MILLEDGEVILLE — Most 20-year-old college students think they face tough struggles maintaining a solid GPA or even planning their next birthday bash. One Georgia College student's green card situation could mean something far more serious come the age of 21.
Lauren Bell moved to the United States nine years ago when her father Kevin accepted a job with SGD North America. Along with her mother and younger sister Emily, 17, Bell is on an H4 visa, while her father has a HB1.
Kevin's employer sponsored the family green card. In 2009, the green card was denied after five years of processing. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) found fault in the original job application's wording.
The three females aren't able to work because of the visa, which places a great strain on the family. Bell pays out-of-state tuition at Georgia College despite legally living in Madison since 2003.
If nothing changes in the green card application process, Bell won't be allowed to legally stay in the country after her Jan. 28 birthday. Staying means she will never receive a green card, would not be able to re-enter the U.S. for 10 years and could jeopardize her parents' status.
“Unless you've reached a certain point in the green card process when you've reached the age of 21, its called ageing out. You aren't eligible to stay,” Kevin said.
Being forced to return to England would be devastating, according to Bell. She has friends and an overall comfort in small town Georgia life.
Unless the law changes or the green card finds its way through the USCIS, Bell said she would self-deport after her 21st birthday.
Currently, the Bell family continues attracting as much attention as possible. High school friends supply Bell with support. Others have reached out to various media outlets spreading the word.