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Green Cards

INDIA TRIP AND A RETURN HOME

We’ve been a little lax updating this week. HLG’s Blog editor has been in India meeting with a variety of clients. He has also taken two important meetings with Consular Officials – at Chennai and Delhi. The mood among the Consular Officials is one of anticipation of a forthcoming massive CIR bill. We suspect that the same mood is the case in Manila. (The Philippines and India are, of course, two of the largest suppliers of healthcare workers to the US).

Once he gets to the US, all HLG attorneys will be meeting and reaching out to our contacts to provide an update on the legislative efforts. We will, of course, provide a timely update.

For now a few points are worth mentioning, and should serve as remarks in response to a number of Commentors:

· While CIR is the leading bill it is by no means a sure thing. Many other bills and amendments may be proposed between now and then.

· It is important to realize that this Congress is less than 10 days old! While HLG shares some Commentors desire to see a Schedule A bill immediately passed (and indeed H-1 relief and EB2/3 worker relief, among other things), some Commentors are a little too dismissive in the Congress’ failure to act. These bills and laws will shape a generation and it is only fair to give this new Congress some time to dicker and debate and craft a bill that serves the needs of many immigration stakeholders.

· The “band aid” bill – 10-25K worth of Schedule A visas is very much alive. But again, to expect a passed bill at this quick stage is not realistic.

· One thing to keep in mind is that US Immigration Reform is not an “either/or” game. Just because, for instance, Schedule A relief may happen soon, does not mean that H-1 relief is not going to happen, or vice-versa.

Finally we want to thank everyone for their comments. While reasonable minds can differ, it is nice to see that the discourse is always cordial and informative. We invite everyone to express their views in this forum via the Comments links.

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Green Cards

SENATE BILL NO. 9

In his Opening Remarks as Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid (D-NV) has announced that Senate Bill No. 9 (S.9) will be Comprehensive Immigration Reform. As HLG’s Blog readers know, last term’s Senate actually passed CIR.

Sen. Reid and the Democrats in the Senate have been strong supporters of CIR, as have the moderate Republicans. Sen. Reid’s remarks included these statements:

S. 9 will secure America by undertaking comprehensive immigration reform.

We passed a solid immigration bill in the Senate last year. Unfortunately, it fell victim to politics in the House of Representatives. Immigration reform is too vital to our security and our economy to fall by the wayside, so we must deal with it again in 2007.

America’s immigration system is broken. Our borders remain un-secured. Our laws remain under-enforced. And we have 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the shadows.

Our bill will take a comprehensive approach to repairing this broken system. With tough and smart reforms, it secure our borders, crack down on enforcement, and lay out a path to earned legalization for undocumented immigrants already living here.

Sen. Reid’s counterpart in the Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), expressed similar intensions in his Opening Remarks:

Immigration is one the most pressing issues of our day. We should be daring about immigration reform — and act on it soon. The voters demand it. We have a duty to deliver.

Americans are generous, eager to welcome strangers and happy when they prosper. Yet we know that the blessings of liberty depend on respect for the law and a common national culture. We can ensure both even as we welcome those who come here looking for a better life.

All of this bodes well for Schedule A retrogression relief. The House Democrats’ formal 100 hours agenda does not include CIR. HLG has learned that it may be included in this Congress’ early days. Let’s hope that the House Leaders understands the issue just as clearly as the Senator Leadership does.

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Green Cards

CONGRESS STARTS 07 SESSION

On Thursday January 4, 2007, the new Congress will be sworn in. Immigration reform is a hot-button issue. We’re optomistic that a new Schedule A green card allocation can happen within the first two months of 2007.

Nevertheless, the undocumented worker issue will overshadow the Schedule A issue.

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Green Cards

WHAT THE 07 BILL MIGHT LOOK LIKE

The New York Times has a lengthy article outlining the prospects for a 2007 immigration bill. While it doesn’t mention a specific provision targeted at nurse and PTs, HLG has spoken with Washington DC people “in the know” who assure us that Schedule A relief is on the agenda.

If we don’t get a chance to say it personally…HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE ….we’re confident that retrogression relief has a much better chance of happening in 07 than in 06.

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Green Cards

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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Green Cards

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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Green Cards

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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Green Cards

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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Green Cards

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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Green Cards

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.