A: Not harder, but as of Oct. 1, 2005, the process became considerably lengthier. For professionals and skilled workers, the wait presently exceeds seven years. For professionals with advanced degrees, the wait is almost six years, and for persons with extraordinary ability, outstanding professors and researchers, and multinational executives and managers, the backlog is over three years.
The exact backlogs are available online at shusterman.com/vb.html
Q: Are there are any categories of employment-based immigrants who are exempt from these backlogs?
A: Fortunately, the answer is yes. Registered nurses, physical therapists, and certain persons of exceptional ability are not subject to any backlogs whatsoever.
Q: What is the situation with family-based employment?
A: Here the backlogs are even more daunting. They range from four to over 22 years. However, if you are an “immediate relative” of a U.S. citizen (parent, spouse, or child), there are no backlogs. This is the “fast lane” to a green card. See shusterman.com/marriage.html
Q: When is the Green Card lottery this year?
A: The lottery began on Oct. 5, 2005 and ends at noon EST on Dec. 4, 2005, and you must apply online. There is no charge and it is not necessary to hire an attorney. Caveat: Persons born in India are not eligible to apply. However, if your spouse is born in an eligible country, both you and your spouse may apply. See the official State Department Lottery Instructions at http://shusterman.com/toc-lottery.html
Q: I have heard that immigration filing fees are going up again. Is this true, and if so, how much are they going up?
A: It’s true, and it’s going to happen on Oct. 26, so try to submit your applications and petitions to the Immigration Service before then. On average, most fees will increase between $5 and $20 per application. See a chart detailing the new fees at shusterman.com/toc-fp.html
Q: I am a physician who is completing a medical fellowship on a J-1 visa. How can I obtain a J waiver that will allow me to remain in the United States?
A: All 50 states and a few federal agencies have programs which will sponsor you for a waiver if you agree to practice medicine in a medically underserved area for a minimum of three years on an H-1B professional visa. For more information about such programs, see shusterman.com/fmg.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