Chicago Law Blogs

Uche O. Asonye, CPA, JD, founded the Chicago law firm of Asonye & Associates in 1993. His firm concentrates on workplace issues, immigration law, employment, and civil litigation. His practice includes employment contracts, discrimination, workplace harassment issues as well as immigration, with special focus on physicians, health care workers and medical institutions. The firm relies on advanced technology to provide competent and cost effective representation for clients

Due to a number of hardships in their personal life, this Anesthesiologist found that finishing their three-year requirement in their original place of employment was proving to be increasingly difficult. After an initial consult, we determined that their situation provided a strong argument for "extenuating circumstances," the key component for successful J-1 Waiver transfer petitions, and the details of their situation would likely allow the doctor to pursue a successful J-1 Waiver Transfer.


This physician was referred to us by another J-1 waiver client due to our strong reputation and track record of approvals. As with most IMG physicians nearing the end of their J-1 time, they were looking for the best way to continue to offer their medical expertise in the U.S. with fulfilling the J-1 two-year home residency requirement. Conrad 30 programs often have limited application windows near the end of the year operated on a first-come-first-serve basis. This physician had served J-1 time in Illinois and Florida specializing in infectious diseases and internal medicine, and approached us with merely a week left in the Texas Conrad 30 window. We were happy to assist, and despite the tight timeline, we were successful in attaining a Texas Conrad 30 recommendation. This physician is planning to start work on J-1 Visa Waiver H-1B starting in the Fall of 2023.

Physicians often retain our firm to help them transition from J-1 to H-1B through the J-1 Waiver process. We worked with this IMG physician to attain a Conrad 30 Recommendation for J-1 Waiver that would allow them to continue their practice without fulfilling the two-year home residency requirement. They had served J-1 time in New York, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island while training in Internal Medicine, Pulmonary Disease, and Critical Care. The Conrad 30 program is a common choice for those looking to start in a new position following their training, and we have had great success in attaining Conrad 30 recommendations for our clients. This physician received the Conrad 30 recommendation for Texas and is planning to start their employment in August 2023.

An IMG New York Physician specializing in Internal Medicine, Pulmonary Disease, and Critical Care approached us to help them attain a J-1 Waiver so that they would not be subject to the two-year home residency applied to many J-1 holders. We worked with them to apply for the Texas Conrad 30 program. The Texas Conrad 30 program issued a recommendation for their waiver, and the J-1 Waiver was approved with a successful H-1B obtained to allow the physician to continue offering their medical experience and expertise to an underserved area. As with the majority of cases we handle, the process from Conrad 30 to J-1 Waiver to H-1B was smooth and allowed the physician to begin work the following Autumn. This application was processed quicker than usual at under 2 months from initial Conrad 30 recommendation submission to J-1 Waiver approval.

This physician, specializing in Internal Medicine, wanted to pursue a J-1 Waiver Transfer based purely on personal issues that lead to a successful argument of "extenuating circumstances." The IMG doctor was practicing in California while their fiancé was working in Pennsylvania. They were looking to start a family, and the circumstances requiring frequent travel for them to spend time together was causing the doctor depression, anxiety, and fatigue. This resulted in a health issue partially attributed to the physician's work schedule and environment by a mental health professional. We argued that the physician was unable to continue to work while maintaining their health.


An IMG physician retained our services to change employers after serving a year and half of their J-1 Waiver 3-year requirement. The Internal Medicine and Cardiac Imaging Specialist physician experienced an incident at their workplace in which a patient was aggressive and caused the doctor to fear for their safety. Management was unresponsive and responded by frequently raising minor issues regarding the doctor's work. We argued that the doctor was clearly terminated in a retaliatory manner that was not related to their actual performance. The physician was then out-of-status with 60 days to find a new employer and successfully regain authorization to complete their J-1 Waiver term elsewhere.


