New Delhi: Soon after taking oath in office, US President Joe Biden took steps for immigration reforms, underlining that the move would boost American economy, create jobs and attract and retain the best talent from across the world. Also Read - Joe Biden Vows to Hold Riyadh Accountable After Khashoggi Report Released
On the day one of his presidency on Wednesday, Biden sent a comprehensive immigration bill to Congress which proposes major overhauls to the system, including granting legal status and a path to citizenship to tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants and other groups and reduce the time that family members must wait outside the US for green cards. Also Read - Joe Biden Revokes Donald Trump's Visa Ban On Many Green Card Applicants, Says US Businesses Harmed
Called as the US Citizenship Act of 2021, the legislation modernises the immigration system, and also proposes to eliminate the per country cap for employment-based green cards, a move that would benefit thousands of Indian IT professionals whose current wait period for legal permanent residency runs into several decades. Also Read - BIG News for Indians, US To Ease Employment-Based Visas (H1-B) and Green Cards Rules. Details Here
The immigration bill marks a symbolic break with the restrictionist immigration policies that have defined the last four years under the rule of Trump and therefore ushering in what Biden promises to be a more welcoming era for immigrants in the US.
Moreover, the immigration bill is expected to benefit hundreds and thousands of Indian IT professionals in the US, whose current wait period for legal permanent residency runs into several decades.
One of the highlights of the immigration bill is that it allows undocumented immigrants to obtain legal status and eventually, citizenship. To qualify for this, they would have to have been present in the US on or before January 1, 2021, unless granted a waiver on humanitarian grounds.
Initially, they would be able to obtain a work permit and travel abroad with the assurance that they would be permitted to re-enter the country. After five years, they would be able to apply for a green card if they pass background checks and pay taxes.
Per-country visa cap
Another thing in the immigration bill is that it reforms the family-based immigration system by recapturing unused visas to clear the backlog, eliminating the lengthy waits, and it increases their per-country visa caps. The bill also eliminates the bars and other provisions that have kept families apart.
No religious discrimination
The ‘No Ban Act’ in the bill prohibits discrimination based on religion and limits presidential authority to issue future bans. Indian IT professionals, most of whom are highly skilled and come to the US mainly on the H-1B work visas, are the worst sufferers of the current immigration system which imposes a seven percent per country quota on allotment of the coveted Green Card or permanent legal residency.
Biden’s bill also increases the diversity visa program from 55,000 visas to 80,000 per year. US tech companies like Apple, Google and Microsoft employ a huge number of IT professionals from countries like India and China.
The Trump administration had extended the freeze on H-1B visas along with other types of work visas and green cards until March 31. The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise.