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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

U.S. immigration relaxes rule for 'green card' seekers

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. immigration service reversed itself again on "green cards" on Tuesday, saying it would begin immediately accepting applications from thousands of foreign professional workers.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services abruptly reversed an announcement issued in June offering expedited processing of green card petitions for skilled foreign professionals working under H1-B visas.

Thousands of holders of H1-B visas -- reserved for skilled workers in computing, engineering and other special professions -- scrambled and spent money on lawyers and medical exams to prepare green card applications for a July 1 deadline.

However, on July 2, the U.S. State Department announced that no applications would be accepted until the fall because of a large visa backlog.

The announcement drew protests from disgruntled green card applicants and Sen. Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, who called on the State Department to reverse itself.

"The public reaction to the July 2 announcement made it clear that the federal government's management of this process needs further review," USCIS Director Emilio Gonzalez said in a statement announcing the latest flip-flop.

Gonzalez vowed to work on implementing a more efficient system in line with public expectations.

"It's unfortunate that the administration had to tie itself in a pretzel before coming to this conclusion," Schumer said in a statement, calling it a welcome reversal.

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