New Delhi: The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is considering new regulations that would prevent foreign workers from getting H-1B visa extensions while their green card applications are pending.
“This change will be catastrophic for Indian American community. There are over 750,000 H-1B primary applicants stuck in green card backlogs that span many decades. We estimate that there are around 800,000 dependants (spouses and children) of Indian origin who will be directly impacted if Department of Homeland Security gets rid of H1B visa extension beyond 6th year,” on official of an immigration firm in the US told News18.
As many as 1.5 million Indians (which includes spouses and children) living in the US are expected to be affected by the new regulations. “This could result in mass exodus of Indians from the US, which would be unprecedented in US history,” the official added.
The H-1B visa issue has been a cause of concern for New Delhi. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley have expressed concern to their counterparts, including US President Donald Trump.
While officials at US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which is under DHS, said they couldn’t discuss “any part of the pre-decisional processes”, Jonathan Withington, chief of media relations for USCIS, was quoted as saying that “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.”
The H-1B visa is issued for three to six years to employers to hire a foreign worker. But H-1B holders who have begun the green card process can often renew their work visas indefinitely.
The proposed changes would have a dramatic effect, particularly on Indian visa holders, since over half of all H-1B visas have been awarded to Indian nationals, according to the Pew Research Center. Estimates suggest that over 1 million H-1B visa holders are waiting for green cards, many of whom are from India and have been waiting for over a decade.
“At the core of this issue is 7% per country limits on Employment-Based (merit-based) green card system, meaning no country can get more than 7% green cards in a year.
There is no per-country limit on visas like H-1B or L-1 visas, and companies tend to hire over 70% individuals of 85,000 visas from India every year,” the official at the immigration firm.