Indians especially those caught up in the employment-based green card queue have had a decades-long wait – and it was the children who suffered the most. Once children turned 21, they aged-out (ie: they could no longer continue with their existing H-4 visa which is meant only for dependents). They either had to opt for an F-1 visa meant for international students or had to self-deport to India. Even if at a later stage, the parent obtained a green card for himself or herself and other dependents (spouse and younger children), the immigration sponsorship process has to begin anew for the aged-out child.
According to a study done by CATO Institute, as of April 2020, nearly 1.36 lakh children from Indian families fell in decades-long employment-based green card backlog, of which 84,675 of them (or 62%) would age out without getting a green card.
The bill prevents the child from ageing out of eligibility for a green card if the child was under 21 years when the parent filed the green card application (or applied for labour certification). This provision will meet the long-standing wishes of the Indian diaspora.
A little known ‘V’ visa enabled the spouse and children (including step-children) of a green card holder, to enter the US and unite with their family on a temporary basis, till their green card was available. One of the conditions was that the beneficiary should be waiting in a queue for at least three years, which the bill proposes to remove. ‘V’ visas were available only in those cases where the applications were filed on or before December 21, 2000.
The immigration bill has given a big impetus to this visa, the icing on the cake is work authorisation for ‘V’ visa holders. “To begin with, it has expanded the coverage of the ‘V’ visa. Qualifying individuals whose family-sponsored green card application have been approved, can join their family via this visa route, subject to certain criteria. This could include siblings, a category that is currently backlogged by many years. Further, the earlier cut-off date has been removed, says Poorvi Chothani, immigration attorney and managing partner at LawQuest.
There is much more in store as regards family-based green cards. Each year, a total of 226,000 family-based green cards are issued to applicants from different countries with a per-country cap of 7%. Further, there are sub-categories within this overall quota. It is estimated that nearly 2.20 lakh odd Indians (largely siblings) are in queue for a family-sponsored green card.
Cyrus D. Mehta, New York-based immigration attorney told TOI that, “The immigration bill increases the per-country limit from 7% to 20%. In addition, spouses and minor children of green card holders will not be subject to the quotas. Under current law, only spouses and minor children of US citizens are exempt from being included in the quota. Further, the unused family visas from fiscal 1992 though 2020 will be added back. These measures will reduce wait times, including for ‘V’ visa applicants.”