As the world heaves a sigh of relief with the outcome of the United States presidential election, Indians are particularly excited about the imminent changes in the immigration laws that would make their path to work visas and permanent residency smooth and easy. The plans drawn up by Team Biden on immigration policies bring much cheer to Indians seeking successful careers in the land of opportunities. The Biden administration will, in all likelihood, reverse many of the regressive steps introduced by Donald Trump whose much-touted “America First” policy was a euphemism for protectionism and anti-immigrant stance. Biden plans to increase the limit on H-1B visas, used mainly by information technology professionals, and remove country caps for green cards, or permanent residency. These two measures, once implemented, will benefit tens of thousands of Indian professionals. Indian-Americans are the worst sufferers of the current immigration system, which imposes a 7% per country quota on allotment of Green Cards. Soon after taking over the reins in January, the Biden administration is expected to send an immigration Bill to US Congress envisaging a smooth pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants, including over 5 lakh from India. The work permits to the spouses of H-1B visas, revoked by the Trump administration, are also expected to be revived. The immigration Bill, being planned by Team Biden, will also address the status of ‘Dreamers’, young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the US as children, with a compassionate approach. Trump had sought to end an Obama-era rule that granted them work permits but faced a setback in the Supreme Court.
The Trump administration had tightened the H-1B programme more as a move to play to the gallery at the cost of America’s long-term economic health. It must be pointed out that there is a huge shortage of skilled workforce in science and technology sectors. This gap is being currently bridged by workers on short-term non-immigrant visas like H-1B and L-1. Ever Since Trump took office in 2017, there has been increased scrutiny and denial of H-1B applications. But, blocking foreign workers will not suddenly equip Americans with the skills needed for technology jobs. This short-sightedness can have serious long-term ramifications. Every year, the US administration issues 85,000 H-1B work permits. Of these, 65,000 are for people with specialty occupations, while the rest 20,000 are reserved for those foreign workers who have earned a masters or higher university degree in the US. Traditionally, Indians have accounted for a major chunk of these visas. The frequent change of rules on the definition of what constitutes a “specialty occupation”, for the purpose of issuing H-1B visa, had thrown the technology sector into a state of confusion.
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