On Tuesday, November 29th, the Supreme Court heard the first oral arguments in the U.S v. Texas trial. Texas and Louisiana are challenging the Biden administration's federal immigration policy that allowed immigration officials to prioritize certain groups of unauthorized citizens for arrest and deportation. The Biden administration sought to prioritize undocumented groups such as suspected terrorists, people who have committed crimes, and people recently caught at the border. Texas and Louisiana brought forth a lawsuit stating that the prioritization of particular groups is in violation of federal law. The court will decide whether the federal government has a right to enforce this policy, which mirrors the policies of the former Obama administration.

On September 19, 2022, a legal group in Boston filed a class-action lawsuit against Florida Governor Rick DeSantis for relocating almost 50 Venezuelan migrants to Martha's Vineyard. This came following a criminal investigation led by Texas Sheriff Javier Salazar. The migrants were told that they were going to be relocated to Boston or Washington, D.C, but were transported to Martha's Vineyard. Most of the migrants were in the process of applying for asylum which suggests that none of the migrants were in violation of federal law.

The Venezuelan migrants were promised work, housing, payments, and legal assistance if they participated in the Florida government's relocation program but quickly found out that these promises were untrue upon arriving in Boston. There were no accommodations or work opportunities available. A criminal investigation has been launched into the program and the individuals associated.

An applicant for an employment authorization document (EAD), must file under a specified category on Form I-765. As of July 28, USCIS has designated category (c)(11) for parolees to apply under. Parolees are those who were allowed into the United States for humanitarian reasons or for significant public benefit. Examples of such parolees are those who were paroled to obtain medical treatment in the U.S., to visit a sick relative in the U.S., to attend a funeral in the U.S., to participate in civil litigation or criminal prosecution, or prevent the inhumane separation of families. The option to file Form I-765 online is only available to certain categories of I-765 applicants – now including parolees. If you were paroled into the United States pursuant INA 212(d)(5)(A)'s humanitarian or significant public benefit petition, you may now apply for employment authorization online by filing Form I-765 under the (c)(11) category.

To obtain a non-immigrant O-1 visa, an applicant must demonstrate that they possess extraordinary ability in a particular field. As of July 22, USCIS has provided additional guidance on evidence that may be submitted in support of an O-1 applicant in the science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) fields. USCIS will now characterize being named on a competitive government grant for STEM research as a positive factor towards demonstrating that an applicant is at the top of their field.

Our experienced immigration attorneys have successfully obtained O-1 visas for foreign nationals with extraordinary ability. Please call us at 312-795-9110 for a private consultation.

July 29, 2022- The DHS and USCIS have announced a temporary protected status (TPS) benefit for Syrians affected by the ongoing armed conflict. The TPS designation is initially authorized for a period of 18 months, through March 31, 2024. Under this provision, Syrians who remain in continual physical presence in the United States may apply for temporary protected status (TPS) and be eligible for employment authorization as well as travel documents (Advance Parole). Qualified applications may remain in the U.S. lawfully during the period of the designation. A Federal Register notice also provides automatic extension of certain Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) of existing beneficiaries of Syria TPS, through Sept. 30, 2023.

For more information on eligibility, or how to apply for TPS, contact our office at 312-795-9110.

July 11, 2022- The Department of Homeland Security has authorized the extension of temporary protected status (TPS) benefits for Venezuelans currently in the United States. The 18-month extension will be effective from September 10, 2022, through March 10, 2024. Under this extension, Venezuelans who remained in continual physical presence in the U.S. prior to March 8, 2021 may extend their temporary protected status (TPS) and be eligible for employment authorization as well as travel documents (Advance Parole). Venezuelans who arrived in the U.S. after March 8, 2021, are not eligible for TPS. Qualified applicants may remain in the U.S. lawfully during the period of the designation. The next copy of the Federal Register will provide instructions for re-registering for TPS and renewing Employment Authorization Documents (EAD).

USCIS is implementing premium processing for those who have a pending I-140 from 2021 and prior, based on several categories. Premium processing expedite requests promise the adjudication of the I-140 within 45 days of USCIS’s receipt of all prerequisite documentation.

