Two Mason City doctors sue feds over eight-year wait for green card

Two Mason City doctors and their daughter are suing the federal government over an eight-year wait for their green cards.

dr Pranav Singh, his wife, Dr. Harpreet Kaur and her daughter, Ishnoor Kaur, are suing the US Department of Homeland Security and the US Citizenship and Immigration Services in the US District Court for the Northern District of Iowa.

Singh, described by his attorneys as “one of the most talented pulmonologists in the world,” alleges that DHS failed to process the family’s green card application in a timely manner. Issuing a green card — officially called a permanent resident card — confers legal permanent residency on non-citizens and is a pathway to full citizenship.

In the lawsuit, Singh’s attorneys note that the long and complicated application process includes a provision that essentially restarts the process if DHS does not process an application by the end of the current federal fiscal year on September 30. In fact, DHS’s failure to act on his case after waiting eight years to be eligible for a green card would force Singh back on the queue and result in years of additional delays.

The lawsuit alleges that if DHS does not act within the next 10 calendar days, the family “will face the untenable situation of having their green card withdrawn for many more because of a discriminatory per-country restriction enshrined in (federal law). years is not received. this has created a decades-long backlog for Indian nationals.”

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This is true, the lawsuit alleges, even though thousands of employment-based green cards are still available for the current fiscal year.

One of the driving forces behind the delays, the lawsuit said, was the federal government’s “discriminatory practices towards Indian nations.” Singh’s lawyers note that applicants from most countries other than India are not subject to years of green card processing delays.

In August 2014, Singh submitted an application for foreign worker status on behalf of his wife and daughter. In April 2022, he was informed that the family’s green card application was ready for submission so that their status could be changed to permanent resident.

When USCIS informed Singh of this fact, the agency informed him that after September 30, their so-called “immigration priority date” would fall behind for processing.

Backtracking occurs when the approval deadline, set by the Department of State and determining visa availability, moves backwards instead of forwards. If there is a regression of their immigration priority date, Singh and his family will “remain in limbo awaiting a benefit they requested more than eight years ago,” the lawsuit says. “As the card has not yet been issued, there is a risk for the family that they will soon be declared ineligible to adjust their status to that of a permanent resident.”

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Congress has set annual limits on the number of visas issued and the number of resident status adjustments. In addition, the 1990 Immigration Act introduced per-country restrictions that said that a country’s citizens could not account for more than 7% of the total number of family or work visas issued in any given year.

As a result of the per-country cap, nations with particularly large numbers of applicants are put in a queue, creating a backlog of people waiting for the opportunity to even apply for permanent residency. Within the category of employment-related applications, the backlog of individuals from India is particularly large.

Under US policy, the total number of employment-based visas considered “available” for issuance is large enough that some will simply expire and go unused, even as the visa backlog for Indian nationals grows due to per-country restrictions.

In 2020, a study by the Congressional Research Service predicted that an applicant from India with a graduate degree would wait an estimated 195 years before being eligible for permanent residency on an employment-based visa.

“These waiting times are so dramatic that deaths are causing hundreds of thousands of immigrants to fall out of line before they are eligible to apply for residency,” the lawsuit says. DHS knows that if it cannot process applications by Sept. 30, the end of the federal fiscal year, some visas will be “completely wasted,” the lawsuit says.

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“It is unreasonable that the agency did not plan to process these applications in a timely manner,” Singh’s lawyers said in court. “The agency happily accepted the millions of dollars in legal fees for the (applications), knowing that the agency did not have the resources or capacity to adjudicate on the thousands of applications that had been received as of September 30.”

The lawsuit alleges that DHS and USCIS violated the Administrative Procedures Act, which requires agencies to deal with matters that require a decision “within a reasonable time.” It is seeking a court order requiring authorities to process Singh’s applications for permanent residency in the United States before September 30.

DHS and USCIS have yet to file a response to the lawsuit.

Singh, who graduated from Maulana Azad Medical College in India, is licensed in Iowa, Florida, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, North Carolina and Missouri.

He currently works as a pulmonologist and critical care physician for MercyOne North Iowa in Mason City, where he served as a hospital’s respiratory care medical director from August 2012 to July 2021. Kaur is an endocrinologist at MercyOne North Iowa.

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