The Green Card

Hello there, remember me? I’m the guy that moved from Sweden to USA almost six years ago and used this blog to tell the world about my journey.

So what has happened since then? Well, I’m still in sunny California and I still work for Google. I have moved houses once and changed cars twice. I have met a lot of awesome people and I have not been pulled over by the police a single time. And, oh yeah, I just received this little thing!


This is a Permanent Resident Card, normally known as a “Green Card”. This means that I’m not any longer here on a visa but rather a lawful permanent resident of the United States of America. And since I was writing a lot in this blog about getting that visa and all the things you need to go through when immigrating to the US I thought I should write a chapter on the process of getting a green card. Even though I haven’t touched this blog in a long long time..

Being a permanent resident in USA is not the same as being a citizen. I still only have one citizenship, that of the Kingdom of Sweden and I only have a Swedish passport. And although there is no expiry date on my permanent resident status I could still lose it if I behave badly. (And one way of behaving badly, according to the information brochures, is to be a “habitual drunkard or someone who is drunk or uses illegal drugs most of the time”.)

So how do you get a green card? Well, there are several ways. You could have family members that are US citizens or permanent residents that can sponsor you. Or you can marry such a person. If you’re a refugee or seek political asylum you can also get a green card. There is also the “green card lottery” where they give out a set number of green cards every year to people from countries that don’t already have a lot of immigration to USA. (Sweden is not such a country.) Since I’m not in any of the first categories and I don’t like the odds of winning the lottery (less than 1% every year, from what I understand..) the only viable option for me was an employment based green card.

There are several different quotas (or “buckets”) for employment based green cards named EB-1 through EB-5. EB-1 is for world class athletes and scientists and people like that. Unfortunately I’m not one of them. EB-2 is for people with a Master’s or PhD degree, or for people with a Bachelor’s and at least five years of work experience. Since my Swedish Masters’s degree in Computer Science from KTH only counts as a Bachelor’s when translated to American English (which annoys me to no end!) I’m lucky to have enough work experience to be put in the EB-2 bucket. Otherwise I would still be waiting.

For an employment based green card you obviously need the sponsorship from your employer. Since this is not the first (or the last) time that Google applies for a green card for an employee they have contracted an immigration law firm that is helping out with all the paper work. They were very helpful and nice to work with through the entire process. I can’t imagine trying to do it by myself and figure out how till fill out all those forms!

Labor certification

The entire circus kicked off in March 2014 and the first step was to do a labor certification, or PERM (Program Electronic Review Management). This is a process to prove that there are no qualified US workers for the position at Google that I have. This is obviously sort of a bullshit process since Google every week hires people to the same position as I have, both US and non US persons. But anyway, that is the game that you need to play. So the first thing we did was that my manager and me wrote up a job description and made a list of the skills that are needed to do the job I’m doing. (Things like “Java programming”, “distributed data storage” etc) Then I needed to reach out to managers at former jobs and get them to sign an “Employment Verification Letter” confirming that I had acquired those skills before moving to USA. Thankfully I managed to get in touch with the people I needed and they were helpful enough to sign and send me letters. (Thanks Mikael, André and Xavier!)

With the letters taken care of and some forms filled out it was just a matter of leaning back, twiddle my thumbs, and wait for something to happen. And the first thing that happened was that my case was randomly selected for auditing. Apparently this is something the Department of Labor do on a select number of cases to do quality assurance of their own processes. This didn’t mean that my life would be scrutinized in every detail or anything like that. It just meant that it would take something like 9 months extra.

In October 2015 (about a year and a half after I got started) they had done all the certification and auditing they felt like they needed to do and my PERM Labor Certification was approved!

I-140 and AOS

Now it was time to file two different things at the same time. “I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker” and “I-485, Application for Adjustment of Status (AOS)”. I’m a bit fuzzy on why there are two different things and exactly what each of them cover. (Go read on Wikipedia if you really want to know. 🙂 ) However, both are needed and they both require a heap of documents to be provided. Among other things I needed to provide

  • Six identical passport photos. (I will never understand why they need six..)
  • Birth certificate (which we don’t really have in Sweden, but “Extract of Population Register” from Skatteverket seemed to work fine).
  • Medical exam. This meant that I had to go to a special doctor that performed immigration exams and tell them what vaccinations I have had. (Thanks Mom for writing everything down in that green little booklet and then handing it over to me!) They also performed some tests and gave me an extra vaccination that I apparently needed.

