Mayra Lerma

Mayra Lerma

Indianapolis, IN

Fortunately Mom was granted her permanent residency in 1988 and immediately petitioned the rest of the family. When I was 17, two years and thousands of dollars later, I received a congratulatory letter from INS stating that my petition had been approved however that according to the Family Unity program I would have to wait for a Visa to become available before applying for a residency card and furthermore that if during this waiting period I got married my petition would become null and a new petition would have to be submitted. At the time I was granted a work permit, only it had to be renewed annually for a fee.

Nearly a year later, as the spouse of a resident, Dad was granted residency, then a year after that my little sister also received hers. Years passed and I reached adulthood, which changed my application status from first to second priority. In the meantime, Mom became a Naturalized US citizen, changing our application status back to first priority. We thought my “number” would come up soon but that was not to be. During her senior year in high school, my little sister also became a US citizen. Yet there were still no visas available for me. You see annually, each country is allotted a specific amount of visas, however, there are more applicants than there are visas available. So they’ve developed a system by which visas are made available to petitioners according to their assigned “priority date”, and even then the amount of available visas per country are not enough. INS, now known as U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, has changed considerably since my petition was approved so many years ago; especially after 9/11 and three administrations later the immigration system is not the same and the Family Unity Program no longer exists. Although my petition is still valid I can no longer renew my work permit. With an approved petition I am better off than other undocumented persons. Some people don’t even have that! But it the case will not remain open for much longer…

According to the monthly Visa Bulletin my priority date is now being processed and I can now apply for my residency. YAY ME!

The question now is, how am I going to come up with money to do so when I do not have a source of income? The application alone costs nearly $1,000.00 and that does not include pictures, a medical exam, fingerprints, etc. Because I don’t have medical insurance my out-of-pocket expenses for a medical exam would probably cost me another $800.00. If I want to work while I wait for my residency card to arrive I’ll need a work permit which runs upward of $400.00. Hopefully the new U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services doesn’t decide that I need to pay a fine for over-staying my visa when I entered the country as a child because if they do that would mean at least another $1,000.00!!!! So here I sit in immigration limbo, an unwed mother, unable to renew my permit per U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services guidelines, thus unable to legally work to provide for my own child. I now live with family and earn my keep by being a nanny to my nephew and help my sister around the house while she launches her online business. I live in a constant state of fear that I will be discovered. Afraid that I’ll be pulled over and be arrested then deported. This is no way to live.

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