“The situation is complex. Despite my husband having a PhD and a good job, his green card application is being processed for over five years. We have no clarity on when it will go through. Till then, we can’t even go on trips home to India because of the uncertainty over visa rules and fears we may face problems when returning to the US,” says Swarnali, who is on a dependent H4 visa linked to her husband’s H1B temporary work permit. In fact, she was able to join the workforce only in 2015, after then President Barack Obama allowed, through an executive order, certain H4 spouses to work. And now she faces uncertainty again, along with thousands of others, as the department of homeland security reviews a proposal to finalise the removal of H4 dependent spouses from the category of non-immigrant visa-holders who are eligible for employment.
Students and professionals in India need to know about the uncertainty over long-term opportunities in the US as getting green cards is almost impossible, says Swarnali.
But there is hope now for Indians like her with the recent bipartisan Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act, which was recently introduced in the US House of Representatives.
Experts say the bill is better than the previous ones because it specifically addresses the issue of per-country cap on green cards, rather than focus on the wider comprehensive issue of immigration reform.
As of now, how long one has to wait for a green card depends on the country of origin — a person from a country with a lower population might get permanent residency faster than a person from a more populous country because of a per-country cap. The bill places employment-based immigrants on a level playing field by eliminating the 7% “per-country” limit on employment based immigrant visas, or green cards. The bill also proposes to raise the similar 7% per-country limit on family sponsored visas to 15%.
Introduced earlier this month by Representatives Zoe Lofgren (Democrat) and Ken Buck (Republican), the bill had 112 co-sponsors and has now won bipartisan support of over 300 members in the house of 535. A similar bill has been introduced in the Senate by Senators Mike Lee (Republican) and Kamala Harris (Democrat). The secondbill, with 14 co-sponsors, does not change the number of family or employment-based green cards issued in a year. This makes the house bill more prominent for Indian immigrants. “The bill addresses the backlog of legitimate green card applications from immigrants from certain countries — India in particular. The bill would eliminate the visa backlog in 5-7 years, which is great. It cannot be done any faster,” says Nish Acharya, CEO of Equal Innovation, a consultancy that advises companies and governments.
For Indians in America, the benefits of the bill are the elimination of country caps, allowing as many as 29,000 Indians into the US annually on the permanent employment, or green card, category. Currently, Indians who go to the US to study for a masters degree and start working there are likely to spend their entire life on temporary visas. They have to keep extending their visas every three years or when there is a change in position, location and salary, among others. “This bill certainly helps highly skilled Indians living and working in the US for a long time but unable to adjust their status to permanent residency due to the country-of-birth quotas,” says Anirban Das, the founder of Skilled Immigrants in America (SIIA), an advocacy group that wants highly-skilled immigrants to get green cards faster.
According to the new bill, after a transition phase, the green card process will become a fair first-in-first-out one. Applications would be processed in the order they are received. SIIA members recently met Congress woman Zoe Lofgren, one of the sponsors of the bill, to discuss the issue. But getting the bill through the Congress may not be a cakewalk, despite the fact that it enjoys huge bipartisan support. “This bill does have a large number of supporters, which makes it easier to push it through. But there will be a lot of resistance to any bill that seeks to change the US immigration regime,” says Poorvi Chothani, a Mumbai-based immigration lawyer.
Both the Houses will have to work together to iron out differences and then put it to vote, she adds.
The whole process could be derailed if the lawmakers don’t agree. Besides, considering that the US presidential election is coming up next year, President Donald Trump may not be willing to sign an immigration law right now. In view of the support it has already received, this could be a politically acceptable model for 2021, says Acharya of Equal Innovation.
11 Comments on this Story
preet436 days ago
f4 category Fast process please
Ramanujam Veraswamy664 days ago
Indian Govt. should develop environment in India to arrest braon drain and also attract talented Indians settled at US/ other foreign vountries. Then only India can rightfully entitled to claim developed country
Greencardblues2019689 days ago
USCIS and DHS will not change the policies so easily because of some senators introduce bills. Even the bills get approved by the Congress, Trump will not sign it, because it''s against the MAGA campaign promise.
Coming soon will be, H1 and other non immigrant visas will not be eligible for PR conversion. That''s the only way to bring the backlogs down and under control.
If the H1Bs are paying taxes and not breaking the law, then they don''t care. It''s easy tax revenues for them.