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Monday, December 11, 2023
The independent student publication of The University at Buffalo, since 1950

Green-card crisis

Immigration status under COVID-19

I need a green card.

I have never wanted something so desperately in my life.

But now, faced with the COVID-19 pandemic, I don’t know if that’s going to be a possibility anymore. As an international student, I feel like I am continuously left in the dark by the school and the government. It is hard to plan my future and feels like I can be thrown into uncertainty at any moment.

I am a sophomore communication major from Nigeria. I am thousands of miles away from home, unsure of where to go after I graduate. As an international student, I know the challenges of being able to get the green card in the U.S. I also notice how all the international students I talk to fear not finding a job after graduating. 

Whenever I talk to other international students the same questions always come up: “what’s next?” “Have you found a job yet?” 

I don’t know what’s next, and with the current pandemic there’s no way that I could.

Having a U.S. green card is like winning the jackpot as an international student. It’s my dream to live in one of the world’s most advanced and developed countries. The government takes extreme considerations for its citizens with free-tuition opportunities, better career opportunities, social security benefits and many others.

I was born in an underdeveloped country, where there are not even facilities suitable for testing COVID-19 at the moment. If I were to go back home, it would be like giving up any chance I had. As of last Monday, Nigeria has 238 cases of COVID-19, 50 in my hometown, but without the same quality of medical care as I see in the U.S, I know it could get much worse.

The message across local and national news is clear: the U.S. is putting its own citizens first, but what does that mean for people like me? As of Thursday, there are 852,703 cases of Covid-19 in the U.S. with over 47,750 deaths nationally, and these numbers continue to grow. With so much uncertainty, I know that this pandemic has made my chances of staying in the U.S. significantly more difficult.

The things I’ve done to get to this point would be incomprehensible to any U.S. citizens. The amount of documentation and paperwork it takes international students to get to UB is unimaginable. But after fighting all odds, paying roughly $55-60,000 for tuition per year, I don’t see the point in pursuing the rest of this education if I cannot find a job in the U.S after.

And I was going to use the same zeal when it came to getting a green card.

Before this pandemic, I even considered using marriage to get a green card. This kind of loophole requires some kind of proof of your love, like having a child, to strengthen your defense, otherwise you face being annulled by the court. 

I figured that if I hadn’t solved my green card problems by the time I am comfortable enough to settle down, considering that as my last option, I might even resort to such a lie. 

Some international students may have come to the U.S. to acquire the world’s best education and then return to their country, but that was never my goal.

For me, living in this country is my dream. It is a dream that I never want to end. 

The process of acquiring a green card has grown increasingly more challenging over the last few years, and there isn’t much public information with how they will address this issue moving forward. All immigration procedures and services have been suspended, according to the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services. The original visa process could take decades to actually happen, and now that unimaginable timeframe could be stretched even further.

I’ve had a lot of rejection thrown in my face, which has only made me stronger and willing to stand up against every battle.

All I can do now is wait. But if this waiting means my life’s biggest dream is at stake, then I’m not sure how much longer I can withstand it.

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