The Line Forms, Once Again, for R.N.’s and P.T.’s Seeking Green Cards
December 20, 2006

Registered nurses (R.N.) and physical therapists (P.T.) seeking permanent residence in the U.S. have once again tapped out the supply of available visas, and a new line has formed, not unlike the lines for family preference, immigrant visas. The good news is that at, unlike the complete visa unavailability for December 2006, immigrant visas are actually becoming available again in January for R.N.’s and P.T.’s (aka “Schedule A” workers), albeit only for those whose petitions were filed on or before June 15, 2004.

This shortage of immigrant visas is particularly painful for foreign registered nurses and the facilities seeking to fill R.N. positions since the immigrant visa/adjustment of status route is pretty much the only avenue left for facilitating the legal employment of foreign R.N.’s in the U.S. P.T.’s on the other hand still have the H-1B temporary work visa, although petitioning facilities must start the filing process for new P.T.’s no later than the first week of April in order to take advantage of the very limited allotment of such visas – visas that will only have start dates as soon as the following October.

For R.N.’s and P.T.’s in the U.S., the option of starting the immigrant visa process still exists, but where they will wait for the process to unfold is the next question – since an employment authorization document (to allow for continued legal status) can only be obtained after their priority date (filing date) becomes current and their adjustment of status application is filed. And the line for visa availability, at least for the time being, appears to be 2 years long – although that can change at any moment, especially if Congress acts to allocate more immigrant visas for these professionals.

So what strategies can be implemented? For those professionals residing outside the U.S., the petition process should be started, and the worker will just have to wait. If it is a P.T., as stated, a temporary H-1B work visa may be obtainable even if the wait for an immigrant visa continues. For R.N.’s on the other hand, H-1B’s are generally not an option, and waiting for an immigrant visa is all that can be done.

For those in the U.S. as tourists (B-2) or students (F-1), perhaps the P.T. can find a way to change their status to H-1B while awaiting immigrant visa availability. For R.N.’s in the U.S. as tourists or students, the situation is more delicate, and the parties involved must engage in careful planning.

As a side note: individuals who have been the subject of a previously approved employment based petition, but for some reason never proceeded with that particular offer of employment may be able to transfer their priority date to a new, subsequent employment based petition. Taking advantage of this option can make a huge difference, since it could significantly reduce the time a foreign R.N. or P.T. will need to wait for immigrant visa/adjustment of status processing. For example, individuals who had been previously petitioned by an employer prior to June 14, 2004 – the current Schedule A visa cut off date – a new petition will carry the old priority date and that can translate into immediate visa availability, and immediate immigrant visa or adjustment of status eligibility.

Copyright © 2006-2008, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois