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PIO outfit urges US Senate to lift cap on green card

By Lalit K Jha
November 08, 2019 10:35 IST
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A top Indian diaspora think tank has urged the United States Senate to pass a pending bill that removes country cap on issuing of green cards or legal permanent residency, the absence of which, it said, has resulted in talent drain from the US and is negatively impacting American universities. 

In a policy paper submitted to US Senators, the Foundation for India and Indian Diaspora Studies (FIIDS) said the excessive delays in the processing of permanent residency applications due to country-wise quota contributed to America's loss of revenue, market leadership and competitive edge. 

The case of work-visa holders from India, clearly illustrates the nature, substance and details of the impediments to legal immigration in America, it said. 


Work-based immigration is a great way to attract the right talent into the American economy, however this provision is currently impeded by annual Country Cap regulations in the processing of permanent residency, the FIIDS said. 

Current immigration laws were designed well before rapid technological changes became the hallmark of the American economy, as a result they are not designed to support recent wave of immigrations, triggered by the needs of the American industry for high levels of expertise and skills, the foundation said. 

The FIIDS, in its policy paper, urged the Senators to remove country cap for skilled immigrants on a work visa, treat skills-based immigration as different from family-based immigration and disallow the counting of dependents of primary visa holders in the aggregate country cap count. 

"To retain America's competitive edge and to encourage immigration through legal means it is now time to revise outdated immigration laws to make room for the growth of new industries coming up on the American horizon," it said.

Legal provisions need to accommodate a merit-based approach by encouraging skilled expert immigrants to stay in the country and contribute to its economy, it added. 

The delays in processing of green card, the FIIDS said, was causing talent drain. 

For example, several Indian immigrant entrepreneurs in the US have returned to India, to establish successful start-ups in their home countries, the foundation said. 

The most common reason for return was the restrictive US employment-based immigration policy that does not offer permanent residency, it said. 

One of the many success stories of such a "reverse Brain Drain" is the case of Kunal Bahl, who has a business degree from the University of Pennsylvania and landed a job at Microsoft but was refused a work-visa. 

He returned to India, partnered with his friend Rohit Bansal and launched Snapdeal, an online retailer, the FIIDS said. 

Urging senators, especially Senator Durbin, to support the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019 in the US Senate as the first resounding step towards a resolution, the FIIDS said, delay in processing of green cCards was negatively impacting American universities. 

The FIIDS found that Indian students in the United States, are the second largest group of foreign students but their numbers have slowed to 5.4 per cent growth in 2017-18, a five-year low. 

Commonly cited reasons are work-visa restrictions and permanent residency issues, it said. 

"The solutions we suggest, are bound to immediately infuse a much-needed enthusiasm among skilled immigrants waiting in the United States and aspirants across the globe, who continue to look to America as the preferred destination to realise their potential and their dreams," the FIIDS said. 

Indian entrepreneurs helped start companies like Sandisk, Jupiter Networks and Bose Corporation, generating about 1.5 million jobs, the foundation said. 

Indian Americans are CEOs of top firms like Microsoft, Google, MasterCard and Pepsi, it said. 

Indian Americans serve as deans at premier academic institutes like Harvard, MIT, Kellogg and University of Chicago. 

In their varied capacities as industry and academic leaders the Indian-American community has contributed to jobs growth and skills development while pursuing an agenda of progress and innovation. 

"We anticipate this trend to continue with the group of work-visa holders currently waiting for their Green Cards," the FIIDS said.

Photograph: David Ryder/Reuters.

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Lalit K Jha in Washington, DC
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