A researcher who helps young Indians navigate through green card journey in US

When Dr Aditi Paul, a researcher and author who works at the intersection of technology, psychology and human communication, decided to move to Michigan from Kolkata for a PhD, she was not thinking about the big picture of her career path but was focused on the immediate next step – getting an F-1 student visa.
And after she joined the programme, it was about the step after that. “When I graduated, I focused on the next step – get an H-1B work permit to be able to work in the US and then after my H-1B, I focused on the next step – get my green card or permanent residence petition,” she recollects. Like thousands of Indian students, who move to America for higher education and hope to build careers there, Paul had not reckoned with the tough fact that Indian nationals are likely to face up to several decades on queues for permanent residence or green cards in the US until she was herself challenged with the egregious backlog in the EB-2 category (employment-based – second preference).
“Navigating US immigration is like playing a video game. There are multiple levels to cross. And you are so focused on passing the level you are on that you don’t even think about what’s coming next,” Paul told The Times of India. She added that through conversations with her sister (a US citizen) and her seniors from grad school, she realised that the only way she could get out of the long wait time for a green card was by qualifying for EB-1 (employment-based – first preference) – the category which is suitable for individuals, who, because of top academic qualifications or exceptional talent, are lucky enough to be on a very fast track.
Within the EB-1 category, there are three sub-categories – EB1-A , EB1-B, and EB1-C. Out of the three, Paul chose to go for EB1-B ‘outstanding researcher/ professor’. “This was because I was a professor then and it aligned well with my job and the better approval rates of EB1-B. Besides, the faster processing times of EB1-B compared to EB1-A was also a point,” says Paul.
It was her sister, who had gone to the US as a spouse on dependent H-4 visa and faced a long green card backlog, who supported Paul on her journey and made her aware that it was best not to leave anything to chance. “I realised that I would have to take 100% ownership of process and not leave it to my employer. I had to also build up a relationship of trust with my boss,” says Paul who was finally able to explain to the dean of her university that skilled Indian professionals face a specific immigration problem and much longer backlog for green cards than those from other countries.
There were several challenges though. “I needed my employer’s buy-in to petition for my EB1-B (you cannot self-petition EB1-B, unlike EB1-A). This is where the problems arose. My immigration attorney was 𝙣𝙤𝙩 convinced I met the requirements of EB-1 and kept me on hold for eight months,” she remembers. In those eight months, she had to work hard to strengthen her profile that would help her to get the approval for her EB-1 petition. This included publishing research in high impact journals and conferences; publishing a book and book endorsements from over 20 scholars; gathering all the research that cited her work; getting placed on the editorial board of reputable journals; invitations to judge other researchers’ work; talks at universities, corporations, and major stages and letters of support from professors with high research productivity and quotes and interviews by major media channels. Her efforts finally paid off with her green card petition getting approved in only seven days.
But Paul decided not to end the green card journey even after she finally got it in hand in May 2022. And now aside from her day job as a principal UX researcher, she actively shares immigration-based content on Linkedin and other social media platforms to educate and empower individuals on their immigration journey, including how to build a strong EB-1 profile. She has built up an international student and professionals community on Linkedin of 18,000 followers and grew an EB-1 support community to 1,714 immigrants. She has hosted 13 immigration-related information sessions attended by 1,872 people. “My goal is to help Indian international students and professionals navigate and take charge of their immigration journey and thrive in the US. Having gone through the arduous international student to green card journey, I know first-hand how challenging immigration can be. That is why my goal is to help the next generation of immigrants navigate their journey with confidence and ease,” she says. Having faced the lonely journey of getting her green card through the EB-1 route; Paul feels that through volunteering time she can help many young Indian students who are facing similar problems. “The US immigration process for Indians can be dehumanising at every stage and you cannot even complain about the unfairness. Sharing knowledge, I feel, could bring back a sense of normalcy for many who are at the receiving end,” she says.
Paul is happy to see young students reach out to her with the right questions and seek answers about the US immigration even before they set foot on American soil and sometimes wishes that she had the same level of awareness when she started off. Commenting on the backlog even in the EB-1 category for Indian nationals this year, Paul fears what was ‘extraordinary’ yesterday, may not be today. “The bar is getting higher for EB-1 as more highly skilled people apply for it,” she warns.

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