A non resident, non immigrant, legal alien

I am a non-resident, non-immigrant, legal alien. This is not a catchy title I gave myself. It is my legal status in the United States.

As a beneficiary of the contentious H1B visa I have worked in the Unites States since October 2012, only interrupted by a brief stint as a Master’s student under the F1 visa.

This work authorization allows me to work in the United States as long as I renew it every three years. There is some level of uncertainty around this as my renewal application could be rejected, sometimes for frivolous reasons. My wife is also allowed to work for the duration of this work permit under the H4-EAD scheme that was introduced by former President Barack Obama.

My visa as well as my wife’s work authorization is up for renewal in July 2022. If the renewal doesn’t come through by July 2022, she will not be able to continue working. There is some risk of this happening as H4 EDA renewals can currently take as long as 10 months.

This is all small talk before addressing the elephant in the room. Since I was born in India, I will not get a green card in my life time. If I were born anywhere else with the exception of China, I would have gotten my green card circa 2018.

This is despite the fact that I pay my taxes regularly and contribute to the Social Security Administration Fund (a benefit I will never enjoy) . Shouldn’t I feel aggrieved?


The truth I have completely accepted is this - The United States owes me absolutely nothing! I have no claim on this country beyond the right to stay here until Jul 2022 and enjoy any rights that come with it until that date.

Paying taxes or contributing to SSA is the price of admission. If I don’t like it, I am free to eave. I have already gotten a fairly good return on it through the Chicago and NY Public library systems and two dozes of the Pfizer vaccine.

It is entirely up to the United States to decide what kind of people it wants to attract and keep. I am neither an outstanding researcher pushing the frontiers of science forward nor an entrepreneur creating thousands of jobs. I am just a mid-level employee at a tech company with a few valuable skills, but hardly someone who is irreplaceable.

If the United States thinks I am fungible, they are probably right. If the Democratic administration prioritizes the welfare of undocumented immigrants over ‘non-resident, non-immigrant, legal aliens’ like myself, it is understandable. Protecting the most vulnerable should take precedence over the welfare of the privileged- and I am privileged. In fact, I would do fairly well in my home country unlike most undocumented immigrants who are fleeing violence and hunger.

I have been incredibly lucky; I am pretty sure there are billions of people who would happily trade places with me. I was fortunate enough to be born to educated, middle class parents. I was lucky enough to go to good schools, work in the US and save money that allowed me to do my Master’s without going into debt. I have been lucky to continue working in the US after this and build up a little nest egg.

Given how lucky I have been, it would be churlish to complain about the US immigration system not working in my favor. In fact, if USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigrant Services) asks me to pack my bags and leave tomorrow - the only thing I believe I am entitled to say is: “So Long, and Thanks for all the fish!”

Govind G Nair
Govind G Nair
Senior Product Manager