Help Neil Fund His Green Card

$5,765 of $7,000 goal

Raised by 112 people in 35 months
[Updated 11-26-2016] I'm Neil Aitken -- I'm a published poet, the author of an award-winning first book of poetry, the founding  editor of Boxcar Poetry Review, a scholar of 19th century artificial intelligence in literature, a prolific translator of contemporary Chinese poetry, and a former computer games programmer (website ).  I recently completed a Ph.D. in Literature & Creative Writing at the University of Southern California.  Prior to that, I did an MFA in Creative Writing (poetry & fiction), and prior to that, I worked as a lead programmer for a company that published kids computer games.   Although a Canadian by birth, I've spent almost my entire adult life (roughly 20 of the last 24 years), from undergraduate to my  Ph.D. in the US.  You'd figure that I'd have a green card or be a citizen by now -- and you'd be wrong.

It turns out that US immigration policy is very complicated (see this chart ).  For the most part, if you're on a student visa, you can't apply for a green card other than through the lottery system.   Obtaining work authorization is also tricky and requires that you find a single employer who can sponsor you for a full-time job in your field of study.  For most international students, this is not always feasible -- especially in the humanities where it is far more common to pick up a number of adjunct positions from different schools in order to make ends meet. Not only is it complicated -- it's also very expensive (and beginning in 2017, likely to become even more expensive and complicated)

Ordinarily I'd have to first find a company or university to sponsor me for a visa to teach/work in a full-time position doing something clearly related to my studies.  This would get me a 3-5 year work authorization visa.  From there, I'd apply for a green card/permanent residency.  And later, I could decide to apply for full citizenship.  This whole process can easily take over 10 years.  Just getting to the green card can take 5-8 years.

But there's a shortcut.  If you happen to qualify for the EB1A category of green card (wonderfully titled "Alien of Extraordinary Ability"), you can bypass the visa stage and directly apply for permanent resident / green card status on the basis of your exceptional contributions and reputation within your field.  This is what (with your help) I am doing.

From the US Immigration Services Website:

Criteria for Demonstrating Extraordinary Ability
You must meet 3 out of the 10 listed criteria below to prove extraordinary ability in your field:

* Evidence of receipt of lesser nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence 
* Evidence of your membership in associations in the field which demand outstanding achievement of their members 
* Evidence of published material about you in professional or major trade publications or other major media 
* Evidence that you have been asked to judge the work of others, either individually or on a panel 
* Evidence of your original scientific, scholarly, artistic, athletic, or business-related contributions of major significance to the field 
* Evidence of your authorship of scholarly articles in professional or major trade publications or other major media 
* Evidence that your work has been displayed at artistic exhibitions or showcases 
* Evidence of your performance of a leading or critical role in distinguished organizations 
* Evidence that you command a high salary or other significantly high remuneration in relation to others in the field (Sadly not -- POETRY)
* Evidence of your commercial successes in the performing arts 

My odds of a successful application for the EB1 green card are good -- but the process requires more money than I have available (I've sunk an additional $2500 of my own money into this application)

Here's the breakdown of projected expenses (why $7000)

$540 - Application processing fee for US Immigration Services
$4800 (minimum) - Legal preparation fees (without a lawyer preparing the application, most applications, regardless of merit fail)
$700 - EAD application fee, Biometrics fee, medical exam, miscellaneous
$960 - 2nd round legal fees.

[2016 Update]   After completing my PhD, but not finding full-time teaching employment for Fall 2016, I moved up to Vancouver, WA (close to Portland, OR).  I'm applying again for various teaching positions for Fall 2017, but am also exploring options outside academia. Either way, having a green card in hand will make my applications much more persuasive.

So will you help me reach my goal of getting a green card and becoming a permanent resident?  I need your assistance.  Any donation is welcome - and please feel free to spread the word.  Think of it also as a way to help this geeky poet guy become a legally recognized  "Alien of Extraordinary Ability" -- the first in his class :)

Read more about me and my projects at:
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I recently received word that my petition to be recognized as an Alien of Extraordinary Ability has been granted!!

Q: Does this mean I have a green card?
A: No, not yet. This means that I have been given permission to apply for a green card as a self-employed artist/writer. Getting to this status is actually the hard part -- the place where the outcome is most uncertain. With this status in hand, I can apply for a green card (permanent residency) with a near certainty of passing through the remaining hoops unhindered.

Q: What expenses and fees are left?
A: I still have to pay for the final paperwork ($1225 processing fee for the temporary work permit and the green card that has to be paid upfront), plus an updated medical exam, and new set of photos. There may be some additional legal fees. All together, I'm anticipating roughly $1900-$2000.

Q: How long before you get the actual green card?
A: It will take another 6-8 months from when we file the paperwork, but we're also filing a temporary work permit (EAD) at the same time, so I should be able to start working/teaching for non-profits by the end of the summer.

