No Celebration For Thousands of Highly-Skilled Future Americans this July 4th

Thousands of legal, English-speaking, highly-skilled Future Americans miss rare opportunity to apply for employer-sponsored green cards after immigration agencies announced on Monday that no further applications would be accepted until October.
By: Immigration Voice
July 2, 2007 - PRLog -- June 12 was a presumably joyous ocassion for several highly-skilled professionals. The Department of State, in a sweeping move, announced that they would accept applications from all highly-skilled workers (sans one minor category) to a) adjust status to a permanent resident (ie apply for a Green Card, which is the final stage), b) apply for interim benefits while they wait the adjudication of their Green Card, such as the right to work and right to travel for spouses who were on dependent visas.

As people across the United States prepare for 4th of July celebrations today, thousands of legal, highly-skilled, English-speaking Future Americans are distraught over recent press releases by the Dept. of State and the USCIS which initially provided a glimmer of hope but later turned to despair. This “glimmer of hope” would have provided several applicants an opportunity to apply for “adjustment of status”, a stage in the employment-based Green Card process that provides certain interim benefits. These benefits include the right to travel and right to work for not only the applicants, but their dependents as well, as they wait for adjudication to become Legal Permanent Residents. Additionally, this move would have also eliminated the need for continually renewing temporary skilled visas.

Attorneys and applicants alike, on heightened alert, welcomed this proposal, as this would be a fantastic one-time opportunity for individuals waiting in line for years to finally get their Green Cards. The temporary reversal of the “retrogression” would have presented a one-time golden opportunity for several individuals.

Applicants affected due to the USCIS’s cap for these Green Cards could be in different stages of the Green Card process- those who have been waiting for a long time due to previous processing delays (retrogression), those who have readily approved alien worker petitions; those who were current in June and whose attorneys might have advised waiting until July in anticipation that their dates would be continued in July, as well as applicants such as professionals with extra-ordinary abilities or physicians, not required to go through the PERM process (Labor Certification with the Dept. of Labor to demonstrate no qualified, competent native-born worker could be found for the job) and who are able to obtain work permits in a hurry.

What really happened?

Last month, the State Department temporarily ‘wiped the slate clean’ and eliminated all backlogs in the employment-based category for professionals with advanced degrees and skills for July so that the USCIS could use up the remainder of the time-restricted Green Cards which would otherwise go unused, come Sept 30, 2007, which is the end of its fiscal year. This was based on experience from previous years, wherein several thousands of valuable Green Cards went unused due to the slow processing by the USCIS. A one-time Congressional intervention during the Clinton administration allowed for “recapturing” of unused Green Cards from yesteryears.

Contrary to popular belief, among the occupations poised to benefit were also professionals in much demand such as registered nurses, physical therapists and physicians, and not computer engineers alone.

Unexpected faster adjudications of enormous, previously-existing backlogs (volume unknown, but surely over 60,000 Green Card applications) have caused these agencies to retract their original statements, resulting in inconvenience to at least 100,000 skilled professionals waiting to file for "adjustment of status". One estimate puts the expenses by applicants over the last two weeks at over $6,000 million in filing fees, medical examination expenses, incidental expenses such as travel, photocopying, phone calls, courier, etc., not including the 2-3 days of preparation time expended by each family as well as lost productivity experienced by applicants’ businesses due to absence from work. The original State Department memo triggered off a spate of requests for documentation in countries such as China and India to the extent of gaining media attention in those countries, as well as an exponential increase in physician appointments for immigration medicals across the United States.

DOS and USCIS made public on Monday that new applications received July 2, 2007 or later would not be adjudicated for this fiscal year. At this time, it is unclear if applications received on July 2, 2007 will even be accepted. Additionally, the USCIS has stated in a press release that they are rejecting applications to adjust status (Form I-485) filed by aliens whose priority dates are not current under the revised July Visa Bulletin.

Aman Kapoor, founder and President of Immigration Voice, says his phone has not stopped ringing since the weekend. The group's website has reported a record hit of 2,500 concurrent users since this morning.

"Immigration Voice is reaching out to various agencies to further analyze and determine options available to eager applicants”, said Kapoor, in a phone interview this morning.

Additionally, AILF, the litigation arm of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, is considering filing a lawsuit in a federal district court against the USCIS over its rejection of otherwise properly filed adjustment of status applications for the alleged reason that a visa was not available, even though the Visa Bulletin from the Department of State (DOS) states that a visa was available at the time of filing. The proposed lawsuit claims that the USCIS/DOS may have violated federal regulations and precedents, apart from the personal trauma and stress caused to individuals. Affected individuals can participate as plaintiffs, but must be willing to share their information and participate in any interviews if called upon.

Despite the press releases by the DOS and USCIS, some immigration lawyers are advising their clients to nonetheless send in their packages to USCIS. In the worst case scenario, the package may be returned, and the fees may be refunded.

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Immigration Voice is a not-for-profit organization representing the interests of over half-a-million legal, English-speaking, highly-skilled Future Americans, and advocates comprehensive reform in the US immigration system. The group has grown to over 14,500 members since its inception in December 2005.


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