Guyanese teachers in New York win waivers
-- but must still return home
Guyana Chronicle
August 6, 2004

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NEW YORK, N.Y. ( - Eighty-five Caribbean teachers with the New York City Department of Education have won U.S. State Department waivers to change their work visas but must still return home, an official here has said.

A major lobbying effort by several advocates and politicians, including Brooklyn Congressman Major Owens, resulted in the last minute reprieve, but the teachers must now return home to await the visas.

Owens, according to his office, was successful in getting waivers for the 54 Jamaicans, 23 Trinidadians, six Guyanese and two Barbadians.

Sixty-nine teachers had received their waiver letters by yesterday, stated Omar Banmally, Deputy Press Secretary/Systems Manager in Owens’ office.

Sixteen are still without documents, such as the ‘No Objection Letters’ from their home country, but Banmally said that once these were submitted, the waivers would be granted.

“It's really been a concerted effort by Congressman Owens and his staff to get this done,” he said. “To my knowledge, the State Department has never worked this fast on any type of issue. They are to be commended for their hard work on behalf of the teachers.”

But advocate Irwine Clare, who has led the lobbying effort on behalf of the teachers, said the reprieve is only a preliminary victory.

Helen Konrad, a legal representative of the New York Department of Education, explained in a memo obtained by Hardbeatnews, “They are ALL required to depart the U.S., obtain the H-1B visa stamp and then they may re-enter up to 10 days prior to 10/1, but start working only on 10/1 (October 1).”

Clare added, “The teachers now have to go back and wait H-1B approvals. Their last pay check was in June and their next one may be in October. So this will cause a lot of economic hardships.”

He also called on the congressman to ensure the teachers are armed with congressional letters explaining the reprieve and the delay that resulted in them accruing unlawful presence here. The teachers were scheduled to leave on July 31.

Clare also called for letters to be sent to the Consuls in the homelands of the teachers, to avoid a hassle and added confusion.

And he reiterated his call for movement by the NYCDOE and politicians to get labour certifications and permanent residency for the teachers.

H-1B visas are granted to highly skilled workers seeking temporary employment in the U.S.

The teachers were recruited to work on J-1 visas, which are valid for three years.

They were advised to seek adjustment to H-1B visas but between waivers and a 2004 visa cap, the time ran out.