A bipartisan group of 56 US House representatives, led by Indian American Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi and Congressman Larry Bucshon of Indiana, has called on the Biden administration to take executive action to alleviate the plight of high-skilled employment-based visa holders who are grappling with extensive backlogs in obtaining their permanent residence status or green cards.
The lawmakers, driven by the understanding that this action could mitigate significant green card delays, particularly impacting a large number of Indian nationals, have requested the marking of all dates for filing employment-based visa applications as ‘current’.
This step could enable applicants to file, regardless of their country-based priority dates, thus offering opportunities for job changes, business startups, and international travel without constraints.
The August 2023 visa bulletin, recently issued by the US Department of State, once again highlighted the challenges faced by Indians working in the US. When compared to other nationalities, Indians are confronted with the lengthiest green card backlogs, causing difficulties and uncertainties. Notably, the employment-based first (EB-1) visa category, designed for exceptionally talented individuals on a fast track, saw a staggering retrogression of 10 years.
This pushed the final action date for Indians from February 1, 2022, to January 1, 2012. Furthermore, the EB-2 and EB-3 categories also experienced no advancement, with final action dates at January 1, 2011 and January 1, 2009 respectively.
Legal experts and immigration attorneys express concern over the drastic August bulletin and its implications. Vineeta J Vibhakar, a business immigration attorney based in California, highlighted that the retrogression significantly affects high-skilled applicants, causing delays and frustration. Emily Neumann, an attorney at law at Reddy & Neumann, emphasized the far-reaching negative consequences for applicants, their families, and employers.
The sudden retrogression has caused worry for many, potentially disrupting career and education decisions made in anticipation of timely green card issuance.
The proposed executive action has garnered hope from many high-skilled visa holders, especially Indians who have been waiting in employment-based green card queues for extended periods. Shilpa Gokare, managing partner of Gokare Law Firm, expressed that such an action could alleviate the backlog, offering relief, employment authorization, and travel benefits.
However, concerns have been raised regarding the implementation of such a policy, as it could strain USCIS resources and potentially lead to processing delays.
While the House representatives’ appeal draws attention to the issue, it doesn’t guarantee a specific outcome due to the complexity of the US immigration system. As the October 2023 fiscal year green cards become available, hopes are pinned on the return of a more logical timeline for the EB-1 category.
The US immigration landscape is intricate, and any changes to policies and procedures require careful consideration and coordination to avoid bottlenecks and negative consequences. The Biden administration will need to weigh the potential benefits against the practical challenges before implementing any executive action.