Two Views on Visa Situation for Indian Immigrants to U.S.

Articles in the Carib News and News India Times presented two quite different views on the situation for Indians seeking United States visas. The Carib News reported on complaints from the Caribbean community that a proposed change to immigration rules would unfairly favor Indian and Chinese migrants, while News India Times aired concerns that Indians are being denied visas in increasing numbers.

Some in the Caribbean community have slammed a bill that would, according to Carib News, “reduce the number of green cards that go to highly skilled immigrants from the Caribbean, Africa and other small countries so that people from India and China come to the U.S. in greater numbers.”

The bill in question — H.R.3012, Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2011 — would, among other provisions, eliminate the 7 percent cap on any individual country. As it currently stands, no country, regardless of its population, can claim more than 7 percent of the total 140,000 employment-based green cards awarded by the U.S. each year. The legislation passed the House of Representatives in November, and has been placed on the Senate calendar.

Congressman Gregory Meeks (D – Southeastern Queens) asserts in a print Carib News article that the bill would hurt countries in the Caribbean:

“I don’t think that if you are going to give visas for highly skilled workers that the Caribbean should be discriminated against and I am opposed to that,” said Meeks, whose congressional district has a large Caribbean immigrant population. “If you have the skills and we need them when it comes to allocating the visas, India shouldn’t get an advantage over the Caribbean nations or have a larger percentage. The Caribbean nations are entitled to the same percentage as India, despite the latter’s size. It would be discriminatory to do otherwise.”

Doug Mayers, president of the Long Island Caribbean American Association and of the Freeport/Roosevelt Branch of the NAACP, put his views bluntly:

“West Indians have been coming to the United States for more than 200 years and they have made their contributions to the prosperity and wealth of the country, far more so than immigrants from India. Why should Indian immigrants now be given greater access to visas for skilled people over people from the various island-nations? It would be outrage if we sit back and allow this to happen.”

On the other hand, Congressman Eliot Engel (D – Bronx), whose district also has a sizable number of Caribbean immigrants, favors the bill. He focused on its other primary measure: increasing the limit per country of family member green cards from 7 percent to 15 percent of the 226,000 available.

“The Fairness for Skilled Immigrants Act not only eliminates the per country visas for skilled employees to help our economy, it also promotes the reunification of families now separated by delays in visa applications,” he said in a statement to Carib News. “By increasing the per country numbers of family-sponsored immigrants, the legislation would respond to bureaucratic visa delays that cause many immigrant families to remain separated for years–sometimes even decades.”

Also read earlier coverage on the bill by Carib News (Jan. 26, 2012) and News India Times (Dec. 9, 2011).

Meanwhile, News India Times covered the complaints that Indians have voiced about a different visa situation for the group.

In recent years, an increased number of professionals in India who have petitioned for a L-1B visa, which requires “specialized knowledge” to work in the United States, have received denials from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, according to a report released by the National Foundation for American Policy, a non-partisan organization that studies public policy.

According to the data, in fiscal year 2006 the L-1B denial rate of new (initial) petitions for Indians was 1.7 percent, falling to 0.9 percent in fiscal year 2007, and then rising to 2.8 percent in fiscal year 2008.

However, in fiscal year 2009, the denial rate of new L-1B petitions for Indians skyrocketed to 22.5 percent even though there had been no change in the law or regulations, the report said.

The denial rate remained high for new Indian L-1B petitions in fiscal year 2010 at 10.5 percent, well above its historic levels, and rose to 13.4 percent in fiscal year 2011, it said.

According to the report, the USCIS “denied more new L-1B petitions for Indians in FY 2009 (1,640) than in the previous nine fiscal years combined (1,341 denials between FY 2000 and FY 2008).” The report said that the data show other foreign nationals also experienced an increase in denial rates for new L-1B petitions starting in fiscal year 2009, but those denial rate increases were far lower than for Indian nationals.

The National Foundation for American Policy received a response from the Bureau of Consular Affairs on the denial rates.

In November 2011, in response to a question from the National Foundation for American Policy about Indian refusal rates on L-1 cases, a spokesperson for the Bureau of Consular Affairs replied in writing: “On the question about decline, we have heard concerns from some companies that they are experiencing high refusal rates. We have seen an uptick in unqualified applicants in this category due to a much broader use of complex ‘specialized knowledge’ provisions as the basis of L-1 application, which may account for the perception of increased refusals.”

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