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US immigration law tweak could be ‘disastrous’ for few Indians

US President Donald Trump’s new immigration plan, which has been called “dead-on-arrival” by Democrats, could be “disastrous” for those already in the queue for a Green Card, including hundreds of thousands of Indians, as it intends to replace the existing system in favor of one that prioritizes merit over the family. The new system will also make it impossible to sponsor some categories of relatives.

There are 261,765 Indians waiting for family-sponsored Green cards and 306,601 (these are principal applicants; the number is more than half a million counting dependents) in the employment-based queue, according to the US state department and the US citizenship and immigration services data.

In all, there are 3.6 million and 395,025 in the two categories respectively.

“We will replace the existing Green Card categories with a new visa, the Build America visa — which is what we all want to hear,” the president said announcing his new “merit-based, high-security plan” Thursday. It seeks to overhaul legal immigration and bolster border security, including a wall.

The plan envisages a points-based immigration system that scores merit, age, professional skills, education and proficiency in the English language over family ties.

Of the 1.1 million Green Cards published every year, 66% go to relatives and 21% to asylum seekers and those picked in a visa lottery. Only 12% go to those seeking permanent residency through employment. President Trump intends to reverse that and take that 12% number to 57%, even higher.

If enacted into law, young, qualified, professional, English-speaking Indian applicants will stand a better chance of qualifying for Green Card, going forward, than those banking on familial ties to relatives such as children, spouses, siblings, parents, even grandparents.

But for those already in the queue, experts stated, it would be disastrous. Doug Rand, a former Obama White House official who worked on immigration and is the co-founder of an immigration services company Boundless, said, “Although superficially beneficial for immigrants with more education and skills, this proposal could be disastrous for H-1B workers, most of whom are from India.”

First, he added, it would “pull the rug out from under the half-million or so skilled workers and their families” who are waiting for their Green Cards, because “they apparently they would all have to start over and reapply for the new ‘Build America visas’.” And, second, even if they managed, they will not be able to sponsor parents, adult children, and siblings under the family-based category.

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