lawful status on June 15, 2012, when the program started.
Dip Patel, 25, is another such “documented Dreamer.” A pharmacist by trade, he founded the group Improve the Dream, which educates lawmakers about the situation of people with non-immigrant status who grew up in the U.S.
Like Mily’s, Dip’s parents came to the U.S. on E-2 visas, which are non-immigrant. When his status as a dependent expired, he went to school on an international visa. Once he graduated with a doctor of pharmacy degree, he spent a year working legally through the Optional Practical Training program, which offers work authorization to international students.
After that, he has only been able to get temporary visas and may soon have to leave the U.S.
Last month, the House of Representatives passed a bill called the American Dream and Promise Act. It would allow a path to citizenship for those on DACA and “documented Dreamers.”
If you’re struggling to stay in the U.S. permanently, contact Yew Immigration Law Group. Alison Yew is a State Bar of California-certified immigration law specialist and may be able to help.