March 1st 2016 all of this was done and the attorneys filed the I-410 and AOS.

Employment Authorization Card

Then on April 22nd I received this little card in the mail.


I had never heard of this before so I was a little confused all of a sudden getting one. The employment authorization sort of works like a visa and it also comes with “AP (Advance Parole)” which enables you to travel outside the US and re-enter the country again. My H1B visa was still valid though so when I travelled to Sweden in May I never showed this card. Apparently the immigration officers in the passport control are less likely to know what to do with this card than a visa so they might send me to secondary inspection which just takes a lot of time.

Also, even though I could be working and traveling with this card after my visa expired in October it is apparently a good idea to extend the visa anyway until the green card is approved. As long as you have an ongoing green card process you can extend an H1B visa one year at a time. And if something happens with the green card process so you need to start over the visa will enable you to stay while you run the process again. The employment authorization would expire and could in that case not be extended. (What a fantastic system!)


Soon after I got the card I was called to an appointment at the local USCIS office (United States Citizenship and Immigration Service) to collect biometrics information. The letter that I got had a time and a date and said that if I didn’t show up at that time they would consider my green card process as cancelled. Better not argue with that…

At the USCIS office the process was surprisingly fast and smooth. Almost no waiting time at all. They took my photo and some very thorough finger prints. Not only from all fingers but the guy that handled took a firm grip of my hand and sort of “rolled” my fingers on the scanner one by one to get all sides and angles.

Final approval

On June 14th I got an email from the attorneys that the I-140 Immigrant Visa Petition had been approved. All that was left now was the I-485 Adjustment of Status. They expected a decision on that by November. So I assumed it was soon time to start the process of extending the H1B visa since that would expire in October.

But then on July 11th I found this letter in my mailbox!


Sometimes even US authorities can give you nice surprises! And not only did I get this letter sooner than I thought. It says in the letter that I would receive the Permanent Residence Card within three weeks. But the very next day there was a courier envelope at my door with the card in it!

So what does it mean practically to be a permanent resident instead of having a visa? For my everyday life nothing really changes. I have already managed to buy both houses and cars without being a permanent resident. One difference will be at the airport though when returning to USA from abroad. Usually there are two lines at passport control, one for citizens and permanent residents and one for non residents. Now I will get to take the other line! I hope it’s faster…

Also, there is now no time limit on my stay here. No expiration dates at the horizon and applications that need to be filed and approved. And yeah, I can now be unemployed without being kicked out of the country!


When you have been a permanent resident for at least five years you can apply for “naturalization”, to become a US citizen. From my point if view there are both pros and cons with becoming a citizen.


  • You get to vote.
  • You don’t have to renew the green card every ten years (which I believe comes with a fee).


  • You may have to do jury duty. (In the information brochures this is listed as a good thing but all Americans I have talked to hate it..)
  • You will need to pay taxes in USA for the rest of your life.

Will I do it? I don’t know. I have a lot of time to think about it. 🙂

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Candy time

Imagine you are a producer or retailer of candy, soft drinks, snacks and stuff like that. To sell as much as possible of your things you probably want shops, convenience stores and so on all around to carry your products. The more and bigger shops, the better. So if you want to sell your things in Mountain View, California, what should you target?

My bet is that the biggest candy store in Mountain View is Google’s micro kitchens. The place where hungry Googlers can pick up drinks, fruits, snacks etc for free. (And that by a rule must be located within 150 feet from every Googlers desk.)

Today was the MK Food Fair on the Google Campus. A chance for snack sellers to promote their goods for possible inclusion in the micro kitchens. Just get a lot of Googlers to try out your products and hope that they will vote for them.

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What I do at Google

In my last post I asked for suggestions for what I should write about here on my little emigration blog. To facilitate this I created a page on Google Moderator where you could enter your suggestions and also vote for other’s suggestions. All to make sure that I focus on writing about the most popular and globally requested topics. The page is still open here. (This is actually the same system that we use internally at Google when we have big meetings with Q/A sessions at the end.)

Needless to say this has been a huge success and there has been a torrent of suggestions pouring in day and night. All in all three of them! Every suggestion that gets posted get one automatic vote from the author. Counting those votes there has been a total of, well, three votes. This means that it is a very tight race at the top of the suggestion list. So I’m going to start with the first topic that came in.

It is Dennis (the master tenor from Drivved I assume) that asks: “Tell us, as much as you are allowed to, about what you do at Google! Also, what do you do on your own project time (is it 20%)?

