Wait times for US Green Cards for highly gifted Indians are getting longer.
The reason: a visa bulletin published this August by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), striking a blow to highly-skilled Indian nationals seeking what is known as “EB-1” visas, effectively delaying the final action date by 10 years, a move that already drew bipatisan action in the US House of Representatives.
According to the USCIS bulletin, the quota for Employment-Based First (EB-1) visas are “oversubscribed” for India, and is now subject to proration under INA 202(e).
When visa demand exceeds the per-country limit, the allocations for a foreign state or dependent territory are subject to the Section 202(e) visa proration procedures, according to the US agency.
Until recently, Indian applicants were eligible to get any unused visas assigned to other nations. However, due to the rise in demand for these visas from these nations as well, the government can no longer provide EB-1 visas to applicants from India, the agency reported.
The USCIS statement, published by Indian media, revealed applicants from India are no longer eligible to get EB-1 numbers under INA 202(a)(5).
In July, a bipartisan assembly of 56 members from the US House of Representatives, co-led by Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, an Indian American, and Congressman Larry Bucshon of Indiana, wrote a letter directed to Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
The intent of their correspondence: urge the Biden administration to take immediate executive measures in order to alleviate the extensive delays encountered by high-skilled employment-based visa holders seeking permanent residency status — commonly known as “Green Cards”.
The US legislators are of the view that such actions would curtail the substantial backlogs in Green Card processing and extend assistance to the large population of high-skilled employment-based visa holders, a significant portion of whom are of Indian origin.
‘Trapped’ in queues
The focal point of their plea lies in the proposition to designate all filing dates for employment-based visa applications as “current”. Such a designation would enable applicants to submit their applications without regard to their priority dates based on their country of origin.
Consequently, this could potentially grant some applicants access to employment authorisation documents, affording them the ability to transition jobs, establish businesses, and travel internationally without impediments.
A considerable number of highly-skilled individuals from India, however, find themselves trapped in extensive queues for employment-based green cards, spanning several decades.
In a July 15 tweet, the USCIS stated:
“USCIS remains committed to using all available employment-based visas in FY 2023, and we’ve updated our list of frequently-asked questions regarding EB-1 applicants.”
In recent months, the situation has been exacerbated by substantial job losses in US tech firms, placing many of these individuals in the challenging position of contemplating a return to India.
The August 2023 visa bulletin issued by the US Department of State (DOS) reiterates the ongoing plight faced by Indian nationals working in the US. Compared to applicants from other countries, these individuals are confronted with the lengthiest backlogs in the Green Card process, causing them to navigate through adversities and uncertainties.
Employment-Based First (EB-1), EB-2 and EB-2 visas
• This category has regressed significantly by a decade, with the final action date for Indians regressing from February 1, 2022, as indicated in the prior month’s bulletin, to January 1, 2012.
• As a result Indians within these categories continue to endure delays exceeding a decade, with the final action dates set at January 1, 2011, and January 1, 2009, respectively.
• Moreover, the final action date for individuals in the F-2A category, encompassing spouses and children of green card holders, has also retrogressed by a span of three years.
Within the EB-2 and EB-3 employment categories, no advancement is observed in the final action dates.
2023 employment-based immigrant visas
As for the number of employment-based immigrant visas US authorities will use during FY 2023, the USCIS stated:
“The DOS (Department of State) currently estimates that the FY 2023 employment-based annual limit will be approximately 197,000, due to approximately 57,000 unused family-sponsored visa numbers from FY 2022 being added to the employment-based limit for FY 2023.
“Through June 30, 2023, the two agencies have used more than 155,000 employment-based immigrant visas (FY 2023 data is preliminary and subject to change). USCIS is approving adjustment of status applications in the employment-based preference categories at a steady rate and is committed, with its partners at DOS who are also processing a high volume of visas, to using all the available employment-based visas in FY 2023. USCIS will continue to take multiple, proactive steps in coordination with its partners at DOS to maximize the issuance of visas.”
US media reported that needed reforms in high-skilled immigration is key to securing America’s supply chains — as immigration bottlenecks are increasingly hitting these much-needed workers.
They cited that the success of the America COMPETES Act, and the billions of dollars that may be earmarked under it, depends on the talent pipeline, mostly researchers and engineers. For example, all major chip manufacturing chief executive officers and chief technologies officers are raising this issue.
Emilyn Neumann, a US immigration lawyer, argues that a comprehensive solution is the need of the hour. She stated in an August 8 tweet: “Reality for Indian employment-based immigrants. Even if October filing dates are made current, extended delay risks U.S. talent loss. Congress recognized AC-21 challenge 20 yrs ago, yet comprehensive solutions are needed. #ImmigrationReform #TalentRetention”
Neumann was quoting a tweet from @ind_us_immigrnt, who claimed: “I won the #GreenCardGame but my Green Card issue date is Dec 7, 2108. Hope medical sciences advances sufficiently that I’d be alive to receive my Green Card.”
America COMPETES ACT
• Both initiatives share the common goal of enhancing American competitiveness in vital sectors like semiconductors, creating enduring incentives for innovation, reinforcing supply chains, and reshaping diplomatic strategies to address China’s ascent, with notable emphasis on engaging through multilateral and bilateral channels.
• The America COMPETES Act synthesizes several key priorities from House Committees, many of which have already secured passage within the House or garnered bipartisan backing independently.