The human face of Green Card backlog for Indians in America.
Charlotte, North Carolina,-based Akash Bhatia came to the US back in 2007 as a student on scholarship to complete his master’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Florida.
Brimming with hopes and dreams he quickly made America his second home. After studies, he found himself a job at reputed multinational Siemens, got married and continued chasing his American dream, unaware that the country he considers his new home would not allow him to be a lawful permanent resident for more than a century!
Sharing his ordeal with The American Bazaar, Bhatia says, “I have been working for eight years now and during this time I have seen friends and colleagues from other nationalities rise in professional circuits and become legal residents of US, but I have been stuck in an unfair wait all because of one thing – my country of origin.”
Bhatia voices the sentiment of tens of thousands of high-skilled Indian professionals who came to the US to work or study and wanted to make America their home but instead they say that they found themselves stuck in an unfair immigration cycle.”
Talking about his case, Bhatia explains, “It was back in 2012, that I requested my employer to start my green card process. The company began filing in 2013 and it took about 2 years for me to get an I-140 (immigration petition for alien worker) approval. Now as I continue to wait, the current priority date for Indian EB-2 applicants is April 2009.
“Now, for those who may not be aware of the immigration backlog may think that my green card is 6 years away by plain math. But here is the deal, the priority date, when I applied back in 2015 was also 2009! And at this speed it would not be before 150 years that I will get my green card. Surely, I am not living that long.”
In the past many months, priority dates for Indian visa applicants have not moved beyond a couple of days, thus creating a massive backlog that now Indian high skilled professionals are now urging to remove through S-386 or Fairness for Immigrants Act 2019.
Most Indian professionals believe that an unfair opposition towards the bill that proposes to remove the per country cap on the number of green cards issued to each country, comes from the fact that an average American does not know how the immigration system works in the country.
Many say that they have been targets of vitriol because some locals and other nationals have felt that they are demanding an extra share in the green card distribution.
Take the case of Cupertino, California based, Nita Patel. She says, “I came to the US on an H-4 but I managed to secure an H-1B for myself based on my experience and qualification. We raised our son here and brought a house, even though we are still on H-1B.
“But now this long wait, has left us in peril as it doesn’t look likely that we will be able to get a green card in our lifetime. We have home insurance to take care of as well as the fear that our daughter will age-out before we get green cards. It is a cathartic situation to be in.”
Bhatia too feels that there are hundreds of families who are unable to plan their future given the current backlog for Indians. He says, “I have been married for three years and even though both my wife and I work and are financially secure, whenever we think of having kids the number one thought we have is – what will happen to our kid with our immigration status in limbo. We do not want to plan our future looking at a future family separation.”
Most Indians in the backlog also find it particularly frustrating as they are caught in a professional iimbo. Most cannot change jobs as their green card applications are tied to their current employers and thus have to let go of many professional opportunities and promotion prospects.
Bhatia says, “As an Indian living in America, I have never had a racist encounter. But today when I see that people who started with me at the same time professionally have reached new heights, have secured permanent residency, while I continue to stand in the line, it gives me a taste of my first racist experience in America!”
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