Washington: India will bring up proposed changes in the US immigration policy, including eligibility for Green Cards and various American visas, at the two-plus-two dialogue between the foreign and defence ministers of the two countries in September, people familiar with the Indian agenda for the talks said.
A total of 306,601 applications filed by Indian nationals for a Green Card under the Employment-Based Preference Category are pending approval with the US authorities, the latest available data show.
Employment-Based Preference Category is the most important category for Green Card (permanent residency) applicants from India. The number of pending applications filed by dependent family members of the primary applicants under the Employment-Based Preference Category is not known.
A US Green Card is much sought after by the Indians. The latest available data shows that in 2016, 64,687 Indians received a Green Card, slightly higher than the 64,116 who were given permanent residence by the US in 2015. The number has varied over the years. For example, in 2014, 77,908 Indian nationals got a Green Card, as against 68,458 who did so in 2013. The number stood at 66,434 in 2012. The data are from the US Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS).
“We understand that no comprehensive changes have been made by the US administration in recent times to the framework for issuance of green cards to foreign nationals. And in August last year, the USCIS announced that it would expand in-person interviews for the applicants,” explained an Indian official who follows the issue. He said it is a fact that several proposals are under consideration in the US for reforming the immigration policy, including the eligibility for Green Cards, and there is nothing India-specific in any of this.
Changes are being proposed both by the legislative and executive wings of the US government to the visa system.
In the current US Congress, seven Bills relating to the H-1B visa programme have been introduced by individual Congressmen and Senators. So far, none of these Bills have been passed. H1 B is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ graduate-level workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise in specialised fields.
On the executive side, President Donald Trump passed an order titled “Buy American and Hire American” in April last year. The executive order requires the US Administration to suggest reforms to the H-1B visa programme. This process is still underway. What also made lot of Indians complain to Indian missions and the ministry of external affairs is the stricter enforcement mechanism “for abuse of visa programmes”.
India has raised the issue with the US at various meetings. “We have been saying that the mobility of skilled workers to the US has been a mutually beneficial partnership which should be nurtured. Indian professionals have contributed to the growth and development of the US economy and helped it retain its competitive edge,” said another official. Issue of visas is a sovereign right of countries,former foreign secretary Lalit Mansingh said . He added: “But India and US have long been engaged in ensuring that movement of people is a mutually beneficial process. Indian workers helped the US economy immensely and the two countries have enough avenues between them to discuss and find a solution to these issues.