My World this last week has been turned upside down. I have been watching the heartbreaking news about the separation of families illegally entering the US oblivious to the fact that an immigration issue was about to hit our family.
We were moved over from Scotland to Houston by my husbands company, who shall remain nameless for legal purposes and fear of retaliation against our family. Prior to moving over here my husband had already worked two years on a L1 visa so that meant we had five years left. We were told that this was a permanent move and that ultimately the company would apply for a green card when the time came.
Well that time came around in April 2017 when we only had one year left on our visa. My husband began to ask what was going to happen. The downturn in the oil industry had already hit and we had taken several hits with regards to money. First came the withdrawal of the company car with 2 weeks notice. Then came no pay rises for 5 years. That was then followed by voluntary furlough, then mandatory furlough and lastly came the reduction in bonus from 18 % to just 3 %. Money was getting tighter and tighter, we tried hard to save for emergencies but at times we were just keeping our head above water.
Everyone assumes that because your husband works in the oil and gas industry that you are rolling in cash and that you have nothing to worry about, but this is simply not the case.
I have heard many stories of oil and gas giants fleecing employees out of money and time off. They even made it clear that you were still expected to work even when on you mandatory furlough. When the downturn in the oil industry started make no mistake, it was the average working class that took the hit. The companies started to lay people off left, right and centre, they froze salaries, made the remaining employees absorb the true cost and take on additional unrealistic workloads. Then, to rub salt into the wounds they threatened employees by telling them they should consider themselves lucky to have a job and to be grateful.
Take the CEO of my husband's company, he received a massive million dollar pay increase and a huge increase on his multi million bonus. The down turn has not affected his income, only those further down the chain who are already struggling with huge workloads, a rising cost of living and a paycheck that has barely increased since 2013.
So my husband, 2 kids and I are now faced which a life changing crisis. The company my husband works for decided to start the green card process a whole year after my husband voiced concerns about having something in place for when his visa run out. They start the green card process and work permit application with just a few weeks left on our visa. In fact we were down to ten days left before we had to leave the US when the green card was accepted and given a number by immigration.
They had five years in which to apply for our green cards. He found out that many others had been granted their green cards with years still left on their visas, yet our visa was set to expire eight weeks before they even instructed the lawyers to proceed.
What we didn't know until last week was that the visa was going to run out on the 3rd of July and they had only filed for a work permit in June. This meant that we are now faced with a period where his work visa has expired and his work permit has not yet been granted.
I didn't worry too much at first as I assumed there was no way that the company would leave a family with no income, I mean that would be ridiculous, and I thought that in the US that would be illegal bearing in mind that his company are the whole reason we are here. I THOUGHT WRONG.
The company advised my husband last week that he will be placed on UNPAID leave until his work permit comes through. This could take anywhere from 3 to 6 months.
Boom! Just like that we are faced with having no income, no ability to work and STRANDED in the US.
He has not worked enough years to become eligible social security benefits, we have to pay our own medical insurance for this undefined period and somehow find a way to keep a roof over our heads.
We could not believe that this was legal, I mean it simply can't be legal, right? How can you take someone and their family over to a foreign country and then just drop them on unpaid leave, with no medical insurance?
Apparently they have done nothing illegal!! immoral yes but not illegal. Shocked by the realization that they were not going to take care of us we consulted an attorney. It was then that we were told they had done nothing illegal. In fact he can not be paid a salary as that in itself would be illegal due to the lack of work permit and an expired visa. The attorney also told us that it would be very difficult to prove that they were negligent in not applying for the work permit in a timely manner. He said that a lawsuit would cost thousands of dollars before it even got to court and advised us it would be near to impossible to go up against such a large corporation who have the best of attorneys to fight on their behalf.
So we are facing the prospect of trying to survive on what little savings we have and praying that we can get through it.
Could the company have done more for us, to ensure that we didn't suffer the hardship and the undue stress of the while situation? Yes they could have. But instead they chose to let us tough it out. No consideration or care given to whether we lose our home we worked so hard to buy.
There are several things this global billion dollar company could have done to support our family to ensure that we were looked after. After all it was their mess that got us here in the first place. If they had only filed for the green card and work permit sooner then none of this would have happened. We would not be facing this stress.
The company who brought us over here doesn't even care that a loyal employee who works hard and has successfully ran a multi million dollar revenue stream for over 12 years is now faced with a very real reality that we may really struggle financially. They only care about laying people off, making bigger and bigger profits and keeping the shareholders happy. They even made their employees sign non competes to prevent them from leaving for a better paid job with another company.
After all this is over, whether we are homeless and sick, they expect him to duly return to work with a hop, skip and a jump and give 110% to his job like nothing ever happened! They expect him to be grateful they applied for his green card and grateful he has a job.
I really don't know how we get through this. I will pray every day that the work permit comes in before we fall behind with our house payments.
America the land of the free....it's about time that you implement employee rights that have tighter regulations. Other countries have. You can't implement furlough for example in the UK. You can't have non competes in the UK and you certainly could not take a family over to a foreign country and at a weeks notice cut their pay.