After months of gloomy talk and grim projections about the future of Indian immigrants in the United States, there comes a development that can warm the cockles of the hearts of thousands of aspirants back home. A Senate Bill, endorsed by President Donald Trump, has proposed introduction of a merit-based system for issuing visas to legal immigrants into the country. If approved by the Congress and signed into a law, the new system would be a boon for Indians who have a clear edge over applicants from other countries in terms of educational qualifications, proficiency in English and ability to secure high-skilled jobs. Under the new legislation proposed by two Republican Senators, the skilled and educationally-privileged applicants would be preferred over those who seek immigration based on family ties. It has also been proposed to do away with the present lottery system in allotting visas and the country-specific quotas. Under the proposals in the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy (RAISE) Act, young, educated, English-speaking immigrant applications will be favoured in a points-based system similar to that being used by Canada and Australia. The applicants are given points in each of the categories such as educational degrees, English proficiency, age and job experience. As a result, the educated elite will have a greater chance of getting the coveted Green Card. According to a study by the Migration Policy Institute, the Indian migrants to the US had double the English proficiency of the average migrant to the country and were twice as likely to have professional or advanced degrees.
Under the proposed system, a young Indian with a master’s degree, proficiency in English and a job offer from an American company will have a definite shot at Green Card. At present, the lottery system and country-specific quota are heavily skewed against Indians. The applications of Indians, who constitute the largest pool of immigration-seekers, are delayed due to quota system per country as citizens of any country cannot get more than 7% of the available green cards in that particular year. Given the anti-immigrant rhetoric that characterised Trump’s presidential campaign, there have been fears among Indian students over the visa reforms. However, most of them are turning out to be unfounded and unrealistic. The fears were fuelled by media frenzy with some doomsayers predicting the end of the Great American Dream for Indians. In fact, the changes in the H-1B system could work out positively for Indian students on US campuses. The RAISE Act, sponsored by Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia, proposes to reduce by half the current annual legal residency permits of one million within a decade, mainly through cuts in family-based immigration.