The US Department of State’s May 2009 Visa Bulletin shows that immigrant visas in the EB-3 category will be unavailable for the next 5 months. Previously, the wait was approximately six years, which now seems attractive compared to the 5-month freeze. The implications of this suspension is pervasive and dire.
An immigrant visa number must be made available in order for a foreign worker to apply for legal permanent residency. Also, for most employment-based immigrants, they are sponsored by their employers and their employers must demonstrate their ability to pay the wage proffered on the labor certification or immigrant visa petition (if there was no labor certification) from the time the labor certification or immigrant visa petition was filed and up until the application for legal permanent residency is approved. If the employer has a bad year, or several bad years, then this could jeopardize the green card case.
While they are waiting for an immigrant visa number, foreign workers must maintain their nonimmigrant visa status. For those on the H-1B petition, if they start the green card process early enough then they can extend their H-1B status until an immigrant visa number becomes available. However, for other nonimmigrants, they will simply lose their status during the ostensibly interminable wait.
Many foreign workers, some of whom are our most prized possessions (Ph.D.s and master’s degree holders in the sciences, technology, engineering or math), may decide that their patience has worn too thin and go to Europe or Asia instead. We must reverse this deleterious visa situation and grant foreign workers a reasonable path to green card status.