I work on the product called AdWords. We are the ones who make most of the money for Google. Since I guess most of you who read this have never paid anything for using Google services (Search, GMail, Maps etc) the money has to come from somewhere else. And that somewhere else is advertising. When you search for something on there is usually a couple of ads at the top and a couple on the right side. (They are marked as ads, the regular search result is never paid for.) Those ads come from AdWords.

AdWords ads are displayed in other places than Google Search as well. Anyone who has a web site can sign up to something called AdSense. With AdSense you can put ads from AdWords on your own web site. And when someone clicks on an ad you will make a bit of money. AdSense will scan your site and try to figure out what it is about so that ads that are related to it are displayed. An example is this site that has AdSense ads on the left side.

I work in the AdWords API team. There are several ways that an advertiser can manage their advertising campaigns. Most advertisers are pretty small and use the web at This website doesn’t store the campaigns directly in the AdWords database, instead it talks to the AdWords API that in turn will talk to the database. The really big advertisers have their own systems that talk directly to the AdWords API.

So what I do all day is developing new things for the AdWords API, in Java. Sort of.

Then there is also the concept of the 20% project. All engineers at Google have the possibility to spend 20% of their working time on something that they choose themselves. It can be a brand new idea of the next product that will take over the world (GMail started as a 20% project) or it can be something much smaller that most people will never hear about. It can also be something like arranging a charity, so it doesn’t have to be all technical. Not all Googlers have a 20% project, and not all have it all the time. It’s up to each and everyone to get themselves a 20% project if they want to. No one will come and give one to you if you don’t do anything yourself.

So far I haven’t gotten myself a 20% project but I have some ideas. I am currently talking to a product manager on a totally different project from AdWords about an idea. But for the time being, I think I’ll keep it a secret!

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Tax time

Today we’re going to talk about taxes. But first something else.

I have gotten some complaints recently that I haven’t blogged very much lately. Since the move is sort of over and I’ve been a while both at Google and in my apartment there is not so much new happening in that area. So I’m going to reach out to you who is reading this. What would you want me to write about? Go to this Google Moderator page and suggest something. There you can also give thumbs up/down to suggestions other people have made. In a while I might just write something about the most popular suggestions. (I reserve the right to not take up on any suggestion at all though 😛 )

So, back to taxes. In Sweden if you are just a regular employee and haven’t traded any stock, sold any houses or anything like that doing your taxes follows these simple steps.

  1. Receive your tax papers in the mail.
  2. Check that the numbers in it are right (they usually are).
  3. Send a text message saying that it’s all ok.

That’s it.

In the US it seems like the tax preparer professions is something that is protected by the government. The whole thing seems so complicated that most people just can’t do it without help.

First of all, you don’t get any papers in the mail from IRS saying that you are expected to send in a tax return. You’re just supposed to know that. Then, as I understand it, you need to send in separate tax returns for the federal level and the state level. (I’m just in the beginning of the process so I don’t know everything yet.)

It seems as most people are actually paying too much tax during the year when it’s deducted from the salary. Then it’s up to each and every one to get as much money as possible back when filing the tax return. So a lot of people hire a tax preparer that knows about all the strange deductions that can be made. It could actually pay off. Another popular way is to use an online service like TurboTax that will ask you a billion questions and then tell you exactly what forms to use and what to fill in.

I’m in the happy situation that I have to make full tax returns both in Sweden and USA. And I have income in two countries that both countries may want to tax. There is an agreement between Sweden and USA to avoid double taxation. But there is no such agreement between Sweden and California.

I’m going to handle the Swedish tax return myself but for the US one I have found myself a tax preparer that has experience with Swedes. The first thing he did was to file for an extension and that is all that has happened so far. This will take a looong time.

To be continued…

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’nuff said.

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Super bowl

If you have read the news, even in Sweden, you know that last Sunday was the biggest sport and TV event of the year in USA. The final in American Football, Super bowl. This was not something completely new for me. I have seen a few Super bowls before, in the middle of the night. But watching it in USA there is an extra dimension..

Most of you reading this probably don’t care that much about American Football. And if you do you already know that the Packers beat the Steelers after starting off really well but then letting the Steelers come pretty close before they could win the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

So what’s so special about watching it in USA? One word, commercials. Running a TV commercial during Superbowl is very expensive. This year it cost about $3 million for 30 seconds on the air. The reason for this is not only that lots and lots of people watch the game. It’s also that people for once really watch the commercials. Normally you maybe go to the bath room or go grab another beer during a commercial break. Not in Super bowl. In Super bowl you stay in front of the TV and watch the commercials.

