Pranav Singh, a critical care physician, chose to return after living in the US for 15 years.
Last year as the pandemic was raging across the US and most people in America were stocking up on essentials, the Singh family in Mason City, Iowa, was having a difficult and life-changing experience.
Dr. Pranav Singh, a critical care physician, after having lived in the US for 15 long years, decided to move back to India with his family.
For a physician who arrived in the US way back in 2006, did his residency and fellowship in New York before moving to Mason City as a critical care doctor and calling it home for over a decade, this move must have felt excruciating.
“My green card priority date is December 2013. I have a daughter who is 16 and is an Indian citizen,” Dr. Singh tells the American Bazaar on phone from his new home in Delhi, India.
“I was frustrated by the green card backlog, which is a life of indentured servitude. My daughter risks aging out.”
Dependent children of H-1B visa holders age out of the green card process as soon as they turn 21 and this remains a tough choice for millions of families awaiting their green cards.
On the aging out process, Dr. Singh explains, “if my daughter ages out, she has to self deport to India. Then she has to get an F-1 visa to re-enter the US. She will be at the mercy of the visa officer after living in the US all her life.
“In order to apply for a US visa she has to prove that she has no intent to immigrate. How is she going to do that? We will be happy to send her to any country for her studies but it will never be the US.”
READ: 80,000 Indian children in green card backlog risk aging out (November 30, 2020)
“Furthermore the travel ban affected the backlogged immigrants the most. There is no political will to fix the problem. That’s why I left the country in the middle of the pandemic,” he adds.
Dr. Singh now plans to live permanently in India. While the family is glad that they took this decision, the move hasn’t been easy as they had to undergo family separation.
“My daughter is still in the US with my wife. She has to finish her 10th grade in the US or she will lose a year if she comes back now,” he says.
Asked whether it has been particularly tough for his daughter, who has lived all her life in the US, Dr. Singh says, “My daughter understands that a life of freedom is much better than perpetual slavery.”
Since relocating to India, Dr. Singh has found a new job with a telemedicine company and is happy to reshape his career in India.
When the Singhs moved to the United States, they did not foresee this future. Dr. Singh says, “When I first came to America, the backlog wasn’t heard of and I intended to study and settle in the US and bring my parents.
“If I was from any other country, I would have been a citizen by now. But here I was still renewing my H-1B every three years and living a life of zero safety net.”
The way things were going in immigration, the Singhs would have had to wait another 10 years to get the US green card or permanent residency.
For many in the same boat as Dr. Singh, the “American Dream” has proved to be an unattainable goal many Indians run after.
“I just feel that my life in the US was a waste of time and energy. I would not advise any friend or family to immigrate to a blatantly racist country,” he says.
READ: Is Indians’ Green Card backlog limbo about to end? (December 3, 2020)
While the Singhs had been re-considering their decision to stay in the US, the pandemic seemed to serve as the last straw.
“Covid-19 and the uncertainties it brought along was an eyeopener,” Dr. Singh says. “I came to a point where I realized that while I am taking care of these patients putting my life at risk, if something were to happen to me, my wife and daughter would lose their visa status and will have to self-deport.
“As aliens we do not have any safety-net. We paid millions in taxes over the years and we are not eligible for social security. Country caps in employment based immigration are akin to India exclusion act, and is no different than apartheid.”
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Is Indians’ Green Card backlog limbo about to end? (December 3, 2020)
Trump talks about changes in H-1B Visa, including a possible citizenship (January 11, 2019)
Trump’s tweet on H-1B and path to citizenship evokes lukewarm response (January 12, 2019)