Washington: A highly skilled Indian national sponsored today for the most common skilled employment-based immigrant visa could wait 70 years to receive a green card, conclude two new reports by a US policy research group.
The reports by the National Foundation for American Policy conclude that exempting from green card quotas international students with an advanced degree in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) would keep talented individuals from leaving the United States.
This would "reap significant benefits to the competitiveness of U.S. companies and to the economy overall" suggests the reports - "Keeping Talent in America" and "Waiting and More Waiting: America's Family and Employment-Based Immigration System."
The majority of employer-sponsored immigrants tend to be from India and China, but the wait times are longest for such foreign nationals because of the per country limit, which restricts the number of green cards awarded to any one country to 7 percent of a preference category.
By establishing that fewer than 3,000 Indians are permitted green cards annually in the employment based third preference (EB-3) and estimating a backlog of 210,000 among Indian professionals in the category, the report is able to conclude an Indian sponsored today could wait 70 years for a green card.
The report concludes that even if the backlog of Indians in EB-3 were half as large, the wait time would still exceed 30 years for Indians sponsored today in the category.
A Chinese immigrant sponsored today in the EB-3 category could wait two decades. Immigrants from other countries would likely wait 5 years or more.
In the EB-2 (second preference) category the wait times are 6 to 8 years for a newly sponsored Indian or Chinese immigrant, but there is no wait for those from other countries.
"It is not in our interests to have the most important characteristic of an immigrant to America be the ability to wait a long time," said NFAP's executive director Stuart Anderson, who authored the two reports.
"Absent action by Congress the situation will grow worse, creating great hardship and weakening the competitiveness of US companies," he said.
A key part of any solution to reducing wait times is to eliminate the per country limit for employment-based immigrants, the reports say noting the step would reduce the typical wait for Indians applying today in the EB-3 category from 70 to 12 years.
While 12 years is still too long, it would be a welcome reform for longest waiting Indian and Chinese professionals, the reports said.