Why? Because this is where advertisers premier new really high profile commercials. Often starring famous people and directed by famous directors. And the day after everyone can talk about the commercials. What they liked and what they didn’t like.

Here are some examples:

But the most hyped commercial of them all was for the new Android Tablet, Motorola Xoom. The commercial is a reference to a famous Super bowl commercial from 1984 (directed by Ridley Scott) for Apple Macintosh with a theme of George Orwell’s 1984.

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Spring is here!

It wasn’t long ago that it was autumn and (some) trees were dropping their leaves. But now it’s apparently spring since the trees outside my window are blooming!

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Adventures at the DMV

Even though I have watched American TV and movies pretty much all my life I have noticed that there are some jokes that have passed me by before that I now start to understand. One is all the references to “the DMV”.

DMV is the “Department of Motor Vehicles” here in California. It’s the place you go to for drivers licensed and car registrations. I’m sure other states have similar institutions but since Hollywood is in California most jokes are about the California DMV.

DMV is notorious for having ridiculously long waiting times, being hard to reach on the phone and having staff in a constant bad mood. Like in this TV commercial:

Unfortunately I am not done dealing with the DMV.. Here is what has happened so far.

After passing the written test for a drivers license I got an appointment for a drivers test. Unfortunately I realized I couldn’t make it on that day so I needed to reschedule. On their web site you’re supposed to be able cancel appointments and booking new ones. Canceling worked fine, but booking a new one didn’t work for some reason. I needed to call them.

When calling the DMV you get to an automated voice phone system. Navigating through all the questions to book a drivers test appointment takes a couple of minutes. But at the end I always got the answer that “the system is not available at this time. Try again later.” After a few attempts I learned that I could say “speak to a technician” to request to speak to a real human being. The problem was only that I got put in a telephone queue without any idea how long that would take. In the end I got some help from my settling in guide Jane to get through to them and make the appointment.

Now the problem was that I managed the fail the drivers test.. I’m not going to go into any details here but it took me about 10 seconds of driving to fail it. 🙂

So I needed to book a new appointment.. I also needed to  extend the temporary drivers license I got when passing the written test (since I had a foreign drivers license) so I can continue to drive in the mean time. So I had to make a visit to a DMV office in person.

On the first weekday of 2011 I headed out to Los Gatos and the DMV office. (I was off from work that day.) That turned out to be a pretty bad day to go there. The first thing you do at the DMV office is to go to a counter and tell what errand you have. Then you are given a queue ticket with a different letter depending on your errand. I got a “G” ticket and there was about 40 numbers ahead of me.

After one and a half hour of waiting seven G numbers had been called. Although the B numbers were even worse and one lady were complaining loudly to the manager that no B numbers were called. (Which actually seemed to help, at least temporarily.)

I was hoping that after a while a bunch of G ticket people would be missing because they had gone home and it would go a bit faster. But when waiting I had realized that I hadn’t brought my passport. I wasn’t sure if I needed the passport but I’d hate to wait for hours and then just be told that I needed my passport. So I thought it should be pretty safe to go home and get it and come back before my number was called. It would take about 45 minutes to get home again.

But what do you know… when I got back I had just missed my number. So I gave up on DMV that day and decided to go there really early the next day instead. Before I went to work.

The DMV office opens at 8 am and at 7:30 am the next day I parked my car outside the office. I wasn’t the first one there. Two other guys were waiting in their cars as well. After a while more people turned up and we formed a line outside the door. When it was 8 am there were probably 20-30 persons standing in line. It seems that this is the case most days because a couple of minutes before the doors opened a DMV worker handed out queue tickets to the people in the line. They had a routine for this.

Once the doors opened I didn’t have to wait for my number. I was directly sent to a window. Behind the counter a grumpy lady asked in her best morning voice “Hi, what are you here for?” I explained what I wanted and the lady tried to start up her computer. That didn’t go very well and after a while I was sent to a different window.

There I explained  what I wanted to a different lady. When she looked up my file in the computer she realized that I had failed a test and started to suggest that she couldn’t extend my temporary license because of this. She was mumbling things like “we don’t know if you can drive” and things like that, but continued to type on the computer and finally handed over an extended temporary license to me. Go figure…

Anyway, the registration of my car did go smoothly and a couple of days ago I received a small package in the mail from the DMV with my license plates!

