The fate of thousands of Indians chasing their dreams in the Land of Opportunity is inexorably linked to the US immigration system. There have been widespread fears, some genuine and some misguided, over the possible adverse impact of visa reforms in the post-Trump era of protectionism. In his maiden State of the Union address, President Donald Trump unveiled his administration’s plan to reform the immigration system. A key feature of the four-pillar plan is to end the visa lottery system and replace it with a merit-based allotment. The present lottery system, a much-despised method, randomly hands out green cards without any regard for skill or merit. Trump spoke about moving towards a merit-based system — one that admits applicants who are skilled and can contribute to the American economy. Such a system could actually be advantageous to Indians who are typically well-educated, proficient, skilled and seeking jobs in specialised fields. However, the proposed system will prevent them from sponsoring their extended families because the present regime wants to do away with ‘chained migration’. The four-pillar immigration programme announced by Trump includes offering citizenship to 1.8 million illegal immigrants, called ‘dreamers’ who were brought to the US at a young age by their parents, and ending the visa lottery system. The other two pillars are building a wall on the Southern border and ending chain migration. If Democrats accept the olive branch offered by Trump, then a bipartisan policy on immigration reforms is possible. There is enough room for optimism in the new policy for Indian immigrants whose contributions are well recognised.
Thousands of Indians live and work in the US on H-1B visa. If approved for green card, these visa holders wait for years for their turn, given the massive backlog caused by the per-country annual cap on the number of permanent residencies. The immigration reforms will surely help improve the situation for Indians who have a clear edge over applicants from other countries in terms of educational qualifications, proficiency in English and ability to secure high skilled jobs. If approved by Congress and signed into a law, the new system would give preference to the skilled and educationally-privileged applicants in future over those who seek immigration based on family ties. As a result, the educated elite will have a greater chance of getting the coveted green card. According to a study by the Migration Policy Institute, Indian migrants to the US had double the English proficiency of the average migrant to the country and were twice as likely to have professional or advanced degrees. Trump and his supporters have long argued that visa lottery and chain migration systems present major risks to the country’s security and are linked to terrorist strikes.