'Get In Line:' What It Takes To Legally Immigrate To The United States "Over the past few years, [USCIS] has gotten far more difficult to navigate, it is much more difficult to speak to a human being, to make an appointment...so if there is a snafu, it's very difficult to get that resolved," says immigration lawyer Eleanor Pelta.

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'Get In Line:' What It Takes To Legally Immigrate To The United States

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'Get In Line:' What It Takes To Legally Immigrate To The United States

1A

'Get In Line:' What It Takes To Legally Immigrate To The United States

'Get In Line:' What It Takes To Legally Immigrate To The United States

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Puneet Chowdhary is one of hundreds of thousands of people living and working in the United States who is waiting for a green card. She met her husband in the United States, and they have two kids together. PUNEET CHOWDHARY hide caption

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PUNEET CHOWDHARY

Puneet Chowdhary is one of hundreds of thousands of people living and working in the United States who is waiting for a green card. She met her husband in the United States, and they have two kids together.

PUNEET CHOWDHARY

When we talk about immigration, we often focus only on a single angle: illegal immigration.

But every day, millions of people contend with the U.S.' legal immigration system. Many have been living and working in America for years, stuck in residency limbo as they contend with an alphabet soup of visas and green cards and a system congested with red tape and long wait times.

An immigrant who applies for a green card today can expect to wait in line for 50 years.

1A listener Puneet Chowdhary brought this issue to our attention, and she knows it well. She came to the United States from India in 2001, and told us about how the legal residency limbo has affected her life.

"I haven't been back to India in the last eight years because I'm scared I won't be able to come back into the U.S. I lost my father this year and I could not go home to pay my respects to him.

When I tell someone I'm still not a citizen, they do a double-take. You've been here for so long, they say. It's not only that I'm still not a citizen, it's that I still don't know how many decades I have to wait."

This episode is one of our series of shows suggested by our audience, and along with Puneet, we talk with Abigail Hauslohner, an immigration reporter for the Washington Post; and immigration lawyer Eleanor Pelta about what it takes to legally remain in the United States.

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