By Attorneys Robert L. Reeves and Joseph I. Elias
The Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) recently consolidated the handling of nurse immigrant visa petitions with its Nebraska and Texas Service Centers with the majority of the cases to be handled in Texas. The Texas Service Center has advised immigration lawyers that it will now require all RN adjustment of status applications be submitted with a copy of the RN’s CGFNS Visa Screen Certificate. This only applies to RNs who are in the U.S. processing their residency papers. It does not affect the application of RNs who are waiting overseas.
Before this hard-line approach, the CIS would accept an adjustment of status application without a Visa Screen Certificate which would then be requested at the time the CIS was ready to issue the green card (typically 9 to 15 months later). A request would be sent, and the RN would be allowed 12 weeks to produce a copy of the Certificate.
Under the new approach the CIS will now issue an intent to deny adjustment of status applications if the Visa Screen Certificate is not provided with the initial filing. The RN would then only have 30 days to provide a Visa Screen Certificate, and the Certificate submitted must have an issue date that predates the day the application was filed. If it does not, the case will automatically be denied. For example, if an RN adjustment of status (green card) application was filed on May 1, 2006, and CGFNS issued the Visa Screen Certificate after that date, the case would be denied. This hard-line position is now in effect and will be applied to all pending RN cases.
The CIS is unsympathetic to the fact that foreign RN’s are providing a valuable public health service in the U.S. in an occupation that is in severe shortage. It also ignores the fact that CGFNS processing times take several months before a Visa Screen Certificate can be issued. Under the prior rules, the RN would be allowed to work in the U.S. while the CIS adjudicated the case. The RN would then be given a reasonable period of time to allow CGFNS to issue the Certificate so that permanent residency could be granted. This new rule will severely impact many nurses and employers.
RNs who have received such denials or who anticipate receiving a denial should contact immigration counsel as soon as possible to discuss alternatives. One such alternative is to return to their home countries and process their immigrant visas at the U.S. Consulate. This will surely create a flood of applicants at the Embassies. It may be prudent for many RNs to immediately have their petitions transferred to the National Visa Center so that an immigrant visa appointment may be set at their home country. These RNs will then have until the interview date within which to provide the Visa Screen Certificate. The CIS denials will be automatic, so RNs must carefully assess their situation and seek competent legal advice as soon as possible.