EB1 Green Card Success – Niel, a Software Developer from South Africa
On the cutting edge of technology in South Africa: When Niel first came to us, he had already experienced Immigration frustration by trying to get through the H1B lottery, but with job opportunities available to him, Niel sought our help to determine what other options he had to move his family out of South Africa. Fortunately, it was immediately clear to our team that Niel was a great candidate for the EB1 Green Card, and few short months later, he was approved and able to rest easy with the knowledge that his family would receive green cards.
Tell me about where you are from and a little bit about what you do.
I’m from South Africa where I’ve worked as a specialist software developer and solutions architect for about 15 years. I’ve spent most of my career at two major blue chip organizations where I’ve designed and built many systems that are core to their businesses.
How did you work your way up the ranks to reach your level and what were some of the challenges along the way.
As someone who doesn’t have a bachelor’s degree, I’ve had to prove myself at every turn. Early on in my career, this meant taking ownership of the tasks that the more senior guys really didn’t want and in doing so building up my skillset over time.
But that’s not really the full story here.
It was by pure chance that about 2 years ago I was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder. I wasn’t meant to be the patient, my son was, but that’s not why I’m mentioning it at all. I mention it because I went through my school career and through a massive part of my software development career without any diagnosis or medical support. It was up to me to develop ways to work around it, establish habits to repeat and so on.
This was probably the single most important driving factor I’ve had in my career because in overcoming my A.D.D, I really built up more than just a personal skill. I learnt how to persevere, how to keep changing my angle of attack if it is not yielding the results that I wanted. I had no choice but to overcome the issue without even knowing I had an issue.
In the end, my approach turned out to be so different, that I quickly became the go to guy to fix problems or do things beyond the regular run of the mill stuff. As such, with the progression of my career the problems I had to solve became bigger and bigger and the systems I had to build became more and more important.
Have you ever lived in the US before? If so, under what circumstances? If not, what aroused your interest in a move to the US?
I’ve not lived in the U.S before, in fact, my wife has never been outside of South Africa.
We briefly considered a move after surviving a horrifically violent home invasion in 2006 but we ended up staying in South Africa. Now, several years later my career opportunities have dried up, my children are growing up and we really want to secure a better future for them.
How did you decide to pursue an EB1?
I accepted a job offer from a U.S employer last year but after not being selected during the H1B lottery in April I decided to see if an EB1 might be possible. The stumbling blocks seemed to start immediately.
Several attorneys told me that I wouldn’t qualify. The reasons varied from “you don’t have any research papers” to “you don’t have a PhD”. After discussing this predicament with my wife we decided to pay an attorney a fee to properly spend time on my case to see if I qualify rather than just scanning the subject lines. With that mindset I went back to find an attorney.
Luckily I came across the Law Offices of Chris M. Ingram and I received the required personal attention from day one.
What was your experience with the EB1 petition process?
What seemed like a daunting task on day one was really broken down into small manageable work items by your expertise in this field. The information and feedback I was given meant that I was able to gather my required evidence fairly quickly or find some additional evidence where required.
The quality of work that went into the preparation of my documents was astounding. When we received the documentation I really couldn’t believe that someone else had spent that much time documenting what is essentially my life and to have explained it in such a way that I could get a favorable outcome was incredible.
What were some of the challenges you had to work on in the preparation of your case, for example evidence gathering?
It helped my case tremendously that we were preparing to leave South Africa in 2006 because I had gathered most of the required documentation from my former employer at that time already. When we felt I could use more evidence from the employer, the company had changed ownership and was unwilling to issue any letters for employees prior to 2007. Though not ideal we could overcome the issue with signed affidavits from former management.
What kind of relationship did/do you have Chris and his team?
We worked together very closely. Initially there was a lot of information for me to consume to get the process going and as soon as I was ready and the documents started coming together we were communicating daily, sometimes several times a day. I received meaningful feedback on revisions and suggestions on changes and help was merely a question away.
What were you doing when you found out you were approved? What was your immediate reaction? How did/will you celebrate?
We filed under premium processing and to say that I checked my mail every few minutes would be an understatement. As a day became two, two became three we really started stressing but we stayed positive, disregarding all the negative things we read online about cases being denied or at least going to RFE’s.
On this particular day, we just sat down for dinner when my phone beeped on an incoming email. I quickly scanned my phone and noticed it was from USCIS. I was too nervous to say anything and I wanted to show a strong face in case of disappointment so I excused myself, stood up and went to my home office to read the email on my pc. My hands were frantically shaking.
When I read the good news, I just froze. I made sure it came from USCIS and that it wasn’t a prank. It was incredible.
I wanted to shout and scream in excitement but I calmly walked to our television, opened YouTube and found the first song with anything resembling America. The song that popped up was Rammstein’s “America” and it opens with the band dressed like NASA Astronauts playing music on the moon, singing “We’re all living in America”.
I just let it play at full volume; standing there with tears in my eyes waiting for the rest of the family to realize what was going on. It took a few seconds and then it hit them. In unison they turned their heads to look at me and when they saw my face, well, let’s just say things went a little crazy.
What are you looking forward to most about moving to the US?
This is a really hard question to answer because it’s so many things. We didn’t leave South Africa in 2006 because we felt we would be running from something. This is the opposite; it feels like we’re going towards something. Be it my career, a better future for our children, a stable economy or simply just to see snow and then to try to avoid it.
What will you miss the most about your home country?
It will be hard to live that far away from family and friends as well as not being able to visit Kruger National Park as often as we used to.
What advice would you give to any immigrant considering an EB1 or who is already in the process?
This is not an easy path to take but if you do and if you partner with someone who knows what they are doing, it can be done even when others might say it can’t be done.