Category Archives: Immigration

Things you need to know before entering the U.S. part I

If you are applying for graduate school, you might start to receive an interview notice or admission letter. Or if you are graduating from the Ph.D. program and plan to do your post-doctoral training in the U.S., Here are things you need to know before you board the flight.

The first thing we need to do is find a place to live, either an apartment or a house to rent. Fortunately, after the COVID pandemic, many landlords or leasing offices provide a virtual tour for the house or apartment. Although the virtual tour would be good enough to check the overview of the house, I would recommend having some local people check the place for you. It might be worth hiring a local student and asking the student to do a video chat while he/she is on tour. Some people would think this is a waste of money if there is a virtual tour service, but minor things might be easily neglected in the virtual tour. Or I would suggest that you stay at a hotel for 1-2 weeks before you have a tour and sign the contract. Do NOT pay any deposit without any house tour because it might be a fraud.

Second, everyone has a smartphone that requires wireless service. However, with smartphone technology, the only problem is that you do not have any wireless service, and you cannot do anything, go anywhere because modern people cannot live without a smartphone. There are three major wireless service companies in the U.S., T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon. I believe you could find the stores of these wireless service companies when you arrive at the international airport and get a prepaid sim card for your smartphone. Then you could still be a “smart” person to solve any problem with your phone.

Third, a driver’s license and a vehicle would be essential tools if you plan to live in the country because the bus schedule might not be as frequent as in the city. In the U.S., each state has its own motor vehicle laws and safe driving practices, for example, in New York State, when a school bus stops on street to load or discharge passengers, all the vehicles should stop for the school bus even you are on the opposite side of a divided highway. However, in New Jersey, if there is a divided highway and the vehicle is on the opposite side of the bus, the car does not need to stop but should drive less than 10 mph. So it is better for you to learn the local traffic law while you are new to the state. Additionally, the steps to get a driver’s license are to pass the written test for your Class D learner’s permit before you schedule the road test. About buying a car, I will prepare another blog to share my experience buying a car in the U.S. and share some tips to get a lower price.

In sum, I only listed the three most important things to those who are fresh off the boat. There are several minor things I could not discuss here due to the length of the blog, but feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions. Last, I would like to welcome you to the states and enjoy your lives here.

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Jason(Yen-Chun) Lu, All right reserved.

The Road for Immigration to the US, green card application-EB2-NIW

As an immigrant and scientist, I would like to share my experience of applying for permanent resident in the United States. I received my Ph.D. degree from Cornell University in 2018, and I filed the documents for I140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers under EB-2: Employment-Based Immigration-Advanced Degree or Exceptional Ability with National Interest Waiver (NIW) at the beginning of February 2019. Additionally, I also submitted the I485, Application to Adjust Status, after receiving the receipt of I140 at the end of February 2019. Here is the timeline for my application.

The Road for Immigration to the US, green card application-EB2-NIW 1

In preparing the I140 documents, we have to fill the form I-140 with a solid petition to demonstrate the contribution that benefits the United States. In the petition, I have to include evidence of an advanced degree, a proposed endeavor with both substantial merit and national importance, and how I advance the proposed endeavor, such as my research in biomedical applications (cell therapy, biomanufacturing) recommendation letters. First, I have to show my diploma and transcript from Cornell University and the evidence of my current position at Boston Children’s Hospital/MIT to prove that I am a member of the professions holding an advanced degree. Second, I presented my previous research in the biomedical field and demonstrated how my research has both substantial merit and national importance. Last, there are two types of recommendation letters (RL), dependent RL and independent RL. Dependent RL is defined when a related faculty provide the RL in academia or a profession in the industry. Additionally, “related” is in a very broad range: Even you do not know all the faculties in the same institution or department, but any overlap in any institution or listed in the same publication with these faculties, they would be identified as dependent references by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officer. To make sure you got strong references for your application, it is better to find three independent references who could support your petition and also evidence to show you are an expert in the field who could provide US national benefits.

In my application, I am not a lucky one because it took me two years and four months to get my green card. Also, during the COVID pandemic, I received my I140 approval notice twice (5/13/2020 and 11/23/2020). To understand the reason for 2nd approval letter, I have consulted with my immigrant attorney and requested help from a US senator in MA. However, none of them could provide an answer for this. Notably, while I am waiting for the case to be reviewed and approved by USCIS, I found several tools we could do to check the status of the applications. First, we could create an account on the USCIS website ( and the department of homeland security website ( to track the case status. Sometimes the case status might only update on one of the websites. Moreover, there is another tool on the USCIS website, checking processing time. ( In this tool, you have to choose what form you are looking for and what field office or service center you submit the application to. For example, in the I140 application, we need to choose I140 and Texas Service Center because my case was submitted to Texas Service Center. (see the picture below) Then we could find out the estimated processing time for different categories. If your case is outside of normal processing time, you could raise a service request on the USCIS website. If the case has been pending for over a year, I would suggest contacting the USCIS to talk with a senior officer to track the actual status and where the case is. If none of the officers from USCIS could provide any clue on your case, you could contact your local congressman/ woman or senator for help. The legislators could have access and the right to request information in your case, so don’t hesitate to get in touch with the local office of these federal legislators for assistance.

The Road for Immigration to the US, green card application-EB2-NIW 2

The Road for Immigration to the US, green card application-EB2-NIW 3

In my experience of the green card application, I understand that there is no rule to estimate when we will receive the notice from USCIS. If you are a lucky boy/girl, you might get your green card very quickly. Therefore, if there is anything I would suggest to do while your case is pending at USCIS, maybe “pray” is the only thing we could do. 🙂 Good luck to anyone waiting for the green application, and please feel free to leave a comment to let me know if you have any questions.

Friendly note: I am not an immigration attorney. This is my experience with my green card application. If you have any questions in the immigration process, please consult with an attorney. Also, if you like this blog, please remember to click the advertisement as your support. Thanks.

Jason(Yen-Chun) Lu, All right reserved.