Indian Nationals who entered the United States on temporary work visas are still chasing their own tails hoping for permanent residency. There is no alternative to this pessimism. It is the stark reality for Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) chasing the American dream.
Unfortunately, the blind faith of foreigners, especially those from developing countries, is nothing new when it comes to the soft power of America. Once again, it has gone too far, for too long. What won’t NRIs endure to remain in the United States?
Aman Kapoor, the president of Immigration Voice, has called out the Biden administration for exploiting the “indentured servitude” of NRIs under the illusion of an H-1B transition to green card. Their US employers, moreover, seem all too willing to turn a blind eye. Why pay less motivated American citizens full wages when you can get twice the quality for half the price?
Stick-and-carrot exploitation works all too well on foreign labor, especially Indian technology workers. Work 12 hours a day, seven days a week or they might not sponsor your employment-based green card application. After 10 or 15 years of living this nightmare, it’s time for a change.
Alternatives to servitude are certainly available, but NRIs have got to realize their fate is in their own hands. Indeed, you cannot keep doing the same thing over and over again and expect different results. First, accept the fact that there is no political solution for NRIs in the US. Now, to reach your objective of the coveted green card, you must change course.
In the United States, NRIs are Victims of Their Own Success
There are already over 10.5 million illegal immigrants (mostly of Latin-American descent) living in the United States. Two-thirds of them have been living in the country for more than a decade and have significant political support and representation. NRIs, on the other hand, don’t.
By legally entering the country, NRIs probably sealed their own fate. Furthermore, they are extremely successful relative to the American citizens living next door. As wealthy immigrants living in the US on temporary work visas, they are in a political no man’s land. Make no mistake, they are on their own.
Populist politics in the United States exist on both sides of the aisle. Either way, they are not working in favor of wealthy NRIs. In fact, the opposite is true.
What NRIs need to draw political sympathy is a) low income and b) high population numbers. Unfortunately, the blunt reality is that NRIs have neither and the political wall they are facing in the United States will make sure they don't get it unless they immediately seek an alternative path to permanent residency.
High Hopes for the US Citizenship Act of 2021
There's been much ado about the Biden administration's campaign promises. Vice President Kamala Harris is of Indian descent on her mother’s side. As a result, the new light at the end of the tunnel for NRIs is ostensibly the US Citizenship Act of 2021.
Of acute importance for NRIs waiting for green cards is the elimination of “the per-country visa caps” and the clearance of the “employment-based visa backlog”. These promises are included in the bill and, if acted on, would clear the flood gates for issuance of green cards to NRIs.
NRIs Comprise 68% of the Green Card Backlog
As of April 2020, 1.2 million employment-based green card applications are pending. Indian nationals make up 68% of the backlog and their green card allocation cap is set at only 9,800 per year.
As a result, fresh applicants from India can expect to wait 80-90 years to receive their green card. An estimated 205,655 of them will die before they reach the front of the queue.
These numbers provided by the Cato Institute illustrate the extent of the backlog for EB-2 and EB-3 applications. Including approximately 300,000 pending H-1B green card applications would have pushed the numbers upwards of 1.2 million. Obviously, NRIs also comprise the majority of the H-1B backlog.
History Repeats Itself
So what is the political reality in Congress regarding US immigration reform? To be clear, statutory authorization for the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Regional Center Program was allowed to expire at midnight on June 30, 2021. This is not a good sign of things to come for wealthy NRIs hoping for immigration reform.
Unfortunately, there has always been a deficit of political sympathy for well-off, 100% legal, high net worth immigration to the United States. This certainly would include NRIs making six-figure salaries working in the tech industry.
Furthermore, realists would point out that the US Citizenship Act of 2021 is actually just a reincarnation of the “Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act of 2007”. It also gave false hope of eliminating the country caps that are the bane of NRIs residing in the US on temporary work visas.
The Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act has indeed languished in congress for 14 years without passage. On December 21, 2020 the US House of Representatives issued a written admission that the bill had no chance of passing. As a result, it is still in limbo after 14 years. This neglect leaves little doubt that the US Immigration Act of 2021 is just another false dawn for NRIs.
120,000 Additional Green Card Allotment for 2021
On September 30, 2021 the validity for the allotment of 120,000 extra green cards will expire if they are not issued. This surplus of visas would have been added to the annual 140,000 green card allocation. Additionally, the country cap of 9,800 for NRIs would not have applied.
The 120,000 gift was a remnant of the Trump administration’s 2020 freeze on issuing family-based green cards, which resulted in 120,000 green card slots going unused. Since the quota was not met in 2020, it carried over into 2021 and could have been applied against the backlog for employment based green cards.
Time is Running Out, Willful Negligence?
What happened? No measures were taken to prepare for the surge in applications. This is despite the fact that Trump’s ban occurred in April 2020, which allowed enough time to prepare for the application surge. But the State Department refused to begin accepting applications until the first day of the new fiscal year, in October 2020.
Additionally, only mail-in applications are accepted because the US is probably the only advanced country in the world that does not have an online immigration filing system. As a result, an extra 120,000 mailed-in applications on top of the normal 140,000 applications had to be manually entered into the computer system by an already understaffed office.
Furthermore, all applicants must be fingerprinted to submit to criminal background checks. This is despite most of them having already submitted fingerprints for these very same checks many times. Plus, most fingerprinting offices were closed during 2020 because of the pandemic.
The Biden administration did very little to alleviate the problem. As a result, the finish line is fast approaching for NRIs. However, without executive action, the extra allotment will expire in fewer than 30 days. It will be a further blow that will disproportionately affect NRIs.
Last but not least, at the end of the month, Congress will be voting on the US $1 trillion infrastructure bill and also Biden’s prize US $3.5 trillion new stimulus plan. The harsh reality is that, once again, NRIs are going to be swept under the rug.
NRIs Cannot Walk Through Walls
The wall blocking the path of NRIs trying to get a US green card is their Indian nationality. It is an unjust, racist wall, but a wall nonetheless. Walking through walls is for comic book heroes.
What do you do when there is a wall blocking your path? A wise man once told me that “If there is a wall blocking your path, do not try to go through the wall. Go around it.”
Save Yourself from Perpetual Uncertainty
A traditional solution for ultra-high net worth NRIs was to apply for the EB-5. However, with the statutory expiration of the regional program, there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the remaining EB-5 Direct Investor Visa. Additionally, the EB-5 qualifications were never really suited for the needs of the mass affluent such as NRIs seeking employment-based green cards.
At a fraction of the cost, mass affluent NRIs can acquire second citizenship from one of the Caribbean countries such as Grenada. As a result, they also become eligible for the US E-2 visa which allows them to live and work in the US while their green card applications are pending. For those with a clean background and verifiable assets, approval is all but certain. Additionally, family contributions can be used as a source of funding.
Furthermore, there is no requirement to notify your country of origin during the application process. Plus, dual citizenship is allowed if you choose to retain your Indian Nationality. If otherwise, the Overseas Citizens of India legislation grants the equivalent of Indian citizenship if you choose to renounce.
Hopefully, the Indian government will soon approve dual citizenship. Until then, NRIs seeking to enter the US can always rely on the Grenada program. In addition, Anglophiles seeking to enter the US will appreciate that the Grenada government coordinates underwriting of the citizenship program with the US government operating under the auspices of the JRCC.
I am a CBI specialist working with the Caribbean countries, plus Vanuatu. Additionally, I hold Dominica citizenship through the CBI program and I am a real-life Global Citizen. My interests include international investment, philanthropy, and global travel.