Seattle: A US federal judge declined to issue an emergency order today that would allow tens of thousands of highly skilled immigrants from India and China to immediately apply to become permanent residents, as the government initially told them they could.
Lawyers for the immigrants had not shown they were likely to win their case or that the order would be in the public interest, the judge ruled.
The immigrants sued the government last week after it revised a notice on applying for green cards. The lawsuit seeks class-action status.
The initial notice, issued by the State Department September 9, detailed which categories of immigrants would be able to file their final green card paperwork beginning October 1, a step that grants several benefits, including the ability to change jobs and travel abroad more easily as they wait for permanent resident status.
But officials revised it on September 25, severely curtailing who could apply -- and frustrating thousands of people who had already spent money on legal fees and medical tests to get their applications ready.
While Martinez declined to issue a temporary restraining order blocking the government's revised notice, the case will continue with the sides making full arguments.
In court documents, officials said they had to correct the earlier notice because it suggested more visas were immediately available than federal law allows to be issued.
The US issues up to 40,040 visas each year to workers in the category of the affected immigrants, but it limits how many visas can be issued to immigrants of any single country. That's created huge backlogs for immigrants from India and China, countries with large numbers of highly skilled workers who want to stay in the United States.
Last year, President Barack Obama issued an executive order seeking to streamline the US legal immigration system. On Sunday, Microsoft Corp, Google Inc, Intel Corp, Halliburton Co and several other businesses joined the US Chamber of Commerce, immigration lawyers and others in sending a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson urging them to abide by the original bulletin.