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New twist to H-1B visas for Indians

By Lalit K Jha
February 11, 2021 23:23 IST
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The current per-country cap on issuing of green cards in the US has resulted in Indian professionals, mostly from the IT sector, having to wait for decades for their legal permanent residency.


Illustration: Uttam Ghosh/

An influential immigration advocacy group representing Indian-Americans on Thursday urged the Biden administration not to issue the most sought-after H-1B work visa to any individual born in India, till the time the discriminatory country-cap on green cards or permanent legal residency is removed.

The current per-country cap on issuing of green cards in the US has resulted in Indian professionals, mostly from the IT sector, having to wait for decades for their legal permanent residency.


Issuing new H-1B visas to more Indians would add to this agonising painful wait for green cards, Immigration Voice said in a statement.

The statement came in response to the Biden administration's decision to allow employers of H-1B visa holders to begin registration online for the H1-B Visa lottery, starting March 9th this year, for the fiscal year 2022.

Under the system, over 60,000 additional Indian nationals will unwittingly be lured to enter the United States this year (and every year) to “engage in a life of indentured servitude” where their very existence and the “lives of their families will be completely subject to the whims of their employer, new administrations, or even individual immigration adjudicators having a bad day,” said Aman Kapoor, president of Immigration Voice.

The members of Immigration Voice called on the Biden administration to use its authority under INA Section 212(f) to exclude any new individual born in India who are not currently in the United States legally from obtaining a new H-1B visa for the first time in Fiscal Year 2022, he said.

“Moreover, Immigration Voice calls to stop issuing such new H-1B visas until the discriminatory per county limits on Employment-Based green cards are finally lifted and immigrants from India are no longer treated as indentured servants in the United States,” Kapoor said.

In the current system, the only people who benefit are unscrupulous employers, staffing companies across various industries who profit enormously from maintaining the status quo, and immigration lawyers who profit from being able to process the maximum number of immigration applications possible by keeping Indian immigrants tied to an endless line of renewals of H-1B visa applications while also double-dipping to keep the Green Card pool open for people from other countries, he said.

Immigration Voice is a national non-profit organisation with over 130,000 members, who are taxpaying, law-abiding, high-skilled immigrants, that advocates for the alleviation of restrictions on employment, travel, and working conditions faced by legal high-skilled immigrants in the US working as doctors, researchers, scientists, engineers, and other high-skilled professionals at many of America's hospitals, universities and Fortune 500 companies.

As mandated by the Congress, each year, the US issues 85,000 new H-1B visas.

Of these, approximately 70 per cent of those new visas (or nearly 60,000 visas) are issued to workers from India, Immigration Voice said.

“At the same time, discriminatory per-country limits established during the time of segregation, restrict Indian nationals to receive only 8,400 of the 120,000 employment based green cards available each year,” Kapoor said.

The non-partisan Congressional Research Service says that this “discriminatory and arbitrary” cap on the number of Indian nationals who can receive lawful permanent residency each year has created a backlog of over one million people waiting for green cards, with a wait time of over 195 years, he said, adding that in fiscal year 2030, the line is expected to grow to 436 years.

“A majority of the Green Card backlog consists of women and children, who will eventually die in these backlogs.

Needless to say, the per-country limits on the employment-based green card system are, in fact, 100 per cent, an ‘Indian Exclusion Act'.

In reality, this implies a de facto ban on employment-based green cards for any new Indian national entering the United States on an H-1B visa,” Kapoor said.

“It means that if Vice-President Kamala Harris' mother had come to the United States today, under such a system, she would never have gotten a Green Card in her lifetime.

The course of Shyamala Gopalan's daughter's life would have been entirely different if she had been preoccupied with her mother's possible deportation, as opposed to living her life as an American,” Kapoor said.

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Lalit K Jha in Washington
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