Q: I’ve heard that there is a new way to get a green card quickly called PERM. Is this true?

A: If you qualify for a green card through employment, starting March 28, the new PERM system can shave about two years off current processing times. Instead of waiting two to three years for the Labor Department to approve your case, they can do so in 45-60 days. Of course, you still must apply at the Immigration Service which still is experiencing significant backlogs. More information about PERM:http://shusterman.com/toc-dol.html#4

Q: If I qualify for permanent residence through my job, how long will it take for me to obtain a green card?

A: On Jan. 1, 2005, the backlogs in the employment-based third category (professionals and skilled workers) for persons born in India, China, and the Philippines retrogressed threefull years. However, there are no backlogs for the other employment-based categories. See http://shusterman.com/vb.html

Q: I am a physician born in India who needs a J waiver. How will EB-3 retrogression and PERM affect me?

A: Since physicians are advance-degree pro-fessionals, they are in the EB-2 category. Therefore, you are not affected by the retrogression in the EB-3 category. However, if the EB-2 category retrogresses later this year or next year, it may take longer for you to achieve permanent residence. Therefore, you may want to immediately establish a priority date either by submitting an application under PERM or by filing a National Interest Waiver with the Immigration Service. Also, you should be aware that a new law liberalizes the J-waiver rules for both federal and state agencies. See more information about the new law at: http://shusterman.com/toc-phys.html

Q: I am a professional who has a job offer in the United States. What is the earliest date that my employer can file an H-1B petition on my behalf?

A: Generally, the date is April 1, 2005 if the job starts on Oct. 1, 2005, the day that the H-1B quota opens up again. However, if your employment is for a university, for a nonprofit organization affiliated or related to a university, or for a governmental or nonprofit research institution, you are exempt from the H-1B numerical cap and your employer can immediately file an H-1B petition on your behalf. Finally, under the terms of a new law, if you obtained a masters or other advanced degree from a university in the United States, starting on March 8, 2005, an additional 20,000 H-1B visas will become available. See information on this new law in our January 2005 e-mail newsletter at: http://shusterman.com/toc-siu.html

Q: I was interviewed for naturalization last summer. I have inquired about the status of my application, but haven’t been able to get a straight answer from the Immigration Service. What should I do?

A: Fortunately, under the law, the Immigra-tion Service has only 120 days from the date of your interview to either approve or deny your application. If they fail to do so, you may ask a federal judge to decide your application. See http://shusterman.com/toc-usc.html

Carl Shusterman is a former INS Trial Attorney and a Certified Specialist in Immigration and Nationality Law. He manages a five-attorney practice based in Los Angeles. (213) 623-4592.www.shusterman.com