The Joe Biden administration on Thursday introduced a pro-immigration Bill in the United States Congress, that among other provisions, proposes to relax norms related to green card and H-1B visas that will benefit several thousand Indian professionals, mostly in the Information Technology sector, PTI reported.
H-1B is a non-immigrant visa that allows American companies to employ foreign workers in occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise.
The US Citizenship Act of 2021, that would provide a path to citizenship for an estimated 1.1 crore immigrants in the country, however faces a strong challenge before it gets passed, as the ruling Democrats would need to win over 10 Senate Republicans, who are largely opposed to the Bill, according to Reuters.
The Bill, if passed, will offer an eight-year path to citizenship for millions of people who are living in the United States unlawfully on January 1, 2021. It will make them eligible for a green card after five years in a temporary status if they pass background checks and pay their taxes, and could then apply for citizenship three years later, according to Reuters.
In a provision largely relevant for Indian professionals, the Bill proposes to eliminate annual per-country limits for employment visas and raise them on family-based immigration. It will also provide work permits to dependents of H-1B visa holders, an arrangement often sought after by Indian professionals for their spouses.
Among other things, the Bill further exempts spouses and children of green card holders from employment-based immigration quotas, expanding the number of green cards available to the latter, Reuters reported.
In a statement on Thursday, President Joe Biden said he looked forward to working with leaders in the House and Senate to address the “wrongdoings of the past administration and restore justice, humanity and order to the immigration system”.
“This is an important first step in pursuing immigration policies that unite families, grow and enhance our economy, and safeguard our security,” he said.
The Bill is a stark departure from the anti-immigration stance of the previous administration. In October last year, Trump had announced significant changes to the H-1B visa programme for high-skilled workers. It narrowed the eligibility criteria for applicants and raised the wages American companies would have to pay to hire foreign workers. In June, Trump had suspended the H-1B visas along with other types of foreign work visas until the end of 2020 to protect American workers. Biden had then said he would revoke the suspension, if elected to power.