Earlier today, Managing Editor Alan Kotok posted a blog entry about the U.S. State Department announcement
that it wouldn’t accept any more green-card applications for the rest
of the fiscal year, which ends in October. I called Mark Harrington, a
Houston-based immigration attorney and friend of Science Careers, hoping he could provide a little
perspective on the situation. Here’s what I learned.
"green cards" come in several flavors, designated EB-1 (a and b), EB-2,
and EB-3, in descending order of prestige. EB-3’s are the most common,
and there’s a backlog for immigrants from most (maybe all) countries.
There’s a backlog for EB-2 applicants only for immigrants from India and
China. EB-1 applicants are rare; there has never been a backlog for
Each month, the state department issues a "Visa
Bulletin" announcing what visa applications are likely to be processed
in the coming months. Last months’ bulletin was extraordinary: It
announced that there no longer were any backlogs in any of the
employment-based categories. Chinese Immigrants, who a month earlier
were expecting a 4-year wait (applications were being processed from
mid-2003), suddenly found themselves with no wait at all. Immigration
attorneys were scrambling to submit applications on behalf of their
clients before the door closed again. These changes would take effect
on 2 July, the first business day of the new month.
But the door
closed too fast. The notice Alan Kotok mentioned in his earlier blog
post, which took effect on 2 July, effectively reversed the earlier
ruling by announcing that no further applications would be accepted.
The notice explains this action as a consequence of "backlog reduction
efforts" and the resulting "use of almost 60,000 employment numbers."
But, since the changes announced in June were not scheduled to take
effect until July, it isn’t clear what happened to all those
But the new notice doesn’t just restore
the status quo. Previously there was no backlog for EB-1 applicants, or
for EB-2 applicants from countries other than India and China. But the
new notice effects all "employment-based preference cases," including
the categories most important for research scientists. This new
development means that (unless the decision is reversed or modified)
EB-1 applicants–and EB-2 applicants from countries other than India
and China–are out of luck until the new fiscal year.
Immigrants seeking employment-based green cards, and their attorneys, await the next Visa Bulletin eagerly.