PHEW

Relief! Half-a-million Indian green-card applicants won’t be forced to leave the US

Quartz india
Quartz india

Indians queuing up for green cards can breathe a sigh of relief.

On Jan. 09, the Donald Trump administration clarified that it was not considering any policy alteration that could fuel a “self-deportation” of sorts among immigrants.

On Dec. 30, news reports indicated that the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) was drafting a policy that would curb the indefinite extension for H-1B visa holders on the green-card route, forcing them to return home.

“…USCIS is not considering a regulatory change that would force H-1B visa holders to leave the United States by changing our interpretation of section 104(c) of AC-21, which provides for H-1B extensions beyond the 6-year limit,” the state agency told Washington DC-based publication McClatchy. “Even if it were, such a change would not likely result in these H-1B visa holders having to leave the United States because employers could request extensions in one-year increments under section 106(a)-(b) of AC21 instead.”

The clarification offers respite to over half-a-million Indians for whom the wait for a green card can stretch upwards of 12 years.

What the US stood to lose

The immigrant community was left perturbed by the earlier reports.

“It would tremendously be a bad policy to tell highly-skilled individuals who are applying for permanent residency and have been working in the US for several years that they are no longer welcome,” a US Chamber of Commerce spokesperson said on Jan. 06. “This policy would harm American business, our economy, and the country.”

Indians, who typically receive a large chunk of the H-1B visas, might have even given up on the American dream if the policy change had come into effect. “People will most likely be unwilling to make long-term plans for working in the US if settling down there is not an option or is a huge hurdle,” Poorvi Chothani, managing partner at immigration law firm LawQuest, told Quartz on Jan. 04. “I also think it will affect the number of students that will go to study in the US.”

Moreover, deporting thousands of immigrant workers would take a toll on India’s IT companies whose employees are among the largest beneficiaries of the H-1B visas.

Not all’s over yet…

Even as the US has eased its stance, it’s not like Indians will have it easy.

Since Trump took office in January 2017, visa laws have turned more stringent, with even the premium processing for the H-1B being halted and application requirements for computer programmers getting tougher. Besides, more changes may be underway.

“The agency is considering a number of policy and regulatory changes to carry out the president’s Buy American, Hire American executive order, including a thorough review of employment-based visa programmes,” Jonathan Withington, chief of media relations at USCIS, said in a statement, the Hindustan Times reported on Jan. 09.

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