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Nurses on Hold -- Retrogression and What it can Mean to You

  Hello, everyone. And hello, 2007! It has been a bit of time since I've written on a regular basis for Basta Pinoy.   I have missed doing it and ask for your help in keeping the articles coming. Feel free to e-mail me with your questions. I will answer all of them and will use them as a gauge to determine the relevance of some topics and applicability to a wider audience.
Every month I will answer a question in a format similar to the one below. So feel free to send me your queries without worrying that your name and personal facts will be published for all to see. Rest assured you will have complete privacy.

For some people, it is important to have one-on-one time with me, or any attorney for that matter, and if you choose to discuss your case in that manner, then calling for a consultation would be the way to go. Otherwise, feel free to send me an e-mail! E-mail responses are free and I will be more than happy to respond. After all, we are all Filipinos and as an immigrant to this country myself (my family moved here when I was 15) I am very much aware of all the trials and hardships that immigrants can and do go through in this, the Land of Opportunity. Everyone has a story. I have one too, and maybe someday if I am ever short of material I will tell you mine.
In the meantime, keep the questions coming! The one below is actually a result of many, many questions of the same or similar nature that we have received in the last month.

Q: I entered as an immigrant on the basis of a petition filed by a hospital. I am a Registered Nurse. My family did not come with me but we had hoped that they would be able to join me when I was ready and more settled. Now I am being told that my family cannot be interviewed for quite some time. Help me to understand what the problem is!

A: Unfortunately, beginning in November of 2006 when visa numbers ceased to be available for the Schedule A category, nurse petitions are not being processed the way they used to be. When visa numbers were available, we filed the I-140 petition on behalf of the nurse, the case was approved, and immediately thereafter we were able to process the nurse's visa application for entry into the United States shortly after a visa interview. Now that the numbers have retrogressed by 2 years, unless there are any changes to visa availability as a result of some form of nursing relief measure from the government, the only thing that we can do at this time is file the I-140 petition, wait for the approval, and then wait until the visa numbers are available before we can go forward with the visa application process.

Many people got caught in the middle of all of this. In fact, one of the following things could happen as a result of the retrogression:

1. For those who had cases in the pipeline with the embassies abroad, if your visa was not issued even after you were already interviewed because of missing documents, you cannot expect your visa to be issued now until your priority date is current once again.
(The priority date is the date your I-140 petition was received. That date appears on your I-140 receipt or approval notice.)

2. For those who were issued visas but had a spouse and/or minor child(ren) who stayed behind and are now awaiting interviews, please do not expect them to be interviewed, much less issued immigrant visas, until your priority date is once again current. At this time, embassies are issuing visas to those whose I-140 petitions were filed on or before January 15, 2004. The dates will change from month to month. Check the visa availability by going to the State Department website on www.travel.state.gov and go to the visa bulletin link.

3. For those who are in the United States and currently have an adjustment of status pending, you will not be approved until your priority date is current. This means that your adjustment of status application can take years to be approved, and in the meantime, you will have to keep renewing your employment authorization documents so that you can work lawfully in the United States. If you have family abroad, you cannot pursue their entries as your dependents until your adjustment of status is approved.

4. For those in the United States under a non-immigrant visa category, if you did not file your adjustment application before the retrogression came into effect, you will not be able to file for adjustment, and will be ineligible for work authorization, until such time as your adjustment is filed. The best that can be filed on your behalf at this time is the I-140 petition. This means that you will have to find another visa category to have until you are able to file for adjustment, and if you are ineligible to apply for any, you should seriously consider departing and getting processed from abroad when your priority date is current.

If this discussion applies to you and your family, do not despair. The retrogression is a temporary situation. The shortage is still there, and is still crucial enough to warrant a lot of attention, not just from the government but from the many, many hospitals and facilities that are negatively affected as well. So expect some form of relief, sooner or later. Hopefully sooner. In the meantime, keep your family informed. Just like a lot of things in life, the more you understand why something is the way it is and why you cannot change it, the more bearable it can be. Of course, you may be surprised to find that there are ways around it, depending on your own facts and situation. So write me, call me, tell me what's on your mind. And maybe I can help.

Salamat po.
VANESSA S. BARCELONA is a partner in the law offices of Barcelona & Pilarski, P.A. She is a licensed attorney practicing primarily in the area of U.S. immigration law. She is a graduate of the University of Florida, where she obtained her J.D. and B.A. degrees. She is a member of the Florida Bar Assn., The American Bar Assn., and the American Immigration Lawyers Assn.  She may be contacted at Tel (239) 590-9864 and e-mail: vsbarcelona @ earthlink.net
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