Starting on June 1, 2022, E-B multinational manager and executive petitioners will be eligible to apply for premium possessing if the petitions were filed on or before January 1, 2021. EB-2 National Interest Waiver petitioners will be eligible to upgrade to premium processing as of July 1, 2022, if they filed on or before March 1, 2021.

USCIS will not accept new (initial) Forms I-140 with a premium processing request at this time.
In response to an enormous backlog of employment authorization document (EAD) applications, USCIS announced that the automatic extension period for EAD renewals will increase from 180 days to 540 days.

Typically, EAD renewal applicants are granted an automatic extension period of up to 180 days from the date their EAD expires. But as of May 4, 2022, foreign workers with expiring EADs will be granted an extension of 540 days from the initial expiration date on those documents. Therefore, affected workers will now be able to use their EADs for nearly 18 months after they expire.

Renewal applicants qualify for this extension if they (1) have filed Form I-765 for renewal before their current EAD expired, (2) have been eligible for renewal under a category that is eligible for automatic extension, and (3) the category on their current EAD matches the “Class Requested” listed on their Form I-797C Notice of Action, Receipt Notice. TPS applicants, in particular, may still qualify for the extension even if they do not meet the third requirement.

If you are eligible for the automatic extension and filed the Form I-765 renewal application after May 4, 2022, USCIS will send you a Form I-797C Notice of Action receipt notice describing the 540-day extension that will serve as acceptable proof of employment authorization and/or EAD validity during the up to 540-day automatic extension period.

If you filed the Form I-765 renewal application before May 4, 2022, you should have received a Form I-797C Notice of Action receipt notice that describes the original automatic extension period of 180 days. You will not receive a new I-797C receipt notice reflecting the increased 540-day extension period. However, the notice will still meet regulatory requirements if your 180-day automatic extension expired prior to May 4, 2022.

The EAD extension is set to end on October 26, 2023. After Oct. 26, 2023, the original 180-day automatic extension period will resume.

F-1 visa holders normally cannot apply for LPR, also known as a green card, while their F-1 visa is still valid. F-1 visas are classified under the "nonimmigrant" category. Most visas in this category do not allow for dual intent, which means that you do not want to remain in the US after your visa expires and will return to your home country. However, there are some ways to obtain a green card. The best way is to adjust status to another nonimmigrant visa that allows dual intent or to an employment immigrant visa. Considering that you must be obtaining a degree to be approved for an F-1 visa, it works seamlessly to adjust to an employment-based visa.

The H-1B visa is one of the better options for obtaining a green card. An H-1B visa requires a highly specialized knowledge, which is the equivalent of a bachelor's or higher. This visa requires a job offer and a labor certification before the visa process can start. The approved visa will be valid for three years, with an three-year extension available after that time. After five years you can adjust status to obtain your Green Card. You must apply for your adjustment BEFORE the sixth year hits.

You may also be able to apply for an Employment-Based visa in the third category (EB-3). For current F-1 visa holders, the two most applicable subcategories are the skilled worker and professionals subcategories. To apply as a skilled worker you must possess at least two years of job experience, education, or training that meets the job requirements specified on the labor certificate. Relevant post-secondary education may be considered as training. The professionals subcategory requires a U.S. bachelor's degree or foreign equivalent and that it is the normal requirement for entry into the occupation. Education and experience may not be substituted for a bachelor's. Further, you must be able to meet any other requirements specified on the labor certificate. Finally, both of these require that you are performing work for which qualified workers are not available in the U.S.

This can be a long process, so extending your OPT may be necessary. To extend your OPT you must meet the following:
1. You have been granted OPT and are currently within the valid period of post-completion OPT,
2. You have earned a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree from an accredited agency that is verified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program. You need to have completed this degree at the time you submit your extension application,
3. You must work for an employer who meets all the requirements necessary.
4. You must submit a work authorization application (I-765) up to 90 days before your current OPT expires.

It can be hard to determine what is the best option for you based on your circumstances and Asonye & Associates are here to help. Please contact our office to talk about your next steps.