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Testing on the Toilet

When you visit a Google office you see some things that you don’t see in most offices. A ball bath, a climbing wall, a dinosaur skeleton, a slide that takes you down to the restaurant fast when you’re really hungry etc.

One thing that I was pretty impressed wit when visiting the Zürich office for interviews was the toilets. Or, not the toilets themselves but rather the papers on the wall with things to read when doing whatever you came to the toilet to do. It started with something called “Testing on the Toilet”. It’s a publication that contains small tips, tricks or lessons on how you can test your code in a better way. Every episode short enough to fit on a single paper and hopefully be possible to read during a single visit to the toilet. (If you don’t work with software and don’t understand what “testing your code” means, never mind..)

This has spun off with other publications like “Learning on the Loo” (often with more non-technical topics like how to write an email that is easy to read) or “Production on the Potty” and “Career on the Can”.

Yesterday episode 207 of Testing on the Toilet was published and guess what.. The author is yours truly!  If you want to read it, you can find it here: WhoTestsTheTests

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I have bought a car!

If you are in the Bay Area you better watch out.. Not only because Santa Claus is coming to town but even more so because there is now a blue 2007 Honda Civic roaming the streets with a crazy Swede behind the wheel!

The process of buying the car started with me signing up for Stanford Federal Credit Union, as I told about in a previous post. They would give me an auto loan even though I have no US credit history what so ever. At a higher interest rate than otherwise of course. But if I could make a down payment of at least 30% the rate would not be that much higher than a normal US citizen would get.

The credit union also had an “auto finding service” where they had contact with several dealers and hopefully could make a good deal. If I used that I would also get a slightly lower interest rate. I’m sure that I could get an even better deal if I knew a lot about cars, the used car market and was a kick ass negotiator. But I decided to use that service.

So I filled out a form of what kind of car what I was interested in. After a phone call with Debbie that was running the auto finding service I was given the home work of going to test drive some cars to find out what type of car I actually was interested in. Apparently my rather generic requests of “good economy”, “comfortable” and “four wheels” were not good enough. I needed to come up with one ore two specific models that we could go look for.

So after some test driving I decided that a Honda Civic would be a good car for me. Like most Japanese cars the reselling value is pretty good and it has a good size. It’s also one of the most sold cars in USA so there should be plenty of 3-4 year old cars on the market.

So back to Debbie to find me a good deal for a Honda Civic with manual transmission. Unlike Sweden automatic transmission is much more common here. But I like driving with changing gears myself and I don’t want to forget how to drive like that. Unfortunately Debbie couldn’t find any Civic with manual transmission.. I had to tell her that the place where I had test driven the Civic were announcing two 2007 cars with manual transmission on their web site. (One of them was the car I had actually tested.)

She contacted them and got a deal for one of them that was a little bit under the price announced on the web site. And it was the very car I had tested before. So on Tuesday I went to Anderson Honda in Palo Alto to buy a car!

When I got there I met up with a seasoned car salesman named Jack. A really nice guy but still a car salesman.. We started with me taking a closer look at the car I was about to buy. I walked around it and inspected it, trying to look as if I knew what I was doing. Then I sat down behind the wheel and made it very obvious that I didn’t really know what you’re supposed to do when inspecting a car. I turned on the radio, fiddled with some knobs and then got out of the car again. Since I had driven it a couple of days earlier I didn’t ask to take it for a ride.

We went inside to do all the paperwork and I got to see the Carfax papers (a history of the car, services, accidents etc), the service report and the 1 month warranty. Then they ran a credit report on me and it turned out that I wouldn’t be able to drive away with the car that day. With no credit score you can’t be trusted. They wanted to be paid in full with a check from the credit union before releasing the car to me.

To complicate things even more the amount on the check for the down payment that I had given to Anderson Honda was not enough to be a 30% down payment. I had told Jack that I wanted to make at least 30% down payment and he calculated how much that would be. But 30% down payment means financing at most 70% of the cars value. And this doesn’t include sales tax, registration fee and such things. He had just taken 30% of the total sum. So either I would have to write another check to Anderson Honda and rewrite the sales contract. Or I would write a check to the credit union and they would make the check to Anderson Honda big enough.

So two day later a person came out to me at Google twice. First in the morning to pick up my extra check and for me to sign the loan agreement and then again in the afternoon to give me the check to give to Anderson Honda.

Then after work Jack came and picked me up and took me to Palo Alto. There I could finally drive away with my car and introduce it to it’s new home. (My parking space outside the apartment.)

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