Green Card_profile
Interested in working in the United States? One must qualify. Santa Monica, CA based immigration attorney, Chris Ingram helps those navigate the journey.
By Kathryn Atkins for The National Business Post
March 14, 2022
Last year alone, there were 1.7 million recorded illegal crossing attempts made by individuals who wanted to enter the United States of America without the correct paperwork. They were quickly caught and turned away trying to enter the “land of opportunity.”
For those who make it in legally, it is only the beginning. The proper way most individuals (aka legal aliens) enter the U.S. is typically via a Visitor’s Visa, or under the Visa Waiver Program (ESTA), if they are just visiting for a short period of time.
If the individual is entering to take up a position of employment, then they would have applied for a work visa.
For many aliens entering with a work visa, this may be the first step towards settling in the U.S. The next step would be permanent residency.
Becoming a lawful permanent resident (LPR) is not an easy task, and the only way of living in the United States without having to reapply every few years to work and live permanently in this country is to apply for a Green Card. The Green Card is issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigrations Services.
Immigration attorney, Chris M. Ingram, had to do exactly that when he arrived from the UK.
Chris is now a Permanent Resident, and has worked for the last 20 years with those seeking to make America home for themselves and their families. It is the specialty of his Santa Monica, CA-based immigration law practice.
Chris Ingram _ profile
Santa Monica, CA based Immigration Attorney Chris Ingram
Standing out in a crowd
The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) has a membership of 15,000 attorneys who practice and teach immigration law. In relationship to the 1.33 million lawyers in the United States (2021, this is a small group. Ingram is a member of the association because of its mission to “…promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice, and enhance the professional development of its members.”
But what makes him stand out in a crowd? Perhaps it’s his own frustrated attempts at lawful immigration. Arriving in the United States in ’99 along with his wife from England, Ingram had two UK law degrees and a Postgraduate Diploma in Legal Practice (plus one in Market Research). Still, he found it a struggle to obtain a U.S. Green Card even after passing the New York State bar in 2003.
As a result of his experience, he developed a passion and a commitment for helping others, which includes education. Lots of it. Ingram wants people seeking any type of work visa —of which there are about 30—to know what each one means, how to get one, and how much it can cost in time, money, work, and perseverance …along with sharing the excitement when candidates are successful. Ingram’s website, Break Through USA, is a good resource for those looking for help. With plenty of free content, along with hundreds of educational videos and testimonials, it offers those whose are searching for answers and advice, a platform to begin the process. His goal is to give every U.S. Visa hopeful the opportunity to discover, in their own time and at their own pace, the options available — whether looking for information about applying for a U.S. Visa, Work Permit, or Green Card.
5 Steps to Getting a Green Card
According to the USCIS. There are three types of “employment based” Green Cards:
* EB-1A
* EB-1B
* EB-1C
(Steps vary depending on the individual situation. That said, here is general application process that most applicants will go through:)
1. Sponsor: “Someone usually must file an immigrant petition for you (often referred to as sponsoring or petitioning for you). In some cases, you may be eligible to file for yourself.
2. File Green Card application: After USCIS approves the immigrant petition, and there is a visa available in your category, you file either a Green Card application with USCIS or a visa application with the U.S. Department of State.
3. Provide Biometrics: You go to a biometrics appointment to provide fingerprints, photos, and a signature.
4. Interview: You attend an official interview date with immigration officials.
5. Decision: You receive a decision based on your application.
Of course, it is a much more cumbersome task than the five simple steps imply. The USCIS website has thousands of pages, however Ingram understands the battle as he spent the last 20 years of his life advising individuals about the visa and Green Card process.
About Green Cards
The card was green originally. There are two primary paths toward getting a Green Card or Legal Permanent Residency (LPR). One is Employment-Based, and the other is Family-Based. The only immigrants who do not require a sponsor are the Extraordinary Ability EB1-A, and Exceptional Ability, EB2 National Interest Waiver (NIW) candidates. All other immigrants need a U.S. sponsor. This is critical because some very qualified candidates in the EB2 and EB3 categories can wait over ten years for their Green Card, depending on their country of origin. The United States imposes a quota system on Green Cards.
(Note: Green Cards issued are limited annually to around 40,000 per year per category (EB1, EB2, EB3).
EB1-A is for “extraordinary ability” in sciences, education, sports, arts, and business and is the hardest to obtain. It can be self-sponsored.
EB1-B is for “exceptional ability” of researchers, professors, and others with advanced degrees. It requires sponsorship.
