Legal Workers Lose Chance at Green Cards
Monday, July 02, 2007
By SUZANNE GAMBOA, Associated Press Writer
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WASHINGTON — Legal immigrants hoping to be first in line for employer-sponsored green cards lost time and money when the government suddenly announced Monday that no new applications would be taken until the fall, a lawyers group said.
Tens of thousands of people who work in the United States under employment visas and their families were affected by the change, said Crystal Williams, associate director for programs at the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
"There are people who flew to the United States so they could apply and had their families fly back. They paid attorney fees," Williams said.
The State Department announced last month that employment visa numbers were available for all people seeking employer-sponsored green cards, except unskilled workers. It sometimes takes years for applicants to get those numbers.
The announcement meant that as early as Monday, Citizenship and Immigration Services would begin accepting applications. The applications are hefty, requiring medical exams, a lot of documentation and the applicant's presence in the United States.
But an update on the State Department Web site posted Monday said 60,000 such numbers were no longer available because of "the sudden backlog reduction efforts by Citizenship and Immigration Services offices during the past month."
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The department called the backlog reduction an "unexpected action" and said employment visa numbers would be available again Oct. 1.
The State Department has been flooded with passport applications since new rules went into effect in January requiring passports for air travelers returning from the same destinations. The resulting backlog has caused delays of up to three months for passports and ruined or delayed the travel plans of thousands of people.
A spokesman at the State Department declined to comment.
Williams said several workers within Citizenship and Immigration Services told her and other lawyers that the agency had staffers working through the weekend to resolve pending cases. She said several lawyers reported getting phone calls from the agency with questions about applications when normally that happens by mail.
Chris Rhatigan, spokeswoman for Citizenship and Immigration Services, denied the weekend work occurred or that there was a push to use up the visa numbers. She said the agency had pending cases from previous months.
The fee to apply for a green card increases July 30 from $395 to $1,010, including a fingerprinting fee.
On the Net:
State Department: http://www.state.gov/
Citizenship and Immigration Services: http://www.uscis.gov
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