Long Wait For Green Cards Threatens Separation Of Indian Families

In the United States, a substantial backlog in Green Card processing is putting over one lakh Indian children at risk of being separated from their parents. With more than 10.7 lakh Indians in line for employment-based Green Cards, which grant legal permanent residency in the US, the current system’s limitations suggest that completion could take a staggering 135 years. This crisis primarily affects those under H-4 visas, with a recent study by immigration expert David J. Bier from the Cato Institute highlighting that approximately 1.34 lakh Indian children under H-4 visas may age out before their Green Card applications are processed, forcing them into separation from their families.

The Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank based in Washington, DC, has drawn attention to this pressing issue, emphasizing the severity of the problem. When factoring in dropout factors such as death and aging out, the waiting time remains at a staggering 54 years.

Under the H-4 visa system, children moving to the US with their parents, who hold H-1B visas for highly skilled workers, are permitted to stay until they reach the age of 21. Once they reach this age, they can no longer remain in the United States under the H-4 visa category. These young individuals, sometimes referred to as “documented dreamers,” face two difficult choices upon aging out.

Picture : MSN

The first option is to apply for an F-1 or student visa, which allows them to study in the US. However, this route doesn’t grant them the right to work without obtaining an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). The EAD application process is often protracted and expensive, with no guarantees of success, as only a limited number of children manage to secure the F-1 visa.

The second alternative is to return to their home country, which can be an emotionally challenging decision. This is particularly true for those who have spent the majority of their lives in the US, with minimal or no connection to their family in India.

The age limit imposed on H-4 visas and the extensive backlog in the Green Card process have created significant uncertainty and anxiety among Indian families settled in the United States. While the Biden administration has proposed a rule that would permit certain H-4 visa holders who turn 21 to remain in the US and work, it remains uncertain when or if this rule will be put into effect. Additionally, President Biden had pledged to modify the 7 percent country cap for Green Cards, but concrete steps towards this change remain to be seen.

The lengthy waiting times for Green Cards in the United States are endangering the unity of Indian families settled there, especially those with children on H-4 visas. Urgent reforms are needed to address this issue and provide a more compassionate solution to prevent the forced separation of families.

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