India holds the key to whether thousands of NRIs may benefit from immigration law.
By American Bazaar Staff
WASHINGTON, DC: For H4 visa holders from India in the United States, the X visa granted by India assumes more importance than the current immigration proposals now being debated on Capitol Hill.
Even as the immigration reforms proposals continue to roil on Capitol Hill, with the Senate considering it, and the House expected to bring its own version later this week, for one category of visa holders in this country, there is mounting excitement and frustration, considering from which country of origin he or she is: the H4 visa holders, given to spouses of H1B work visa holders.
For H4 visa holders, who are not allowed to work in this country, and languish for years in that position, it not only affects the financial well- being of the couple as they entrench their roots here and expand, start a family, but takes a toll also emotionally and spiritually on the visa holder. The anguish deepens when H4 visa holders see new students from India graduate from universities here and get jobs, while they themselves may have doctoral degrees from prestigious universities from back home, but are not allowed to work.
A lucky few of the H4 visa holders do enroll into universities themselves, and then convert their visa to a F1 student visa, followed by a H1B work visa, but with the lottery system in place this year, it is anybodyâ€™s guess as to how many of those valiant enough to have tried to change their status through that route, had to face the terrible luck of finally not getting the H1B visa after not being selected in the lottery process. For them, it would have meant going back on an H4 visa.
But now, even as the Senate is considering a bill which has language in it for H4 visa holders to get EAD Work Authorization cards, the reality of it is that it would be applicable for only those whose country of origin also does the same favor for spouses of American citizens, that is: allowing them to work. In fact, the EAD cards for H4 holders would allow them to apply for any jobs they want, and give them greater freedom to explore jobs.
However, for H4 visa holders here from India, the X visa granted to spouses of foreign nationals who work in India become crucial to their chances, and as it stands today they have no chance of being part of the immigration reforms here. The X visa given by India at present is much more strict than the H4 visa here, and does not allow holders of that visa any permission to either work or do business, and even restricts studying at universities there.
According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, Foreigners Division, India, the X visa can be granted to only these individuals for a period of five years, which can be extended again for the same duration of time: a foreigner of Indian origin, who wishes to come to India for visiting relatives, holiday etc.; Spouse and children of a foreigner of Indian origin; Spouse / dependents of foreigners coming to India on any other type of valid visa like Student/Business/Employment/Research.
The ministryâ€™s conditions for X visa is: the foreigner shall not engage in business or employment or any activity which is not in accordance with the type of visa held by him/her; Name of the foreigner shall not figure in any Ration card and/or Electoral Rolls; Passport/Residence Permit of the foreigner to be stamped. â€œBusiness/employment not permitted on XVâ€.
The activities permissible for X visa holders as a student is only till 12th standard by minor, dependent children of Indian origin foreigners.
Thus, the irony of the immigration proposals here is that it may become law and H4 visa holders may be allowed to work, but H4 visa holders from India will be left out.
It remains to be seen if the US legislators would do the humanitarian thing and remove the language barring reciprocal action, but the onus is also on India perhaps the tweak their own laws in the face of globalization, and to show to the world they are working hard to become a developed nation and care for the welfare of their citizens abroad.
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