Q: I passed NCLEX-RN and have an RN license from the Texas Board of Nursing. I have an L-2 visa and a work permit and SSN card also. I asked a hospital for sponsorship but they said something about retrogression. What’s retrogression? How does it affect my prospects for a green card if a hospital were to sponsor me?

A: Under The Immigration & Nationality Act, Congress imposed an annual limit to the number of immigrant visas (“green cards”) the USCIS can issue each fiscal year (Oct. 1-Sept. 30). Retrogression refers to the resulting delay in obtaining an immigrant visa when there are more people applying for immigrant visas in a given year than the total number of visas available. The total number of immigrant visas available each year is distributed amongst all applicants according to the category of eligibility (such as various family-based or employment-based categories) and the applicant’s country of birth. This ensures an equitable distribution of the limited number of immigrant visas available each year. When the number of applicants from a particular country (or combined countries) is greater than the number of visas available in a particular category, retrogression occurs and a “queue” is established.

An applicant’s place in the queue, referred to as their “priority date,” is established by initiating the green card process so applications should continue to be filed. For nurses’ petitions, the priority date is the date the Immigrant Petition (Form I-140) was received by the USCIS. The queue is administered by the U.S. Department of State. Each month, the U.S. Department of State issues a “Visa Bulletin” which announces the priority dates eligible for immigrant visas in each category (further divided based upon the applicant’s country of birth). See the bulletin at http://travel.state.gov/visa/frvi/bulletin/bulletin_1360.html

Q: How long will this retrogression be in effect? I filed my I-140 on June 19, 2006. How long will it take to get approved?

A: In order for an individual to obtain a visa or adjust his status (as in your case), a visa number must be available to you. In your case, you will not be eligible to adjust your status until your priority date (June 19, 2006) becomes current. I am optimistic that legislation will be passed this year allocating more numbers for nurses. Please stay tuned.

Q: I have been in the United States since 1996, and became a permanent resident in August 2002. I went away to India with a re-entry permit from February 2005 to September 2006 to take care of my dad. When will I be eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship?

A: In order to qualify for naturalization, you must maintain your lawful permanent residence status and must meet the residence and presence requirement. Please also keep in mind that being in possession of a re-entry permit does not negate the effect of a lengthy absence. Therefore, you must be able to demonstrate that you meet all the requirements.

Based on the information provided, I believe that you will be eligible to file for your naturalization some time after September 2010. I understand that you do not wish to wait until September 2010 and in order to explore your options further, I recommend that you consult with an attorney before you file.

Immigration and business attorney Indu Liladhar-Hathi has an office in San Jose. (408) 453-5335.

 

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