A group of US lawmakers has urged the Joe Biden and his administration to take executive action to make priority dates current for Green Card applicants from India to reduce the 195-year-long wait period and backlog which has left them in a constant state of limbo.
Led by Congressmen Raja Krishnamoorthi and Larry Bucshon, the bipartisan group of 56 lawmakers sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas requesting the administration take executive action to provide relief to high-skilled employment-based visa holders.
In their letter, the US lawmakers also appealed to the administration to mark all dates for filing of employment-based visa applications in the Bureau of Consular Affairs’ published Employment-Based Visa Bulletin as “current”.
A Green Card, known officially as a Permanent Resident Card, is a document issued to immigrants to the US as evidence that the bearer has been granted the privilege of residing permanently.
The current situation surrounding the seven per cent country cap on employment-based Green Card allocation is causing severe repercussions, particularly for countries such as India, where the backlog has reached an astonishing 195 years, said Foundation for India and Indian Diaspora Studies (FIIDS USA) in a separate appeal to the US President Joe Biden.
This backlog disproportionately affects Indian tech professionals, who constitute a significant portion of the highly skilled STEM talent and US-educated graduates, playing a crucial role in maintaining the United States’ competitive edge in the technology industries, it said.
STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects.
However, the backlog has created a significant barrier, hindering these talented individuals from contributing meaningfully to the country’s growth and innovation, the FIIDS observed.
This year, the FIIDS has made several efforts in addressing the concerns of the immigrant Indian community, in particular those related to Green Card and H-1B visas.
“We started efforts to get relief to Indian H-1Bs who are stuck in Green Card processing. We launched a change petition, we are approaching representatives, various other organisations and influencers. We are reaching out to the Bureau of consular services in the state department as well as the USCIS in the DHS to take administrative action to make the priority dates current for green card applicants,” Khanderao Kand from FIIDS said.
The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise.
Technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China.
The lawmakers in their letter said that marking all dates as “current” would allow employment-based applications to be filed regardless of applicants’ country-based priority date. This would provide relief to thousands of individuals attempting to legally navigate the US immigration system and could potentially also make some eligible for employment authorisation documents to change jobs, start businesses, and travel abroad to visit family without penalty, it said.
Without this administrative action, which was also used during the administration of President George W Bush, individuals are left in a constant state of limbo and, in some cases, are punished for utilising a pathway of legal immigration by being forced to stay with one company or organisation due to their Green Card status, they said in the letter.
“I’m proud to join my colleagues in urging the Biden administration to address bureaucratic delays in our legal immigration system that are holding back our economy while leaving so many families in limbo,” Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi said.
“By using its authority under the existing law, the administration can ease this burden while strengthening our economy and helping to create jobs,” he said.
Congressman Bucshon said, unfortunately, due to bureaucratic red tape in “our nation’s legal immigration system, they are caught in the visa backlog and don’t have the flexibility to change jobs, start businesses, and travel abroad without penalty”.
“I believe that it’s important for the administration to act within the current law to make it easier for these legal immigrants to navigate our immigration system and continue making a positive contribution to our nation and our economy,” Bucshon said.
President of Immigration Voice Aman Kapoor said that “this commonsense measure proposed in the letter by Congressmen Krishnamoorthi and Bucshon would be an absolute game changer to provide basic human rights such as the ability to change jobs and travel for nearly one million high skilled immigrants whose status in the US can end at any moment and is entirely dependent upon the whims of their employer”.
The entire basis for this problem is a “discriminatory” immigration system that requires Indian nationals to have to wait “200 years for a Green Card while people from 150 other countries have no wait at all”, Mr Kapoor said.
“We now call on the Biden administration to do the right thing and heed the call of this rare bipartisan letter and give high-skilled immigrants here for over a decade the same rights to work and travel that people being paroled into the US for the first time just this week have,” he said.
“We are no less deserving of basic human rights and fairness than anyone else and we hope the Biden administration will agree,” Mr Kapoor said.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
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