Tag Archives: green card wait times

US Immigration Reform: Why The Future is Bleak for Foreigners (and ultimately all Americans)

We often get asked here why things never seem to change in terms of US Immigration Reform and thus why we continue to have situations like;

– High Skilled Immigrants waiting for over 10 years in Waiting Lists to get their Green Card
Foreigners forced to stay in same jobs and forgo promotions, new jobs, help innovation and pay increases for 10+ years (and thus allowing critics to say foreigners are depressing wages)
– Companies like Microsoft are forced to open their R&D innovation center across the border in Canada where the skilled immigration laws are logical (therefore lost tax revenue for the US and less US jobs)
52% of Silicon Valley Companies have at least one immigrant co-founder employing hundreds of thousands of Americans and contribute billions of tax dollars to all Americans (inc. Google, Intel, Facebook, Yahoo, eBay, Paypal, etc.) yet we are forcing these companies to now base themselves overseas
– 84% of the Green Cards issues each year are for family and diversity reasons with only 16% awarded to high skilled talent (this compares poorly with countries like Canada, Australia, etc. where most permanent residents are high skilled talent)
– Thousands of dollars, long application processing periods and illogical visa criteria mean that foreigners constantly live in a state of fear in US
Illegal Immigration continue to remain an issue with no practical solution ever proposed and implemented and thus the issue of Legal Immigration continues to be pushed back

Vivek Wadhwa, who we often reference here has written a piece for the Washington Post about by Americans are so afraid of Immigrants. The reality is that this anti Immigrant sentiment in the US has existed throughout its history, it is just that the target group has changed. The Irish, Africans, Germans, Italians, Russians, Japanese and Jews were all big targets in days gone by for harsh treatment, bad feeling and sometimes actual law prohibiting them doing things. Today it is the Indians & Chinese that largely feel the brunt of anti immigrant sentiment on the legal side and Mexicans on the illegal side.

If you read Mr Wadhwa’s column and the comments underneath as well as watch the video there you will realize why this issue has no end in sight despite what President Obama and Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney may say in this Presidential year. Public sentiment in the US in this bad economic period regarding Immigration is low on both sides. There are loud anti-immigrant voices on both sides. On one hand on the right just so myopically focussed on building fence on the southern border and deporting any illegal in site. Then on the left unions and other workers blaming immigrants for their own bleak economic predicaments rather than the American politicians, American CEOs of bankrupt, bailed out and major layoff companies and the wider American populace for running up huge debt.

From a politicians perspective, Immigrants are never a constituency they have to worry too much about because they can’t vote. Generally it is half measure like President Obama’s recent directive to de-prioritize deportation of low risk illegal immigrants (i.e. children) to appeal to the large Latino populace in the country who are often friends and family of these illegal immigrants particularly in important swing states like Florida, New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado. There were 400,000 immigrants deported in 2011, mainly of Hispanic descent and this was clearly a politically motivated decision in terms of timing in an election year.

Because of the medium term benefit of having a pro skilled immigration policy being years in advance (i.e. Sergei Brin studies for 4 years at Stamford, co-founds Google in 1996 which goes public in 2004) not fitting into with the 2-6 year cycle of electing Congressmen, Senators and Presidents, the political will is also low.

While it is the Immigrants who pay the initial price for the status quo and Immigration reform inaction, it is ultimately all Americans that will feel the  brunt of the terrible policies of today. However if you are an Immigrant in the US today continue to persevere in your dream to live in the US regardless of the tough journey that lays ahead. Know that there are thousands of people going through exactly what you are experiencing, having the same questions and fears and enduring the same frustrations and anger that you have each day.

There is small pockets of movements in more modern companies looking at a more egalitarian approach to employment and actively learning more about foreign immigration rules. Hopefully more of these companies and leaders become the giants of tomorrow and are able to effect change. Although Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are huge advocates of much greater foreign immigration for prosperity in the US and even their considerable power and influence hasn’t changed much.


Green Card Wait Times To Decrease For Indians & Chinese?

The Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2011 was one of the very few bills in recent years that passed the House of Representatives branch of the US Congress in a bipartisan manner. With a vote of 389 – 15, the major focus of the bill is to remove the nationality caps of the Employment Based Visa Green Cards like the EB2 and EB3 Visas which are used most often by people who are currently working in the US on H1B visas, E3 Visas and L1 Visas to gain Permanent Residency in the US.

Currently there are about 140,000 EB Green Card Visas issued each year and only a maximum of 7% can be issued to any one nationality annually. What that has meant in practice for the EB2 and EB3 categories is that b/c of the sheer number of Indian and Chinese applicants in particular, that there is a large backlog of waiting lists of people working in the US in limbo not being able to move up or on in their jobs, passing up promotions and better offers, etc. waiting for their visa number in the queue to be called.

For the EB2 category it is about a 4-6 year wait for Indians and Chinese and in the EB3 category that goes up to 10 years and beyond. Of course if the nationality cap is removed then many citizens from other countries in both these categories who had jumped ahead in the queue b/c of these limits may have to wait a bit longer.

Sadly each year many of the 140,000 green card visas go to waste with people who have abandoned their application and returned home or moved elsewhere and b/c of the nature of the law these are wasted for good. If all the green card visas that had been wasted over the last few years had allowed to be reused (so not increasing any caps just using what was already authorized by the US Congress), then the entire current backlog for EB2 and EB3 would be removed for all nations. This actually has been done once before in the early 2000s but such a “radical” or more correctly logical move would seen to be too hard in today’s politically charged, cable news driven, extreme partisan US Immigration landscape.

The startling part of this so far is that it was able to pass with such overwhelming support from Conservative and Tea Party backed Republicans and Liberal and Most Left Leaning Democrats alike. The major premise is so that the US retains high skilled talent to help grow the economy and create jobs. According to Bloomberg, only 15% of visas are granted for economic reasons, a policy that undermines U.S. companies competing in a global talent pool.

Then foreign students studying in the US account for the majority of computer science and engineering doctorates earned from U.S. institutions. (In 2006, more than 4,500 foreign students earned engineering Ph.D.’s in the U.S., almost two-thirds of the total.) There is no policy or incentivized scheme to get them to stay in the U.S. after graduation given that these immigrants have a much higher propensity to create new businesses. We have mentioned before the Duke University study found that foreign immigrants helped found more than a quarter of the technology and engineering companies established in the U.S. between 1995 and 2005 (inc. Google, Yahoo, Paypal, etc.) so a huge amount of jobs and wealth for the US and her citizens.

However there is a roadblock!

One of our “favorite” politicians, Senator Charles (Chuck) Grassley, a Republican from Iowa placed a hold on the bill now it has reach the Senate. Even though it is expected to have broad support in the Upper House of the US Congress, it is now effectively in limbo due to the actions of one Senator for reasons that are not quite clear and that he has not fully expressed. Of course Iowa whose economy is still heavily influenced by Agriculture is not really a mecca for driving US innovation and wealth and nor is it a massive location for foreign highly skilled immigrants to reside, so really this bill would have very little effect if anything there.

However Senator Grassley seemingly unilaterally has put everything on hold possibly because of an earlier 2009 H1B and L1 Visa reform bill he put before Congress with Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois which thankfully has not gone anywhere as would be a major dent in the US economy.

We hope sanity prevails as it has in the House branch of the US Congress but I certainly would not be getting to excited as with the December – January Congress recess coming up and 2012 being a Presidential election year and where partisan politics is at its peak, anything getting done sometimes is a miracle.