Some seven Guyanese teachers in New York visa snarl-up
Stabroek News
June 15, 2004

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Some seven Guyanese teachers, who were recruited about three years ago to teach in New York might have to return to Guyana at the end of the month, as they do not have the required H-1B visa, for their continued stay in the USA.

An employee at the mission in Washington DC, who asked not to be identified told Stabroek News yesterday that the Guyana government sent no objection statements to teachers who presented their case to the Office of the President in Georgetown to facilitate their continued employment in the education system in New York.

The majority of the Guyanese teachers, who applied before the deadline for their application to be processed, were being processed. All the applications were being treated as individual cases and on their own merit.

However, no objection statements for some of the teachers arrived after the deadline had expired because their applications had been submitted late. Stabroek News understands, also that some of these teachers compromised their position by applying to universities to pursue Masters Degrees in their various disciplines. By doing this they had hoped to change their J-1 visas, which are due to expire at the end of this month, to student visas. This was not looked on favourably by the US State Department.

A source within the Guyana Consulate in New York told Stabroek News that the affected teachers formed a delegation and went to seek the Guyana Government's assistance, but this was after they had already compromised their position. Those teachers may have to return to Guyana then sort out their status from here.

In a telephone interview, one of the affected teachers in New York told Stabroek News that in her case the no-objection statement arrived after the deadline. Though there has been no change in her status she said that she was not sure whether she would be returning to Guyana. She said they were "six or seven of us" who were affected in this manner.

Stabroek News understands that there are about 300 Guyanese teachers in the New York area who were recruited over the past three to four years during active recruitment drives in Guyana and the wider Caribbean.

The affected teachers were recruited by the New York Board of Education in 2001 under the provision of a J-1 visa. The J-1 visa is valid for one year and renewable for a further two years. Upgrading the J-1 visa required a no-objection statement from the government of the country where the teachers originated.

Many of the Guyanese teachers had left the country without the no-objection statements. As such they could not upgrade their J-1 visas to the H-1B status.

A number of Jamaican teachers are similarly affected. Reports out of New York indicate that there may be 100 Jamaican teachers affected. There are over 1,000 Jamaican teachers in New York.

(Miranda La Rose)