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Shaif Tazir asked: What will be the impact of the new US immigration policy on India?

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  • Saroj Bishoyi: The new US immigration policy is expected to benefit Indians in a number of ways. President Barack Obama, in a major policy speech in Las Vegas on January 29, 2013, laid out the broad principles for a comprehensive immigration reform where he proposed to eliminate the annual country caps in the employment category, increase the number of family-sponsored immigrants, create start-up visas for entrepreneurs, and fast track the green cards for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Diplomas, Ph.D and Masters Degree graduates from US Universities who have found employment in the country.

    President Obama’s commonsense immigration reform proposal broadly includes a legal way to earn citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants, enhanced enforcement at borders and in workplaces, and changes to make legal immigration system more simple and efficient, especially for families, workers, and employers. President Obama’s proposal is quite similar to the blueprint released on January 28, 2013 in Washington by a bipartisan group of eight senators, four from each party, which called for tougher border security, a “tough but fair” path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, more green cards to more foreign STEM graduates of US universities, and an effective employment verification system to prevent illegal foreigners.

    A separate bipartisan group of four Senators on January 29, 2013 introduced the Immigration Innovation Act of 2013 (IIA) which focuses on employment-based immigration reforms that would be favourable to the American employers in terms of attracting and retaining highly educated and skilled foreigners. The main components of the Act are: the annual H-1B worker visa cap would be increased from the current 65,000 to 115,000; establish a market based flexible H-1B cap, with a ceiling of 300,000 H-1B visas per year; authorise employment for spouses of H-1B visa holders; uncap the existing US advanced degree exemption, under the current law this group is limited to 20,000 per year; allow dual intent for foreign students at US colleges and universities to ensure their future in the country; facilitate the movement of foreign workers between employers; increase the number of employment-based green cards from the current limit of 140,000 per year; numerical caps on green cards would be exempted for outstanding researchers and professors; the per country green card limit, which causes persons born in India and China to wait for a longer time for getting green cards, would also be eliminated, etc. These reforms in the US immigration policy are more likely to benefit Indians.

    Finally, the reform proposals put forward by the Senate and President Obama are expected to have a vote before the August 2013 recess. The Indian-Americans, who have contributed significantly to the US economy as well as to research and innovation, are among the fastest growing Asian American communities in the US. The population of Indian-Americans, as per the 2010 US census, is over 2.8 million, making them the second largest Asian American community after Chinese Americans. The Indian students, families and employers are thus more hopeful about President Obama’s commonsense and pragmatic legal immigration policy which could address their concerns. Calling immigration reform ‘a top priority’ of his second term, the US President also stated that he is committed to completing the reform process by the end of this year.