• Monday, February 26, 2024

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New US immigration bill to help kin of H-1B visa holders

Illustrative picture showing application for United States of America work visa H1B with pen

By: Shajil Kumar

In a huge relief for H-1B visa holders, many of whom are Indian technology professionals, the new White House-backed immigration bill will grant automatic work authorisation to about 100,000 H-4 visa holders, who are their spouses and children.

The National Security Agreement that was announced on Sunday (4) after long negotiations between the Republican and the Democratic leadership in the US Senate also provides relief to about 250,000 aged-out children of H-1B visa holders. The White House urged the US Congress to quickly pass the bill.

The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. Technology companies depend on these visas to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries such as India and China.

The move will also help Indian technology professionals who are waiting for a Green Card, known officially as a Permanent Resident Card, which often takes years. In the absence of a Green Card, their spouses cannot work and their aged-out children face deportation.

A Green Card is issued to immigrants to the US as evidence that the bearer has been granted the privilege of residing permanently. The per-country caps are numerical limits on the issuance of green cards to individuals from certain countries.

The new bill provides ageing-out protection for children of long-term H-1B visa holders provided they have maintained H4 status for eight years. It provides 18,000 more employment-based green cards per year for the next five years with country caps.

“This bill provides work authorisation to approximately 25,000 K-1, K-2, and K-3 non-immigrant visa holders (fiance or spouse and children of US citizens) per year, and about 100,000 H-4 spouses and children of certain H-1B non-immigrant visa holders who have completed immigrant petitions (temporary skilled workers) per year, so they no longer have to apply and wait for approval before they can begin working in the United States,” the White House said in a fact sheet released Sunday night.

According to the White House, the bill ensures that those who are here and qualify can get to work faster. “It provides work authorisation to asylum seekers once they receive a positive protection screening determination. This will allow asylum seekers to begin to support themselves and their families in the United States much earlier than the current 180-day statutorily required waiting period, which only begins after an individual submits an asylum application,” it said.

“For too long, going back decades, the immigration system has been broken. It’s time to fix it…It will make our country safer, make our border more secure, treat people fairly and humanely while preserving legal immigration, consistent with our values as a nation,” US president Joe Biden said in a statement. (PTI)

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