This news story is about a Turkish physician whose visa extension hit some snags at BCIS until his congressman intervened. I think it shows how arbitrary of the immigration process in the US is and how much depends on the specific immigration officer examining your case.
An impressive career, a 1,000-page visa application and 10 letters of support from some of the top names in medicine apparently weren’t enough evidence for U.S. authorities considering whether to allow a Houston doctor to stay in the country.
It took a Thursday phone call between a congressman and a high-ranking federal immigration official to cut through red tape that immigration lawyers say is increasingly common since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
[…]Dr. Remzi Bag, a Turkish physician who heads Houston’s two lung transplant programs, was granted an extension of the special visa that allows him to work in the United States after a delay that prompted worries about a possible shutdown of the transplant centers.
[…]Bag has been working as a Baylor College of Medicine physician on a three-year, O-1 visa. O-1 status is granted to foreign nationals — 25,000 in 2002 — who demonstrate extraordinary achievement or ability in science, education, business, the arts or athletics.
According to BCIS, an O-1 visa is granted to
- An individual alien who has extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics which has been demonstrated by sustained national or international acclaim and who is coming temporarily to the United States to continue work in the area of extraordinary ability; or
- An alien who has a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in motion picture and/or television productions and who is coming temporarily to the United States to continue work in the area of extraordinary achievement.
Continuing with Dr. Bag’s travails:
Bag, who graduated as valedictorian from medical school in Turkey, is medical director of the lung transplant programs at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital and The Methodist Hospital. The 39-year-old doctor is board-certified in pulmonary medicine, critical care medicine, nuclear medicine and internal medicine.
He is a lung transplant physician — a rare expert in pre- and post-operative care for lung transplant patients — a specialty that is federally required of all lung transplant centers. Because Bag is one of only two such qualified doctors in the city and one of only 100 in the country, Baylor officials said the possibility that he might be deported threatened local lung transplant programs.
Bag’s request for a visa extension was kicked back earlier this year with a letter from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services stating the application did not establish that Bag had won a major award, “such as the Nobel Prize,” and that, in short, Bag “has a career he can be proud of, but the evidence does not establish he meets the very high standard of O-1A in his medical speciality.” Federal officials invited Bag to submit more evidence.
A Nobel Prize? Are there thousands of Nobel Prize winners trying to get the O-1A visa?
Bag said he was puzzled by the snag because, in being named medical director of the two transplant programs, he has achieved even greater distinction in his career than when he was first granted O-1 status.
This is the most surprising part. The regulations and requirements for the visa have not changed recently. Therefore, if he was eligible 3 years ago, shouldn’t he still be eligible?