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2007 PLAN

While news out of Washington DC is slow right now (as is always the case at year’s end), HLG is hearing that there is already a movement afoot to push Congress to get a small recapture bill passed within the first 10 weeks or so of 2007. Over the course of the spring Congress will debate a wide-ranging CIR-type bill, which healthcare immigration advocates hope will include a complete Schedule A exemption from the Green Card quota.

A time line might look like this:

Feb-March 2007: small allotment for Schedule A workers, perhaps 10-25,000 visas. Whether dependents are included is undecided at this point, but our hunch is they will be treated as they are now — i.e. part of the quota.

Summer 2007: wide-ranging CIR is passed which includes an exemption for all Schedule A applicants.

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LAME DUCK CONGRESS COMES UP LAME FOR H-1B AND IMMIGRANT VISA/ RETROGRESSION RELIEF

The 109th Congressional session has concluded without enacting legislation to increase H-1B or employment-based immigrant visas. Successful immigration related legislation included:

  • An extension of the Conrad 30 program providing J-1 waivers for physicians
  • A “re-authorization” of the H-1C category
  • Legislation authorizing P visa eligibility for certain athletes rather than the current problematic H-2B visa category

Efforts by Senators Cornyn and Hutchinson to increase H-1B visas and immigrant visas for nurses (respectively) were unsuccessful. Accordingly, U.S. employers will remain unable to obtain new H-1B workers until October 2007. Additionally, foreign nationals in the green card process will continue to face lengthy delays in obtaining immigrant visas. Most notably, U.S. hospitals and other healthcare facilities recruiting foreign Registered Nurses and Physical Therapists remain temporarily unable to obtain immigrant visas unless or until Congress authorizes additional immigrant visas for Schedule A workers or eliminates Schedule A workers from the visa quota. Advocacy efforts continue.

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CORNYN PUSHING SKIL BILL

In the waning hours of this year’s Congress, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas has launched an effort to pass the SKIL Bill, says the Houston Chronicle.

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CONGRESS BACK IN SESSION

It’s looking unlikely that Congress will allow any omnibus funding bills to pass with earmarks for things like retrogression relief. (The “Do-Nothing Congress,” as some of you readers/commentors have correctly called them). That having been said, there is still a chance that the GOP leaders change their mind and allow an omnibus bill with earmarks.

Nevertheless, we’re putting the chances of retrogression relief during December — the lame duck session — at less than 20% and decreasing every day. We’re still putting the chances of retrogression relief at 90% by Summer 2007.

One interesting news item: the USCIS won’t be hurting for dollars in 2007; prices are going up.

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LAME DUCK RUMORS

The House and Senate get back to Washington DC on Tuesday, December 5. This will be the final session for the Lame Duck period. Depending on how much progress they are making, the session could last for just a few days or continue for most of the month. Here are a few rumors that we at Hammond Law Group are hearing could happen during the Lame Duck.

1. The AHA and others still are pushing for the SKIL Bill. Some have pegged our chances of getting a Lame Duck SKIL Bill at 50-50.

2. Others tell us that some Congressmen are advocating a 12,000-15,000 visa allotment for Schedule A visas. This would be a band-aid measure designed to get us visas until a CIR-type bill could be passed in spring/summer 2007.

3. Some GOP members do not want any appropriations measures – including the 12,000-15,000 band-aid or a more robust SKIL Bill – attached to any appropriations bill. In other words, they want to pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) and then they just want to go home. The CR effectively extends the funding for the Iraq War into the New Year and then lets the next Congress deal with it.

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SKIL BILL

There has been some talk in our Comments section about the SKIL Bill. It remains the best hope for people seeking an elimination of retrogression for Schedule A workers — registered nurses and physcial therapists.

Here is a quick summary so that everyone can familiarize themselves:

1. Market based H1 cap AND no cap for US Masters H1s. The H1 cap can increase as much as 20% per each successive year.
2. No Schedule A Immigrant visa (IV) quota — forever
3. Doubles the IV ( aka green card) numbers
4. No IV quota for US Masters degree holders.
5. Creates a “streamlined process” for employers of IVs so that they shouldn’t have to, for instance, keep answering an “ability to pay” RFE over and over again.
6. Premium processing of I-140s.
7. Eliminates SWA’s processing of PERM PWDs by making the function a national one AND mandates that the PWD must be issued within 20 days.
8. Re-institutes the in-country visa revalidation, which was eliminated in 2003, which eliminates the hurdle in revalidating H-1 visas.

Here is our previous posting, which also includes a link to the actual language of the bill.

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DEMOCRAT BLOWOUT

The results are in and the Democrats have taken the House and will likely take the Senate (the Virginia Senate race is still too close to call, but the Democrat is ahead). This will surely mean good things for Comprehensive Immigration Reform and for Schedule A relief. It is still too early to specifically say what will happen, but the odds have dramatically improved. There is already talk of a Schedule A lame duck bill being offered in the next few weeks. Stay tuned….

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RETROGRESSION FAQ

On November 1, 2006, the Department of State enacted retrogression for Schedule A nurses and physical therapists. In response to a number of inquiries that HLG has had, we are offering this Retrogression FAQ. Please feel free to distribute it to your employees, friends, and colleagues. Let us know if you find it helpful. If you have any other questions of a general nature, please post them in the comments section. Periodically we’ll check back and answer the questions.

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IMMIGRATION2006.ORG

Immigration2006.org is an interesting blog/news site that discusses how the immigration issue is shaping next week’s election. The site is written by several long-time Washington DC insiders.