Q: Will you be offering any perks or incentives?
A: Yes! Stay tuned -- perks will include punchcard bookmarks, signed books, free writing coaching sessions, and other cool thank you gifts.

I want to publicly thank all of you who have donated in the past, whether with money, or by writing letters of support and endorsement, or by spreading the word and encouraging others to support my quest to get a green card. I know that a lot has changed in the last 18 months, but I also know that there is great value in writing and literature to create spaces of empathy and beauty, even when greed and fear can try to drown us.

Thank you all for your dreams -- your hopes -- your fire that keeps light in the world! And thank you for helping me be a part of that endeavor here in this land of opportunity and new beginnings.
Alien of Extraordinary Ability Status!
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Thanks to your help, we raised another $150 this past week to go toward paying my immigration fees and legal expenses!

I realize that it's the end of the year and things are tight for a lot of us -- I really appreciate those who are able to help and understand completely the situation of those who can't at this time.

If you're looking for other ways to help out, I still have copies of my chapbook, Leviathan, available for sale. I'm selling signed copies for $7+$3 shipping ($10 total). I have 15 left. Email me if you're interested in buying one (I accept payment via PayPal, Venmo, and Google Wallet).

Leviathan (poems) -Front & Back Cover
Leviathan - sample poem
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Thank you everyone who has supported my quest for a green card so far!

Some updates for those wondering how things are going and where I'm at right now.

1. In October 2015, I filed my green card application through Fehmel & Associates, a law firm that specializes in immigration applications, especially of the category I'm applying under. With your assistance, I've been able to pay for most of the application, filing, and legal fees for the first round (about $750 in legal fees remains at this point).

2. Also in October 2015, I used part of the funds to pay for a EAD (Employment Authorization Document) that permitted me to work and/or be self-employed for a year (from October 2015-October 2016). During this past year, I was able to earn money through doing online teaching and writing coaching, editing dissertations, giving poetry readings, and being a featured speaker at academic conferences and symposiums. I tried applying for academic and non-academic positions in the Portland area, but had a hard time locating an employer willing to work with someone who only had a short term authorization.

3. In March 2016, I received notice the US Immigration had started working on my application. Coincidentally my chapbook, Leviathan, was published by Hyacinth Girl Press at about the same time.

4. At the beginning of November 2016, US Immigration sent a Request for Additional Evidence -- essentially indicating that while there were merits to my case, they required additional support material, letters, and explanations so that the officer could make an informed decision. My immigration lawyer says that this is a common outcome and simply means we need to address any questions and misunderstandings in our follow up submission.

5. I have been gathering additional letters of support and evidence to bolster my case to be admitted as an Alien of Extraordinary Ability. My immigration lawyer will file our supplemental materials at the end of December or early January. We are hoping to receive a final decision in March or April 2017.

6. The supplemental filing requires additional time from my lawyer and this will likely increase my legal fees. In anticipation for that bump, I am increasing the current fundraising target to $7000 which should cover my current balance ($750, plus a suitable cushion for additional fees for this second round).

7. My second full-length collection of poetry, Babbage's Dream should be out early 2017 as well.

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Thanks again for all of your help and assistance! It's been busy these last few weeks and a lot of things are happening.

1. We're gathering letters of support and compiling other materials for my green card application at this point, hoping to submit the initial application in July. There may be additional requests for supporting material -- we'll see.

2. We're almost at the $4500 mark (since we're not doing the expedited option, I've reset the goal to match the actual legal fees for regular application).

3. I'm moving to Vancouver, WA at the end of July (next month). I'll be living with relatives (aunt & uncle) and looking for work in the area. If you know of teaching, writing, or editing jobs that are open, let me know. I'll also be available to consult on manuscripts, run writing workshops, build author websites , and provide mentoring and/or tutoring to younger writers and students.

4. If you're in LA and want to meet up before I go, let me know . My schedule is pretty open right now and I'd be happy to catch up at local coffee shop or over lunch or dinner somewhere else. And I hope to host at least one more poetry potluck at my place before I'm gone.

5. Any money raised beyond the $4500 will go toward covering the cost of keeping my books in storage ($109/month x 12 months). I have over 900 books, many of which are poetry or translation-related. Most of them are not replaceable (signed copies or personal gifts) or available digitally, so preserving this collection is important. It's too expensive to temporarily move them all to Washington, for the time being I'm renting a storage unit.
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$5,765 of $7,000 goal

Raised by 112 people in 35 months
Created May 1, 2015
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11 months ago
12 months ago
Joey Blanch
12 months ago

So glad you got your green card! Best of luck bringing poetry to the US.

12 months ago (Offline Donation)
12 months ago (Offline Donation)
kate watt
12 months ago

UC Riverside's writing program is always hiring part-time lecturers. And we already know the process of hiring non-natives.

Theresa Edwards
12 months ago

So happy for you, Neil!!!!!

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