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Indians on 10-year waitlist for employment-based green cards in US: Report

The Immigration and Nationality Act provides five major categories known as "preferences" of green cards for people to immigrate to the US for employment reasons

Us Green Card

Press Trust of India  |  Washington 

Image via Shutterstock

Only six per cent of the total available green cards in 2016 went to employment-based categories, according to a report of the ruling Republican Party which notes that Indian skilled workers have more than 10 years of waitlist.

The report said as of November 2017, around 112,000 people were on waitlists for all employment-based green cards combined.

It said that only six per cent of the green cards were issued by employment-based categories in 2016.

Amidst a heated immigration debate, the party's report said that in 2016, the US granted around 140,000 employment- based green cards, which was approximately 12 per cent of total green cards issued that year.

It said about five times as many people were awarded temporary employment-based visas like H-1B that expire after a period of time.

In 2016, the report said the US issued almost 1.2 million green cards, granting immigrants legal permanent residence and the opportunity to apply for citizenship in the future.

Around 800,000 green cards close to 70 per cent of the total went to people immigrating to the US based on having relatives here.

In contrast, about 140,000 green cards less than 12 per cent were issued to immigrants for employment reasons, based on their skills, experience, education and on the needs of US employers.

Of these 140,000 employment-based green cards, more than half went to the spouses and children of the primary applicants.

"So, the number of green cards issued to people directly based on skills, experience, and education and on the needs of US employers is closer to 6 per cent of the overall total," the report said.

More than 80 per cent of all employment-based green cards were issued to people already in the country who were changing from a temporary visa to permanent residence a process call "adjustment of status", it said.

The Immigration Nationality Act (INA) limits nationals of any single country to 7 per cent of all family and employment-based green cards issued annually.

Immigrants who get an employment-based green card may bring their spouses and minor children to the US.

These "derivative" entrants count against the green card limits. When an employment-based green card preference is oversubscribed, prospective immigrants are put on a waitlist, it said.

"As of November 2017, there were around 112,000 people on the waitlists for all employment-based green cards combined. Even if a preference category is not oversubscribed, nationals of some countries may face a wait because of the 7 per cent per-country limit," the report said.

"This limit affects people from countries that send a lot of people to the US such as China, India, and the Philippines. For instance, although there is no waitlist generally for EB-3 visas, the wait for EB-3 applicants from India is more than 10 years," it said.

Noting that some recent reform proposals have centered on making the US immigration system more "merit-based", the report said many of these proposals would place more emphasis on providing for employment-based immigration and less on granting family-based and diversity-immigrant visas.

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) provides five major categories known as "preferences" of green cards for people to immigrate to the US for employment reasons. These are EB-1 to EB-5.

EB-1 visas are green cards for people with "extraordinary" abilities that have "been demonstrated by sustained national or acclaim", "outstanding" professors and researchers who are "recognised internationally as outstanding in a specific academic area" and multinational executives.

About 40,000 EB-1 visas are available each year.

EB-2 category provides around 40,000 green cards annually to professionals such as architects, lawyers, doctors, teachers and engineers with advanced degrees.

The category also includes immigrants "who because of their exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business" will "substantially benefit" the "economy, cultural or educational interests, or welfare" of the United States.

EB-3 visas are for skilled and unskilled workers providing services that are not available from US workers, and for professionals such as engineers and teachers who do not have advanced degrees.

Most of the Indian skilled immigrants apply for green cards in this category, thus the reason for their long agonising wait.

Every year, the US issues about 10,000 green cards under EB-4 visas category, which are available for people such as religious workers, broadcasters, members of the armed services and Afghani and Iraqi translators.

There are around 10,000 green cards available for immigrants under EB-5 category who invest at least $500,000 in certain US businesses.

In addition to the employment-based green card programmes that allow people to live permanently in the US, there are around 20 visa programmes that allow people to live temporarily in the US for employment reasons.

Some of the better-known categories of these temporary employment-based visas include H-2A visas for temporary or seasonal agriculture workers and H-2B visas for temporary or seasonal non-agricultural workers like hotel employees in seasonal tourist destinations.

"Another significant category is H-1B visas for workers in occupations requiring the application of highly specialised knowledge, such as information technology and engineering," the report said.

"In 2016, about 530,000 people got H-1B, H-2A, and H-2B visas, including spouses and children. There were more than 750,000 temporary employee-based visas issued across all categories," the report said.

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First Published: Thu, February 08 2018. 08:21 IST