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Columnists > Toni Hargis

Toni Hargis

How Non-American Families (Legally Here) Are Being Torn Apart

  Posted Sunday July 31, 2016 (23:32:00)   (2345 Reads)


Toni Hargis

Most people aren’t aware of a shocking situation that some non-American families, legally in the USA, find themselves in. Although the DREAM Act aims to help undocumented children gain continuous residency in the US, children of legal “aliens” (E2 Treaty Investment visa holders) still face deportation.

These visa holders are business owners in the USA who employ Americans but aren’t even eligible to hold Green Cards and have no path to permanent residency. At age 21, their children are no longer covered by their parents’ visa and have to find other ways to stay. Some obtain an International Student Visa and attend college, but even that does not guarantee their future. Often marriage is their only option – at 21!!!

The State Department reports that numbers of E2 Visas issued have been steadily increasing from 11,000 in 1987 to over 41,000 in 2015, although there is no breakdown between new businesses or renewals.

Penny Turner’s story is typical:

"My family arrived in the US in 2012, we already had a successful business based in the UK providing (British) skilled contract workers to the automobile supplier industry. We currently have up to 12 skilled contractors who we can call on at short notice to go to plants in places like IN, KY, TN, NC etc.

We provide pretty much steady contracts back to back for these guys many of whom are now are personal friends; they rely on us to support their families. Our contractors earn a VERY good wage. One of our guys has been with us since our start up in the UK in 2006 and is now happily married over here with a family. Another used to be a homicide detective and asked me for an internship, he had such potential we mentored and trained him and he is our top grossing contractor now!

My husband and I have three children. Our two youngest are now aged 18 and 20 and were educated here through Private High school and are now at college. My daughter studies at Savannah College of Art and Design and is a talented fashion photographer in the making. Now she cannot even intern let alone have her work up for sale when she gets chosen for a college show. She has met Calvin Klein been to lunch with him, has opportunities for Vogue in the summer but she cannot take up any of them let alone have a summer job in a store or restaurant like her friends.

My youngest is about to embark on a Mechanical Engineering degree at UCF. He will face the same issues when it comes to completing the much needed internships for his degree. Never mind it’s a STEM subject, sorry the US isn’t interested in him long term. I can however claim the instate tuition for him, ironic because the US wants him to leave once he is qualified.

My eldest hasn’t lived with us properly since he was 18. He had already completed sixth form and so spent a year working in software engineering in the UK, studied Robotics at Plymouth University. He is now 22 and of course he has maxed out age wise on any chance of joining us on our family visa. He has just graduated with a First in Robotics and in his first week of sending his resume to recruiters was inundated with interest, and had several job offers almost immediately. Although I am sad he won’t be able to join us here he is happy and long term is now considering applying for a visa to live and work in either Canada, New Zealand or Australia.

We are due to renew our E2 visa next year. Of course it coincides with my youngest taking end of year finals so that’s a headache to sort. We cannot renew the visa online but rather have to apply and go back to London for an interview and subsequently wait for the visas to be mailed to us before we can return. We are so busy work wise that this is a major headache for us.

Long term, should we not find a way for the younger two to stay past their student visas (which we will apply for once they reach 21) we will probably all go back to the UK and continue to run our business from there, as before. Our US home will be a holiday home and of course the UK will receive most of our taxes rather than the US. It will be harder to negotiate new contracts here because of the travel, the expense and the time difference - all reasons we originally decided to come and live here.

Since we have been here we have bought two houses, numerous cars, trucks, jet skis - we have put back into the economy. We pay medical insurance just like everyone else, we pay taxes and work hard just like many families up and down the country. We are law abiding residents and we support charities. We do not expect something for nothing. We are proud to call this our home and would love the opportunity to live here without fearing for the future."

Other children's stories can be found at -

http://e2visapeople.org/e2visapeople.org/Our_Childrens_Stories.html

We have launched a petition to try and have our voice heard and the E2 visa situation changed-

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/legalimmigrantkids

Please sign this petition to help these children gain the same rights afforded to undocumented children under the DREAM Act. No family should be torn apart.


Toni Hargis
Toni Summers Hargis is the author of The Stress-Free Guide to Studying In the States; A Step-by-Step Plan for International Students (Summertime). She is also the author of 'Rules, Britannia; An Insider’s Guide to Life in the United Kingdom' (St. Martin’s Press) and blogs as Expat Mum.
 
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