Been awhile since I posted. I know, I'm a slacker. So, I reawaken teh blog with the following FAQ:
Q: WTF? Travel lockdown again?
Short Answer: Yes. From mid-August (aka. the lawyers saying SoonTm) for several weeks.
Hum.... this is really long.
Let me explain how US green cards work.
Step 1: A worker applies for PERM "labour certification". This basically is a bunch of paperwork to ensure that you're not stealing some poor American's jorb. When this is done, you get a receipt back saying that you're not stealing someone's job. The date you filed your PERM is your "Priority Date".
Step 2: You file an immigrant petition - an I-140. Basic paperwork.
Step 3: You wait. You wait for your priority date to become "current". Basically, for each category of immigrant (and each country), there's a limit on the number of visas per year. So, when they run out, nobody else gets greencards until next year (the year starts in September or October for the US government). They process them in order of priority date - when they advertise that they're ready to offer visas for your priority date, you're current.
Then you get to file an I-485, which adjusts your status to permanent resident. You wait for them to process it, and then you get your green card.
It's an unpleasant process. Involves photos, tons of paperwork, and even a full medical exam! They want to make sure that you're not a sexual deviant or psychopath (I'm serious!), or if you have TB (they inject crap into your arm!).
Now, my priority date is in April 2007 sometime, at which point the monthly bulletin advertised the current date as August 2002! So I shouldn't have to worry about this, right?
Well no. The US government bungled. Big time. They, on their July bulletin, advertised ALL dates as caught up to the present. Why? It's theorized that they wanted to clear a backlog of "easy" applications. But, there's a big loophole - if you file your I-485 while your priority date is current, they can't reject it, even if they run out of visas! So they hold it in limbo, but this gives the applicant special rights for travel and the right for their families to get jobs (and for the original applicant to change jobs). They were not happy with everybody getting these special rights, so they posted a "revised" bulletin that, despite the old bulletin, they'd in fact accept NO APPLICATIONS from anyone!
Well, this made people mad. They'd moved their families; cancelled travel; fought for very scarce government doctor appointments. There were lawsuits. Against the government. Lots of them. And lots of bad press. In the end, they decided to avoid the lawsuits by posting a revised revised bulletin, saying that the original July bulletin would be legit until August 17th (but that after that, things would be unavailable again).
But, Lownewulf, you've not answered the question! WTF does this have to do with travel lockdown?
Well, since my priority date is current for the next few days. I'm applying for my green card! It will be years before a visa number is available, but the application will remain pending until then.
Herein is the crux of this new travel lockdown: you have to be in the country to apply for adjustment of status! If you leave the US, they will deem you to have abandoned your I-485. In fact, you can't leave the country until you receive an "Advance Parole", which is one of those special privileges of the application process I mentioned. This can take awhile. Thankfully, there's a rule that says that H-1B holders like me can leave without AP, as long as the H-1B is valid, and as long as you have your receipt for the I-485.
So, I have to wait, in the US, until I get the receipt for my I-485. Who knows how long that will take.