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November 3, 2010 at 2:34 PM

Going green: internationals become permanent residents

GYI0061266179.JPGPhoto credit: Otto Greule Jr., Getty Images

A couple days ago, Fredy Montero got his green card — establishing himself as a permanent resident in the United States. Tuesday we talked to him about it and also learned Steve Zakuani is close to getting his. Sanna Nyassi, Blaise Nkufo, Leo Gonzalez and others might soon as well.

Sounders FC officials have mentioned how the team benefits when players earn their green cards as it frees up valuable international player slots. Players are also excited as well as it ups their political status in this country. Here are some Q&A’s regarding the issue from the last couple days:

* * *

FREDY MONTERO via translator

(Initial thoughts on receiving green card) “Of course a lot of people have a very difficult time getting their green card, but thank god I have mine now. I just want to continue doing a great job for the team that helped me get my green card and keep playing good soccer.”

(On the benefits to you and the team) “It’s something that is necessary. It opens up a lot of doors in the United States, not only for the team but in my personal life and what I think about doing in my future. The team benefits but I also benefit.”

(How long did the process take?) “I feel fortunate because it was actually a relatively fast process. I think it was less than seven months and now that I have it I’m just happy.”

STEVE ZAKUANI, midfielder

(On being close to getting your green card and the benefits involved) “First is for the team. I don’t know about the rules about the roster and international slots, but it helps the team first of all. For me and my personal life, now I’m a permanent resident. I can go in and come out how I want without needing a visa, so that helps too. It’s logistical more than anything. It’s something you do to help out the roster of the team.”

(Can it be a long process?) “It can be, but we did it pretty good. We’re all on top of it. We started at the same time, most of us. Seba was the first one to get it. Fredy just got it. I’ll have mine in a few days. Blaise, Sanna, are right behind me. Leo. I think we’re all getting there. We just kind of all went out and did it. We have a very good lawyer with the league, Don Mooers, he does a great job. He’s stayed on top of us and I think we’re at the stage now where because maybe we’re playing in the league and can do everything quickly it happens quicker than the regular citizens. It’s been good. I know Fredy is very happy he has it, so I’m waiting for mine. From there it’s great for the team.”

CHRIS HENDERSON, technical director

(On the benefits of players getting green cards) “It’s always good when a player like Fredy becomes a green-card holder. With the eight international slots I think it’ll even help us with the expansion draft alone — you have your foreign players minus three for protecting players. We need to keep working on getting players their green cards, but I think it helps not only with the soccer part of it but just with the opportunities they have going forward. It’s great for them.”

(More on the personal benefits) “It’s good for them to be able to feel a part of everything here. I know Fredy’s been really happy about getting it. I think for us too. The more we can have people feel at home here and part of the community is good.”

SIGI SCHMID, head coach

(On players getting their green cards) “Having those players get their green cards means you have more options to go to. This year in the Open Cup, Leo [Gonzalez] couldn’t play because we had too many foreign players, so it avoids some of those decisions. It just gives you the opportunity, whether the player is American or foreign, if he is going to be somebody who is going to help your team you can sign him. It doesn’t matter what nationality he is.”

(What would the downside be?) “I don’t think they pay different taxes. I don’t know. If you’re a resident alien or make your money here — I’m not sure about that. Ask somebody who’s getting elected today (Tuesday), they might know the answer.”

(So are all int’l players in that process?) “Most of the guys usually put in for it. Some aren’t around long enough to get it maybe. Some don’t have an interest in it because they’re definitely planning to go back home. I think a lot of the guys obviously are enjoying their soccer here and wouldn’t mind continuing to stay here after soccer’s over. It gives them the opportunity to do that.”

(Can Montero play for a couple national teams now?) “Montero’s locked in because he’s already played in a CONMEBOL qualifier either for the Copa America or I think it was actually a World Cup qualifier. Once he’s played in a World Cup qualifier and he’s above the age of 23 I think you’re locked in.”

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