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Q: I am a nurse. I heard that there are 50,000 extra green cards for nurses. Do I need to apply now or can I wait?

A: President Bush signed a law in May 2005 providing for an extra 50,000 visas for registered nurses, physical therapists, and their families. However, due to a surge in demand for these visas, the State Department estimates that all 50,000 will be used up between October and December. Therefore, if you have an offer of employment, the time to apply for permanent residence is now. See

Q: I’ve heard about the new immigration bill and the guest worker program. How do I know if I qualify?

A: The bill is still being considered by Congress. It will not become effective unless it is passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives, and signed into law by President Bush. For more information on the pending legislation, see

Q: I am a professional with an offer of employment. Can I qualify to change my status to H-1B?

A Probably, but you had better act quickly. There is a numerical cap on H-1B petitions of 65,000. Last year, the cap was reached in the second week of August. This year, the cap may be reached as early as June or July.

Q: I am present in the United States illegally. Last year, I married a green-card holder. Should I have him apply for me now or should I wait until he becomes a U.S. citizen?

A: Wait until he becomes a citizen of the United States. That way, he will immediately be able to apply for a green card for you, and you will not have to leave the United States to qualify. If he applies for you as the spouse of a permanent resident, the waiting time for you to qualify for a green card is five years, and you may have to leave the United States to be interviewed. Furthermore, you may have to show that your spouse will suffer “extreme hardship” for you to be able to return to the United States within a reasonable time period.

Q: I am a physician and am completing my residency on a J visa. I am married to a U.S. citizen and we have a child born in the United States. Does this mean that I am exempt from the requirement that I return home for two years after I complete my residency?

A: Not at all. You can avoid the two-year home residency requirement by working in a federally-designated, medically-underserved area for a minimum of three years. Some physicians are also able to obtain a “J waiver” by proving that their family members, who are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents, would suffer “extreme hardship” if they had to return home for two years. See

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.