A group of more than 100 Indian IT professionals on H-1B visas on Monday knocked on the doors of US lawmakers to get the country-specific quotas for permanent residency removed, saying the limitation resulted in massive green card backlogs for them.
Every year, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) receives about 100,000 green card applications from highly-skilled Indian applicants.
However, less than 10,000 Indians receive the green card, which is a step closer to citizenship. This number keeps on increasing every year.
"We are all stuck in this 70 years backlog. Most of us came to this country about 10 years ago," said Houston-based Harshit Chatur, a key volunteer of the recently formed 'Skilled Immigrants In America'.
Currently working for a utility company in Houston, the Rice University graduate said he had filed his green card application in 2012.
"Because I was born in India and due to this per country limit, I have to wait for 70 years, as per a lot of research," Chatur said.
Established a few months ago by some Indian technology professionals who have been agonisingly waiting for their green card, 'Skilled Immigrants In America' now claims to have more than 150,000 members and chapters in 25 states of the US.
"We are legally here, highly-paid, taxpaying and law-abiding. Were we born in some other country, we would have been (US) citizens by now. The amount of positive contributions that we make to this country, (we) just want the Congress to see it and hopefully that will solve this problem," Anirban Ghosh, the president of the group, told reporters outside the Capitol.
More than 100 of these Indian techies and professionals, and some of them with their dependent kids, drove down and flew to Washington to meet top American lawmakers and their aides.
This is an awareness drive to make the lawmaker aware of our issues, they said, adding that the long wait, in some cases, could have devastating consequences for dependent kids.
"We have a lot of kids who were born in India and the situation for them would be worse," Chatur said. For instance, Preeti Konduri, 16, moved to the US as a six-year-old along with her father some 10 years ago.
"When I turn 21 years old, I will be in college but I cannot depend on my dad's visa anymore. I will have to transfer to an F1 visa which makes me an international student here and I lose many opportunities," Preeti said, standing outside the US Capitol.
Having lived most of her life in the US, Preeti said that she now faces an uncertain future because of the country-specific green card quota.
"We're basically asking that since the children have been here for decades now and grown up here, so they should be given some relief," she said, adding that children like her are called "H4 Dreamers".
"While we're being educated there was no difference between countries. So, when we go for further opportunities this difference comes up and it stops you from pursuing your dreams and goals. It's actually like careers like medical you're not presented with the same opportunities as the students next to you from different countries and it's just very stressful," Preeti said.
"When we are given jobs based on our skills and experience, why the green card application processing is done based on your country of birth," Chatur said.