New Delhi: Green Cards are set to become elusive soon. A new move by the US Congress to legalise over 12 million illegal immigrants, including an estimated 3,00,000 Indians, proposes to restrict the current family-based immigration system that many Indian Americans rely upon to reunite with their family members.
While the legislation will open the doors for these Indian Americans to live and work in the US, their future settlement will depend on their education, skills and how they benefit the US economy.
This, Indian American groups claim, threatens to affect their interests adversely as it moves away from the family-oriented process, which is currently in place, and puts the parents, children and siblings of citizens and Green Card holders in the firing line.
The US Congress is in the middle of a heated debate on how to fix the country's broken immigration system. The Bill is still being debated and it is expected to take a couple of weeks before it takes a final vote on it.
But the move has already come under fire from the South-Asian lobby groups in Washington DC. They say the Bill is not in the interest of the Indian American community as it completely eliminates the Green Card option for siblings and adult children of US citizens.
The Bill proposes to cap visas even for the parents of US citizens. It will also eliminate the Diversity Lottery Programme, under which US grants 50,000 Green Cards on a random basis every year. The Bill also requires applicants who filed their petitions after May 2005 to re-apply, resulting in processing delays. All these measures could have serious repercussions on the Indian Americans.
If the Senate approves the Bill, it will then face another vote in the House of Representatives.
The move has been initiated as part of a move to fix the country's broken immigration system. The proposed US immigration reform Bill will work towards legalising an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants living in US. Most of these immigrants are from the Latin America, Mexico and the Caribbean countries. The move is also aimed at protecting local jobs.
If the Bill legalises their status, these immigrants will get a 'Z' visa and they can live and work in the US and also apply for a Green Card. But their eligibility for the Green Card will depend on their education, skills and how they benefit the US economy.
Under the provisions of the Bill, the immigration system will move towards a more merit-based system, under which immigrants with education, skills, background that benefit the US will be rewarded extra points. Immigrants will also be granted weightage on the basis of their English, technical skills and endorsement by US employers.
The Bill has a provision to create a new Parents Visitors Visa, which will permit extended stay. But Indian Americans fear that this could be the first step towards cutting them off from their families back home in India.
With this measure, the US Government is trying to fix the loopholes in its immigration system. The H1B visa issue, too, is a part of the problem as it was found that the average salary paid to the H1B holders has been far less than the pay and perks paid to the Americans.
Several reports have pointed towards the misuse of the provision beyond what the law says. It's not only Indian firms, which have been accused to misusing this route; even smaller US firms are being accused of misusing its provision. It's the US big businesses which have been opposing the H1B visa system. They say it doesn't help them recruit as they want and whom they want.
Other observers, however, say the new immigration system is not going to have any severe impact on the Indians settled there. For instance, Wipro applied for 20,000 H1B visas as against 160 Green Cards last year while Infosys applied for 20,000 H1B and only 50 Green Cards. They also point out that most Indians are not using their visas properly. If at all, it is the US which is going to lose value as the good ones will leave the country once such a strict regime comes into force.