Widespread immigration reform likely under Joe Biden


Biden administration likely to provide U.S. citizenship to over 500,000 Indians

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden will work towards providing a road map to American citizenship for nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants, including over 5,00,000 from India, and will also establish a minimum admission number of 95,000 refugees annually.

He also plans to increase the number of high-skilled visas, including the H-1B, and eliminate the limit on employment-based visas by country, both of which are expected to benefit tens of thousands of Indian professionals impacted by immigration policies of the outgoing Trump administration.

Work for spouses

With Kamala Harris as his deputy, Mr. Biden is expected to reverse the move of the outgoing Trump administration to revoke work permits to the spouses of H-1B visas, which had adversely impacted a large number of Indian families in the U.S.

As a largely immigrant community, but in some cases with American roots reaching back generations, Indian-Americans know firsthand the strength and resilience that immigrants bring to the U.S., according to a policy document issued by the Biden campaign.

Family-based policy

“He (Biden) will immediately begin working with Congress to pass legislative immigration reform that modernises our system, with a priority on keeping families together by providing a roadmap to citizenship for nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants — including more than 500,000 from India,” it said.

The Biden administration will support family-based immigration and preserve family unification as a core principle of the U.S. immigration system, which includes reducing the family visa backlog, it said.

Mr. Biden will also restore and defend the naturalisation process for green card holders, the policy document said.

Employment-based visas, also known as green cards, allow migrants to gain lawful permanent residence in the U.S. to engage in skilled work.

More visas for work

“He (Biden) will increase the number of visas offered for permanent, work-based immigration based on macroeconomic conditions and exempt from any cap recent graduates of Ph.D. programmes in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields,” it said.

“He will support first reforming the temporary visa system for high-skill, speciality jobs to protect wages and workers, then expanding the number of visas offered and eliminating the limits on employment-based green cards by country, which have kept so many Indian families in waiting for too long,” the document stated.

“High skilled temporary visas should not be used to disincentivise recruiting workers already in the U.S. for in-demand occupations. An immigration system that crowds out high-skilled workers in favour of only entry level wages and skills threatens American innovation and competitiveness,” according to a policy document issued by the Biden campaign.

“Biden will work with Congress to first reform temporary visas to establish a wage-based allocation process and establish enforcement mechanisms to ensure they are aligned with the labour market and not used to undermine wages. Then, Biden will support expanding the number of high-skilled visas and eliminating the limits on employment-based visas by country, which create unacceptably long backlogs,” it said.

Responsive system

Noting that currently, the number of employment-based visas is capped at 1,40,000 each year, without the ability to be responsive to the state of the labour market or demands from domestic employers, the policy document said that as president, Mr. Biden will work with Congress to increase the number of visas awarded for permanent, employment-based immigration — and promote mechanisms to temporarily reduce the number of visas during times of high U.S. unemployment.

In June, Mr. Trump had suspended the H-1B visas along with other types of foreign work visas until the end of 2020 to protect American workers. In October, the Trump administration had announced new restrictions on the H-1B non-immigrant visa programme, which it said is aimed at protecting American workers, restoring integrity and to better guarantee that H-1B petitions are approved only for qualified beneficiaries and petitioners.

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