EB1-C is for multinational executives or managers to apply for this visa. This one requires sponsorship too. While Employment-Based and Family-Based Green Cards grant lawful permanent residence (LPR), around 30 other visas and subcategories only support temporary admittance into the States.
For instance, on the O-1 visa (for science and business), the maximum one can stay is three years before applying for an extension in one-year increments. Anything that is not a Green Card is called a dead-end visa. Ingram works to keep people out of dead ends because those are where frustration and heartache come in. Sometimes families have to endure heartache and leave after spending years in the United States. And the USCIS is confusing, changeable, and exasperating, which is why it’s difficult to remain positive and stay the course. Many people simply give up. Furthermore, when the immigrant needs a sponsor, some employers who know of that prerequisite take advantage of impermanent visa holders by trying to pay them less or holding the sponsorship carrot as a means to get the work they need doing at a lower price. This makes Ingram nuts, and the AILA agrees.
Trends come and go
The AILA welcomed the January 2022 Biden Administration’s support of changes in policy to attract and retain STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) talent into this country. This is a step in the right direction. Ingram states, “Sometimes, whatever the work is, especially in STEM (in which I specialize), companies cannot find the exact expertise in the U.S. talent pool. Yet, critical projects, research, and innovation still must move forward.” But he worries that the system will still bog down.
In his two decades in the business of helping immigrants obtain Green Cards, and after U.S. government administration changes about every four years, Ingram is all too aware of ebbs and flows in immigration law. Regardless, it’s tricky to navigate, especially when some applicants struggle with English, not to mention government forms. His approach includes lots of painstaking education about the process and hours of coaching, practice, hand-holding, as well as motivational pep talks.
The brick wall
One of the reasons the EB1 visa is so challenging is that the “adjudicators”—the human beings who have the power to approve or deny visa applications—are inconsistent in their interpretation of immigration law. The adjudicator is a “gatekeeper.” Their job is vital to keeping Americans employed and assuring that the United States is safe from unsavory folks, while also welcoming the best and brightest to this country.
“The system surrounding adjudicators is flawed,”Ingram explains, “and it takes diligence, grit, and a lot of experience to get through (and sometimes around) these folks.” As seen in an earlier National Business Post immigration article, Don’t Give Up , some applicants have to wait years.
As for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) adjudicators, Ingram continues,“about one-third of them appear to be unfamiliar with the regulations and case law and seem to invent their own standards of adjudication.” There is an appeals process, and “I do not hesitate to cite Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) decisions if a particular adjudicator is not following the rules.” It’s is a labor of love for Ingram,“My clients will attest to the fact that completing the EB1 visa application is a full-time job outside their day job.” To that end, the educational tutorials and videos he provides let clients/applicants study as time permits. Then, when the client is ready, they hire Ingram’s firm to help them prepare the mountain of forms and then scrutinize their case before submission.
“We act as an adjudicator to see if the case as prepared will pass. We support on the one hand, but we push back hard on the candidate, trying to find holes and patch them. It’s an uphill battle, and we want them to be prepared for it. I think the difficulty is what makes it the most satisfying for me,” Ingram confesses and it seems it is the same for his satisfied clients.
The U.S. Silicon Valley will always need STEM talent, but there are still only so many Green Card slots available. With the pandemic, the demand for Green Cards increased as jobs became scarcer, and families worried their “dead-end” visas would not be renewed. The U.S. Immigration downsized as well, creating more challenges for Ingram’s firm but Ingram continues to pull through for his clients with a high success rate.
Ingram advises, “It’s good to keep busy, building one’s case or professional brand. I always advise clients to have a “backup” category, write scholarly articles, serve as a peer reviewer in your field. It all helps build your case. Just keep improving your stature and hang in there.” As Ingram explains, the end result will be that the individual will be free to stay in the United States without an employer sponsor and without fear of losing all they’ve worked to achieve with their U.S. based job.
It’s worth the effort.
As we have come to realize over the last couple of years, nothing comes easy. We are slowly coming out of the pandemic. The economy is improving. But as we have come to find out, there are many twists and turns on the path to where we want to go. Becoming a permanent resident of the United States is no different. However, thankfully, Chris Ingram has been through the process himself, and hence, as an attorney, has become a champion to those who are starting the process. If you are involved in a case, or would like further advice, Chris can be reached through his site, Break Through USA.
Copyright © 2022. The National Business Post. All rights reserved.
Kathryn Atkins
Kathryn Atkins is a freelance business writer and published author working out of Southern California. She has an MBA from UC Berkeley. She writes about technology, Agile methodology, diversity, fintech, cybersecurity, supply chain and more. She can be reached at