Ashish Kumar (name changed on request), an engineering graduate from Nagpur, went to the US in 2003 to work for an IT company in New Jersey. His employer got the non-immigrant H1B visa for him, and after two years filed the green card petition under employmentbased category 3, for permanent resident status. Now after seven years, Kumar is still waiting for his green card, even as the maximum six years allowed under the H1B visa is over.
He is living in the US under annual extensions of H1B, and every time he leaves the US, he has to apply for advance parole with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, so that he is not stopped from re-entering. Kumar doesn’t know when his application for green card will become current.
It could take another 10 years or even more. Living in such uncertainty is tough. He had started toying with the idea of giving up the green card dream and returning to India. But that was till last week when the US House of Representatives passed the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigration Bill, with a huge bipartisan majority. The Bill is aimed at eliminating the percountry caps on green cards and instituting a first come, first served system. It holds out hope for thousands of Indians in the US.
If the Bill is now passed by the US Senate, the hardships of thousands of Indians, and others from countries where the green card quotas are oversubscribed, will be reduced substantially. Currently, Indians who are on the green card queue cannot apply for adjustment of status to permanent residence from the temporary H1B visa.
Hope from New Bill Stuart Anderson, executive director of think tank National Foundation for American Policy, is of the opinion that if the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act becomes a law, an Indian applying in the employment-based second preference green card category will have to wait for only two to three years rather than the current six or more.
According to a recent paper by the NFAP, in the employment-based third preference category of green card applicants, an Indian professional applying today would have a theoretical wait of 70 years, since fewer than 3,000 Indians can receive green cards annually in this category. The backlog of Indians in the category is estimated to be as high as 210,000. “If this Bill is passed, the 7% quota will be eliminated for Indians and the long backlogs will be shortened considerable,” says Rami D Fakhoury, a Michigan-based lawyer who specialises in employment-based immigration.
The Act is, in fact, being seen as an important first step in reforming America’s green card process for highly skilled immigrants. However, additional steps are necessary, says Anderson. “One way is to exempt international students who graduate with an advanced degree from a US university in science or engineering from the annual employmentbased green card quota of 140,000,” Anderson adds.
Senate Roadblock The long wait on the green card queue is increasingly becoming an important reason for Indian IT professionals in the US wanting to move back to India. “Problems on the long green card wait list include not being able to change jobs and employers. This sometimes is an opportunity for unscrupulous employers to pay the candidate seeking a green card, a lower salary as other companies may not be willing to sponsor the candidate for a fresh green card filing,” says Sheela Murthy of Maryland-based Murthy Law Firm that represent companies and individuals undergoing the US immigration process.
11 Dec 2011
Chuck Grassley, House of Representatives, Murthy Law Firm, National Foundation for American Policy, Rami D Fakhoury, Stuart Anderson, Sunday ET, United States Senate
High-Skilled Immigration Act in US holding out hope for Indians
Posted on December 12, 2011