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Here's how Indians can benefit from proposed US Green Card application process changes

Washington: A White House Commission has recommended issuing an employment authorisation card and other necessary travel documents at the preliminary stage of the Green Card application processing system, a proposal if approved by the US president would be a big relief to thousands of foreign professionals, an overwhelming majority of whom are Indians.

A recommendation on this was approved by the White House Commission for Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Affairs on Thursday.

A Green Card, known officially as a Permanent Resident Card, is a document issued to immigrants to the US as evidence that the bearer has been granted the privilege of residing permanently.

There are multiple stages in the Green Card application process, and it starts with employers filing I-140 applications, and the next important step is an adjustment of status called I485.

This is when they currently get their Employment Authorisation Card – EAD and travel documents Advance Parole, which allows them to work for any employer till their Green Card application is processed, explained Indian American community leader Ajay Jain Bhutoria who moved the recommendation during the latest meeting of AANHPI this week.

If the proposal accepted by US President Joe Biden would come as a big relief to hundreds and thousands of foreign professionals, an overwhelming majority of whom are Indian Americans whose Green Card wait period now runs into decades. During the meeting, Bhutoria, who is a member of the White House Commissioner for Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Affairs moved the recommendation.

According to it, the Department of Homeland Security’s US Citizenship and Immigration Services (DHS USCIS) should grant employment authorisation documents (EADs) and travel documents to individuals who have approved I-140 employment-based visa petitions in the EB-1, EB-2, EB-3 categories, who have been waiting in the visa backlog for five or more years, regardless of whether they have filed applications for adjustment of status.

The validity of the EAD and travel documents should be till their Green card application final stage is processed, said the recommendation, which now has been accepted by the Commission.

Since only a limited number of green cards can be issued every year, there is a backlog of over 1.8 million Green Card applications and this impacts primarily people from AAPI countries including China, the Philippines, and India, among others.

Processing may take 5-20 years and in some cases over 50 years. Based on the current backlog situation, people may not get their green cards in their lifetime, Bhutoria said.

So the worker has to continue working for the same employer often in the same position for many years facing discrimination and exploitation, he said, adding that often they end up working for positions and compensation much lower than their skills, potential and experience.

Job portability is very low and one cannot easily switch from one employer

to another employer, and this creates pressure, dissatisfaction, and unhappiness on individuals and their families, Bhutoria said.

This in turn leads to mental health issues in AAPI communities, the uncertainty and risk of losing the job and leaving this country is very high, often jeopardising kids’ school and college education, he noted, adding a worker has to perform under such difficult circumstances.

According to Bhutoria, the implementation of the recommendations would enable freedom of movement between employers without restrictions, benefiting both workers and the economy, facilitate travel by obtaining advance parole, avoid visa appointment backlogs at the US embassies and support care for ageing parents in home countries.

It would also address workforce shortages, particularly in critical areas like healthcare and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields, bridging gaps in rural communities and providing coverage for specialised jobs, he said.

It would offer protection against deportation in times of health crises leading to disability or death of spouse on H-1B, ensuring fair and humane treatment and mitigating wage stagnation, enhancing career opportunities, and reducing the burden of temporary status, leading to improved mental health and well-being for immigrants and their families, he added.

The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. Technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China.

“The recommendation has the potential to bring about historic changes in the US immigration system, benefiting both the nation and highly skilled foreign-born individuals eager to contribute to the United States,” Bhutoria said during the meeting of the Immigration subcommittee.

“By encouraging entrepreneurship, addressing workforce gaps, and promoting innovation, the United States stands to gain significant economic advantages, solidifying its position as a global hub for talent and innovation,” he said.

(Published 27 October 2023, 06:14 IST)

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