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Aug 03, 2017 03:39 PM IST | Source:

Why US plan to halve legal immigration could be a double-edged sword for Indians

The Bill, if passed, will benefit highly-educated English-speaking professionals from countries like India. However, the number of visas being handed out will reduce.

If President Trump has his way, the US could soon introduce a point-based merit system that will help trim legal immigration in the country by half, and favour English-speaking skilled workers.

The Bill backed by Trump and two Republican senators, if passed, could prove beneficial for highly-skilled professionals from countries like India. It now needs to be signed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate, before it can be sent to the White House to be signed by the President into law.

If it indeed turns out to be a point-based system that takes education and other skill sets into account, the legislation titled the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act, could provide a gateway for professionals from multiple fields to look for work opportunities in the US.

"The RAISE Act will reduce poverty, increase wages, and save taxpayers billions and billions of dollars. It will do this by changing the way the US issues Green Cards to nationals from other countries. Green Cards provide permanent residency, work authorization, and fast track to citizenship," US President Donald Trump said at a White House event to announce his support to the RAISE Act.

What the draft says

RAISE has been introduced by two Congressmen - Republican Senators Tom Cotton and David Purdue, with an aim to replace the current lottery system under which 50,000 H-1B visas are awarded every year with a point-based system.

As per the draft, the legislation will favour English-speaking highly skilled individuals, who can support themselves and their families financially.

The bill proposes to weed out 'chain immigration' or immigrants sponsoring their family members to shift to the US. As per the draft, only the applicants and their immediate family (spouse and minor children) will be permitted.

The move will help US bring back its competitive edge, Trump said.

Workers, who have already filed for Green Card, will not come under the new Bill, even if it becomes a law. The draft also does not mention whether the 20,000 national quota per country per year for Green Cards will be modified.

Individuals applying for jobs in the US will need to undergo a more thorough review if the Bill is passed, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said.

The proposed bill — originally introduced in February this year — will help raise wages for American workers by permitting only skilled workers in the country.

What it means for foreign workers in the US

Skilled professionals proficient in English could get a leg-up under the new draft rules. It could also expand the scope for non-IT professionals to apply for jobs there. However, it may also prove to be a doubled-edged sword as tightening policies means limited number of workers will actually get a visa.

Also, while the draft emphasises on skill-based selection, it nowhere mentions expanding number of highly-skilled visas that the tech industry eye.

The Bill could also prove to be a hurdle for foreign workers to get their parents and siblings into the US, if they fail to meet the requisite criteria. However, it does keep scope for temporary renewable visas for elderly people.

Salaries will also play a major part in the system. A person with pay higher than the median pay will be preferred. If a company is "offering three times the median wage, that person will get more points on their application than if they’re being offered two times the median wage or one time the median wage," Stephen Miller, an adviser to President Trump said.

H-1B applications by technology companies reduced by 15 percent this year, shows the data by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services. The US administration approved less that 59 percent of H-1B visa applications as they tightened the selection process.
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