By Attorneys Robert L. Reeves and Joseph I. Elias

Approximately six years ago, immigrant visa numbers for skilled workers began retrogressing. The skilled worker group includes registered nurses (RNs) and physical therapists (PTs). In 2006, employers petitioned RNs and PTs to fill those positions for which there is an acute shortage. These petitions, combined with those for other skilled workers, created a huge demand for visa numbers resulting in the current six-year backlog.

The last six years proved to be a significant period during which the global recession severely impacted the US economy. Many petitioning employers went out of business, downsized, were acquired or were otherwise forced to reorganize. Unfortunately, six years later, many of these petitioners no longer exist or are unable to continue to support the earlier RNs and PT immigrant visa petitions. The beneficiaries of these petitions are dismayed to find out that they no longer have a sponsor available to allow them to immigrate now that their visa numbers are available. What most do not realize is that there is hope for them. A second chance to immigrate exists without lengthy delays.

The US immigration regulations specifically allow these RNs and PTs to retain their earlier priority date when petitioned by a new employer if certain conditions are met. First, the RNs and PTs must be beneficiaries of an approved immigrant visa petition commonly referred to as an I-140. Second, that immigrant visa petition must not have been withdrawn or revoked for fraud. If these conditions are met, a new petition filed now on behalf of the RN or PT will be assigned the earlier, 2006 priority date instead of a 2012 priority date.

For example, an RN was petitioned on May 1, 2006 and received an approval of that petition. While waiting for the visa number to become available, the petitioner, or sponsoring employer, goes out of business. A new employer is willing to petition the RN. Because the previous visa petition was approved, the immigration service assigns the May 1, 2006 priority date to the new petitioner. Since visa numbers are now available for the May 1, 2006 priority date, the RN can immigrate as soon as the immigration service approves the petition.

This is a significant second chance for RNs and PTs who lost their original sponsors. Their chances for immigrating did not die with the passing of their original sponsors. Furthermore, changes since 2006 now allow the US immigration service to review and approve an immigrant visa petition in 15-calendar days. This major reduction in processing times allows RNs and PTs to immigrate to the US faster once they recapture their earlier priority date.

Now that the 2006 priority dates are becoming current, many RNs and PTs  are despondent and believe their earlier petitions were a waste of time and resources. That is not true. They may be able to retain their earlier priority date. Experienced RNs and PTs are in great demand, especially RNs and PTs who can recapture an earlier priority date and immigrate quickly.

Now is the time for RNs and PTs who were petitioned six years ago, to dig through those dusty files for their approved immigrant visa petitions. It is time to breathe new life into those petitions and explore new opportunities in the US.

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