USCIS is encouraging applicants with pending EB-3 to consider requesting that the underlying basis of their application be transferred to the EB-1 or EB-2 category because there is an "exceptionally high number of employment based visas available in these categories during this fiscal year (Oct. 2021-Sept. 2022)." The annual limit for fiscal year '22 for employment visas is about twice as high because there is a large amount of unused family sponsored visas from last fiscal year.

Under the statute, any visas not used in the EB-5 category are given to the EB-1 category. Then, if there are unused visas in the EB-1 category, they are transferred to EB-2. They cannot go straight to the EB-3 category because there is a significant number of non-citizens waiting for visas in the EB-2 category.

To be able to transfer your applicant, you must meet the following criteria:

1. A visa is unavailable to you in the EB-3 category
2. You have a pending I-140
3. A visa is available in the EB-1 or EB-2 category
4. You have continuously maintained eligibility for adjustment of status.

This can be a rewarding process since you might not have to wait until next fiscal year to obtain a visa, but it can be confusing. Asonye & Associates is here to help you navigate this process. Please call our office to schedule a consultation.

On January 30, 2022, USCIS and Customs and Border Patrol issued further clarification about what documents are usable to prove work authorization for the spouses of E and L nonimmigrant visa holders. Since then they have begun issuing I-94 cards with new COA codes for certain E and L spouses: E-1S, E-2S, E-S, and L-2S. An unexpired I-94 reflecting one of these new codes is acceptable as evidence of employment authorization under List C of an I-9 form.

If you are an E or L spouse age 21 or over, who has an unexpired I-94 that USCIS issued before Jan 30, 2022, USCIS will mail you a notice beginning on or around April 1, 2022. This notice plus your unexpired I-94 that reflects any of the above listed categories or E-1, E-2, E-3, E-3R, E-3D, or L-2 nonimmigrant status, will serve as evidence of employment authorization. These notices will only be sent to people identified as a qualifying spouse based on an I-539 application that have been approved by USCIS.

If you are an E or L spouse who is under 21, or you have not received your notice by April 30, 2022, you should email E-L-married-U22@uscis.dhs.gov to request a notice. If you received your I-94 card from CBP, you need to visit cbp.gov to inquire.

The State Department has advanced the date on the April Visa Bulletin for filing applications for an immigrant visa or adjustment of status in the employment-based, second preference category (EB-2) for India from September 1, 2013 to September 1, 2014.

If a noncitizen who has an approved immigrant visa petition in the EB-2 category for India and applied/has a priority date on or before September 1, 2014, you should apply for an adjustment of status in April by filing an I-485. To prevent delay you should include your I-693 (Vaccination and Medical Records) with your application. This will allow USCIS to process your adjustment without having to wait for an evidence request.

This is a great opportunity to advance your immigration goals and Asonye & Associates is here to help. Please do not hesitate to contact us to assist in this process.

Due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Biden administration announced it would be granting temporary protective status (TPS) to Ukraine citizens, or those who last habitually resided in the Ukraine who have no nationality, who have been living in the U.S. without legal documentation since March 1 or earlier. If you are eligible for this status, it would give you permission to stay and work in the US for 18 months. This time can be extended by the administration if the conditions in the Ukraine have not improved by the end of the designation.

TPS is intended to protect citizens from countries where they are experiencing armed conflict or a natural disaster that makes it unsafe to return. However, this does not provide for permanent residency. You can apply for this status even if you currently possess a valid non-permanent visa, like a visitor (B-1/B-1) or a student (F-1/F-1) visa. This helps protect you from deportation when those visas expire or while you are in the process of applying for a more permanent visa.

Since this is not intended to be a permanent status, the best action after filing and being granted TPS is to start looking at other more permanent visa options. Asonye and Associates can help you navigate the immigration process during this hard time and help you find more permanent status in the US. Please do not hesitate to call us or fill out the Contact Us form on our website.

