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Rakesh Sharma | Harish Puppala
The United States could be overhauling the famed green card. American President Donald Trump unveiled a new merit and points-based immigration policy that replaces the existing green cards with what will be called 'Build America' visa. The new visa substantially hikes the quota for young and highly-skilled workers from 12% to 57%, a change that is likely to benefit thousands of Indian professionals.
Every year, the US issues nearly 1.1 million green cards which give foreign nationals life-time permission to live and work in the States. It is also a path to citizenship in five years. As of now, most green cards are issued based on family links and diversity visa, and a small section is given to people who are professionals and highly skilled. Donald Trump wants to change that.
Trump said the current "broken" system of legal immigration has failed to retain and attract the best talent from across the globe. Explaining his stance, he claimed, “Under the senseless rules of the current system, we're not able to give preference to a doctor, a researcher, a student who graduated number one in his class from the finest colleges in the world, anybody...Only 12% of legal immigrants are selected based on skill or based on merit. In countries like Canada, Australia, and New Zealand that number is closer to 60...even 70 and 75 per cent, in some cases.”
He is proposing a merit-based immigration system where permanent legal residency would be given based on points for age, knowledge, job opportunities and civic sense, besides passing English and civic tests. Trump explained, “Our proposal fulfils our sacred duty to those living here today, while ensuring America remains a welcoming country to immigrants joining us tomorrow. We want immigrants coming in...We cherish the open door that we want to create for our country, but a big proportion of those immigrants must come in through merit and skill."
The new scheme will not alter the number of green cards allocated each year. In Trump’s words, “Instead of admitting people through random chance, we will establish simple, universal criteria for admission to the United States. No matter where in the world you're born, no matter who your relatives are, if you want to become an American citizen, it will be clear exactly what standard we ask you to achieve. It will be made crystal clear…This will increase the diversity of immigration flows into our country. We will replace the existing green card categories with a new visa, the Build America visa - which is what we all want to hear.”
That is good news, in some measure, for young Indian professionals, because, as the president clarified, “You will get more points for being a younger worker, meaning you will contribute more to our social safety net. You will get more points for having a valuable skill, an offer of employment, an advanced education, or a plan to create jobs.” He spent some time explaining
this particular point. Trump said the US is losing people who want to start companies, and in many cases, are forced to leave that country and go back to the country where they came from. He said, “They could've started them (companies) right here in the United States, where they wanted to do it in the first place. Now they'll have a chance…(and) the loved ones you choose to build a life with, we prioritise...we have to do that. They go right to the front of the line. Right to the front of the line, where they should be.” Meaning, the families of such approved applicants could receive preference as well. In keeping with his campaign promises, Trump said, “America's immigration system should bring in people who will expand opportunity for striving, low-income Americans, not to compete with those low-income Americans.”
A Forbes analysis noted, “Under the proposal, more than 4 million people waiting in family and employment-based green card backlogs would have their immigration applications eliminated, even if they have been waiting in line for years to immigrate.” The already agonising wait for family members could get worse - around 3.6 million people were waiting in family-based immigration preference backlogs as of November 1, 2018, according to the US Department of State. Approximately 2.2 million are in the category for siblings of US citizens, about 950,000 are the adult children of US citizens and another 470,000 are spouses and minor or adult unmarried children of lawful permanent residents. The applications of these individuals and families would be eliminated. Mexico, the Philippines, India, Vietnam and China are the leading countries of origin for people in family backlogs. According to US Citizenship and Immigration Services, the backlog of Indians who are principals and dependents in the employment-based second and employment-based third categories is close to 550,000.Forbes also observed that as far as businesses are concerned, a key problem with a point-based system is if it doesn’t work out for them or has large unintended consequences, then it will be almost impossible to fix.
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