Indian techies in the US have much to be happy about the immigration bill the Biden administration introduced in the Congress on February 18. It aims to eliminate green card backlogs, and increase per country green card quota, all of which could benefit the Indian diaspora in the US.
Titled the US Citizenship Act 2021, the bill was introduced in the Senate and House of Representatives by Senator Bob Menendez and Representative Linda Sanchez respectively.
What is in it for Indians and Indian IT firms?
Indians are one of the largest beneficiaries of the employment-based visa categories like H-1B and L-1. The bill addresses few key issues that had made living in the US tough and uncertain for Indians over the last few years.
Eliminating wait time for employment-based immigration
There are close to 8 lakh Indians in the US under employment-based green card queue. Many of these Indians have been waiting in the queue for more than a decade.
A report by the immigration think tank Cato Institute points out that it would take 84 years to process this backlog. In the process, 2 lakh could die of old age while waiting for green cards, the study reported.
The immigration bill intends to address the issue by eliminating family members and spouses, PhDs in STEM field and those in the green card queue for more than 10 years. This means that those in the queue for more than a decade would be able to get green cards when this bill is implemented.
Doug Rand, co-founder, Boundless Immigration, pointed out that this move provides relief for people. “And the waiting itself wouldn’t be nearly so bad,” he pointed.
The maximum wait time for employment-based green card seekers would be 10 years. This would provide instant relief for a lot of people currently stuck, plus a safety valve in case backlogs creep up again.
And the waiting itself wouldn’t be nearly so bad…
— Doug Rand (@doug_rand) February 19, 2021
Increasing per country green card limit
The US allocates 140,000 green cards per year for employment-based category. Each country has a 7 percent limit. Now the bill proposes to increase the per-country cap to 20 percent. This would benefit a large number of Indians on H-1B visas who apply for green card.
Every year the US issues 85,000 visas to highly skilled immigrants. Indians account for a significant share of the visas issued. In addition, in FY19, of the 1.8 lakh H-1B visas issued, close to 1.3 lakh were issued to Indians.
Increasing the green card cap will also cut down the wait time for Indians and retain talent in the US.
Enabling work permit for spouses and children of H-1B visa holders
The bill will allow spouses of H-1B visa holders (H-4) and children to work in the US.
In 2015, the Obama administration allowed the H-4 visa holders to work in the US for the first time. Stuart Anderson, Executive Director, National Foundation for American Policy, said in a Forbes report, the legislation will provide them more protection from a future administration hostile to the measure.
However, one of the biggest challenges for the H-1B spouses under the Trump administration was the renewal of their work permits. The pandemic only made it worse.
So, if the bill goes through, it would allow automatic renewal of work authorisation permits in case of processing delays of more than a year. According to a recent lawsuit, it could take as much as two years for an H-4 visa holder (H-1B spouses) to get their work permit renewed. This has led to loss of jobs.
The immigration bill will address problems caused by these delays.
But as much good news there is for Indians in the immigration bill, there are concerns as well.
Impact on IT firms
For one, the bill gives the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Labor (DOL) the authority to develop regulations to establish procedures for prioritising certain visa petitions based on the wages offered by employers.
This would impact the IT firms. Currently, the Biden administration is reviewing the rule that would replace the current lottery selection of H-1B petitions with wages. Experts have already pointed out that this would make it difficult for the graduates to qualify for the visa if higher wages get priority.
Another key issue is that there is allowance for the DHS and DOL to limit the skilled workers entering into the US during times of high unemployment temporarily.
So this would mean that the agencies can impose a ban that could limit the entry of skilled immigrant workers such as H-1B visa holders similar to the Trump administration executive order (EO) on June 22, 2020. The EO banned the entry of H-1B workers into the US till December 31, 2020, and was later extended to March 31, 2021, to protect American workers.
This impacted Indian IT firms, for whom the sudden ban affected project execution. Anderson pointed out that this provision is ripe for misuse given that there is no definition of what is high unemployment and the period for which it can be imposed.
In the absence of clarity, such moves could impact IT firms and tech workers.Ecommerce Service in fiverr once check