The H-1B opens on March 1, 2022 at 11:00 A.M.. This period will run until March 18, 2022 at 11:00 A.M. First, you must make an account with USCIS in order to participate in the registration process. Prospective petitioners can start creating a registrant account on February 21, 2022 at 11:00 A.M. On this account you are able to add beneficiaries once the registration opens on March 1st. For each beneficiary you add, you will have to pay a $10 registration fee.

Once registered, you will be assigned a registration number. This is only to track your registration and not for your case status. If enough registrations are received by March 18, then the registration period will close and random selection will begin. If you are selected you will be notified on your online account. USCIS stated that they intend to notify all account holders by March 31, 2022. You must be selected in order to apply for H-1B, this includes any beneficiary petitions.

If you, or someone you know, has any questions regarding the H-1B process and if it's right for you, please do not hesitate to contact Asonye and Associates to discuss your immigration options.

As the Senate reconvenes this week with new COVID-19 guidelines in effect, four Senators propose to introduce a new bill dubbed the "Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act." The proposed bill would allow immigrant medical professionals to receive an expedited green card to assist in the fight against COVID-19, the disease that is caused by the novel coronavirus and has already claimed thousands of lives in the U.S. The bill is being sponsored by Senators Dick Durbin (Democrat – Illinois), David Perdue (Republican – Georgia), Todd Young (Republican – Indiana), and Chris Coon (Democrat – Delaware).

The proposed bill will free up to 40,000 "recycled" employment-based visa slots for foreign born doctors and nurses who could help fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the proposed bill, nurses and physicians with approved immigrant visa petitions will either be allowed (1) entry into the U.S. if currently overseas or (2) to adjust their status if they are already in the U.S. To make this possible, U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services ("USCIS") would "recapture" up to 25,000 immigrant visas for nurses and up to 15,000 immigrant visas for physicians. USCIS will also recapture immigrant visas for the families of these medical professionals receiving consideration under the proposed bill.

The recycled visas would not add new immigrants to the country. Rather, the recycled visas would be drawn from the pool of unused employment-based visas that Congress has previously authorized. From fiscal years 1992 to 2020, Congress authorized over 200,000 visas that went unused. The recaptured visas would be issued in order of priority date and would not be subject to country caps.

If the bill is passed, all immigrant medical professionals who have previously filed petitions for immigrant visas and receive consideration under the bill would be required to meet licensing requirements, pay the required filing fees, and would be subjected to rigorous background checks. If an immigrant medical professional receiving consideration under this bill is overseas, employers will be required to attest that the immigrant medical professional has not displaced and will not displace a United States citizen worker.

We will be monitoring these developments as they become available. Moreover, our experienced immigration attorneys can assist you in understanding these developments and in other requirements under the law.

UPDATE 04/02/2021

U.S. Senators introduced bipartisan legislation that would recapture 40,000 unused immigrant visas for eligible doctors and nurses to address the U.S.'s shortage of qualified health care professionals, a shortage that was further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The legislation would give eligible doctors and nurses, and their family members, up to 90 days after the expiration of the COVID-19 national health emergency declaration to apply for the unused visas. Any employer wishing to hire an eligible doctor or nurse must show the hiring will not displace an American worker. Moreover, this legislation would (1) require the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of State to expedite the visa processing and (2) direct U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS") to waive any premium processing fees. We will continue to monitor any developments as they become available.

The newly published final rule will allow more nonprofit entities to take advantage of the exemption. 

USCIS has published a final rule on November 18, 2016 which introduces a fourth option to meet the exemption from the H-1B quota. A nonprofit entity can claim cap exemption by demonstrating that it has entered into a formal written affiliation agreement with an institution of higher education that establishes an active working relationship between the nonprofit entity and the institution for the purposes of research or education, and the fundamental activity of the nonprofit entity is to directly contribute to the research of education mission of the institution of higher education.

