The US immigration bill was tabled in the Congress on Thursday. It aims to eliminate visa backlogs for employment-based green cards and allow the dependents to work in the US, benefiting scores of Indians.
The bill was introduced in the Senate and House of Representatives Senator Bob Menendez and Representative Linda Sanchez respectively.
This was the much-anticipated bill and was signed by Joe Biden the day he was sworn in as the 46th President of the United States on January 20, 2021. The bill has provisions that could benefit thousands of Indians in the US and many who are waiting to get their green cards.
The immigration bill has made the maximum wait time for seeking a green card to be up to 10 years. There is also a provision to increase the country cap for green cards from 7 percent to 20 percent.
These could benefit thousands of Indians who have been waiting to get their green card for more than a decade. There are about 8 lakh Indians in the employment-based green card queue.
The bill also allows the spouses and children of H-1B visa holder to work in the US and has made provisions for an automatic extension of the work permit if the processing goes beyond on year. It also guarantees automatic extensions to the students on Optional Practical Training (OPT) programme if their processing time is greater than a year. OPT is a temporary worker programme available to international students that allow working in the US for up to three years.
This provision too is a relief for Indians, who account for the significant majority in the US. Of the over 67,000 H-4 visas issued in FY20, close to 57,000 were for Indians. There are about 1.93 lakh, Indian students, in the US.
The US issued close to 85,000 H-1B visas per year. Majority of these visas go to Indians and IT services firms.
To encourage more talents into the US, the administration now has exempted those with Doctoral degrees (PhDs) from cap petitions. They are fewer in number compared to the master's degree students, who are not exempted from the cap.
A Regional economic development immigrant visa pilot programme that would allow close to 10,000 immigrants will be rolled out if the bill is implemented. These workers' "employment is essential to the economic development strategies of the cities or counties in which they will live or work.”
However, it is not clear who would be eligible or how the administration intends to implement this. The period of the programme is up to 5 years.