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H1-B visas: The Great American dream for Indians is a 195-year wait

Amrutha Pagad
Amrutha PagadNov 23, 2022 | 16:00

H1-B visas: The Great American dream for Indians is a 195-year wait

Do you have an American dream? Photo: DailyO

Tech companies in the US are on a firing blitz just before the holiday season. These US tech companies are also synonymous with H1-B visas - the coveted visa program that brings in tens of thousands of foreign workers each year to the US in special employment roles.

And Indians are the ones who receive the most H1-B visas every year. But its dark side is more evident now than ever. 

The 195-year wait: Getting the H1-B visa is no longer a step closer to getting a "Green card" or permanent residency in the US. Because the step to that American dream now is a 195-year wait. 

  • With several companies laying off thousands of employees, there are a lot of Indian H1-B visa holders who are now without a job. On LinkedIn, their posts tell the tale of desperation and uncertainty. 
  • Laid-off Indian workers on H1-B visas have just 60 days to find a new job, someone who can sponsor their H1-B visa or take a transfer of visa from their previous employer, or get out of the country
  • Some of them have worked in the US for over a decade, have their children in schools there, have bought homes, and more or less settled in into life. 
  • The crux of the problem here is not H1-B visas, but a larger issue at play. The immigration system for Indians in the US is more or less broken. 
  • In 2020, a congressional report estimated that Indians have a wait time of nearly 195 years for a green card. In comparison, Chinese workers faced an 18-year wait. 
  • And by 2030, the backlog for Indians would mean a waiting period of 400-450 years

The mismatch: This enormous backlog is due to the mismatch in the number of H1-B visas granted and the annual green card cap set by the US. For most countries, the cap is about 26,000.

For those with children, the complications are bigger as the visa status threatens to rip apart families. Immigrant children are not considered dependants as soon as they turn 21. Hence, unless they get a job and a work sponsorship or a college admission where they are supposed to pay full overseas student fees, they risk being deported. 

Regardless, for H1-B visa holders and their children, the current backlog and system mean that in this lifetime they may not get a 'green card'. 

Last updated: November 23, 2022 | 16:02
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