In the proposed rule, the term “primary purpose” was used instead of “fundamental activity.” However, in response to the public comments which suggested the term “primary purpose” was too restrictive, the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) replaced “primary purpose” with “fundamental activity.” DHS expects that this substitution of the terms will allow more nonprofit entities to take advantage of the exemption. In the commentary preceding the regulation, DHS also clarified that if a nonprofit entity is engaged in more than one fundamental activity, it can still  take advantage of the exemption because the exemption requires that at least one of these fundamental activities directly contributes to research or education of an institution of higher education. This rule will go into effect on January 17, 2017.

Extenuating Circumstances for J-1 Waiver Transfer Approved Due to Hostile Work Environment and potential danger to US citizen Spouse and Child

April 25, 2016 - After obtaining a j-1 waiver and H-1B visa, this internal medicine physician began his j-1 waiver job in California. Shortly after he initiated his employment, the employer began engaging in illegal and unethical conduct as well as harassment, mistreatment, and retaliation against the physician. In addition, throughout his employment, the physician’s employer continuously disregarded and ignored the physician’s medical judgement, thereby jeopardizing the health of its patients and the safety of its community. After the physician complained of the harassment as well as the unfair compensation he faced, the physician was given a final warning.

In our petition, we argued that as a result of the employer’s behavior, the physician could not complete his j-1 waiver service. We also argued that the denial of the physician’s j-1 waiver transfer would cause extreme hardship on the physician’s spouse and young son, both US citizens. The physician’s wife has several mental illnesses and in the event of a denial, the physician and his family would need to return to India, a country that lacks adequate mental health care.

The physician and his new employer retained our firm to prepare and file the J-1/H-1B visa waiver transfer to another hospital in California. Our petition included a declaration signed by the physician, his spouse’s medical records reflecting her diagnoses, treatment plan, and her physician’s recommendations, as well as articles regarding the access to mental health care in India. USCIS approved the physician’s J-1/H-1B visa waiver transfer on April 25, 2016.

Russian Endocrinologist Granted NIW to Serve in Medically Underserved Community in Michigan

March 29, 2016 - This Russian national is an Endocrinologist that came to the United States on a J-1 visa in order to complete her residency training in Internal Medicine. Upon completion of her training program in 2012, she began her fellowship in Endocrinology, which she completed in 2014. Afterwards, we filed a J-1 visa waiver that waived the 2-year foreign home requirement and allowed her to remain in the US.

We were retained again recently to file this physician’s NIW in order for her to serve five years in an underserved community in Isabella County, Michigan. We stated that her employment will have an immediate and positive impact on the members of Isabella County by reducing the long wait by patients to see an endocrinologist, enhancing follow up procedures with the facility, as well as enchaining the availability and quality of care provided to patients. We also argued that a denial of the NIW would deprive the community of a specialty physician that can provide patients with much-needed preventative care. Her NIW was approved on March 29, 2016.

Peruvian National Obtains J-1 Visa Waiver to Serve in the Midwest

May 16, 2014 - This neonatologist is a Peruvian national that was on a J-1 visa while completing her residency in Pediatrics. Upon completing her residency training as well as the expiration of her J-1 visa, a practice based in Illinois and Indiana sponsored this physician’s J-1 visa waiver in order for her to work three years with them instead of fulfilling the 2-year foreign residence requirement.

The hospital retained our firm in order to file the J-1 visa waiver to waive the 2-year foreign residence requirement. We submitted the application, demonstrating the hospital’s needs for a neonatologist as well as their failed recruitment efforts to hire a neonatologist for a long period of time. Upon review, the USCIS approved the application on April 23,2014. In addition, on May 16, 2014, USCIS approved the hospital’s H-1B visa application filed on behalf of the physician.

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Disclaimer: The materials in Asonye & Associates web site have been prepared to permit visitors to our web site to learn more about the services we offer. These materials do not, and are not intended to, constitute legal advice. Neither transmission nor receipt of such materials will create an attorney-client relationship between the sender and receiver. Internet subscribers and online readers are advised not to take or refrain from taking any action based upon materials in this web site without consulting legal counsel. We do not undertake to update any materials in our Web Site to reflect subsequent legal or other developments.