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Immigration Overhaul in the USA
Nov 26, 2014

President Barack Obama took a historic, legacy-defining step recently when he announced a plan to protect 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation. The president's plan will allow undocumented immigrants who are parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents, known as green card holders, to legally live and work in the country for a period of three years.

He expanded the pool of undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children who are eligible for protected status. The plan makes it easier for foreign workers trained in high-tech fields to enter, and stay in, the country. And it refocuses the nation's entire immigration enforcement apparatus on a much smaller pool of immigrants—those with criminal records, ties to terrorist organizations or gangs and people who crossed the border in the past year.

This was done in a bid to make it easier for foreign students to obtain permission to work after studies. Those already employed will be able to change jobs, and their spouses will be allowed to work.

  • Around 100,000 students come to the US from India every year, and a bulk of those allowed to work here on H-1B visa (for highly skilled foreigners) are from India too.

  • It’s not clear yet if this temporary amnesty would apply to the 450,000 Indians living illegally in the US, because they fulfill none of the terms required to benefit from it.

  • But Indians legally here will find it easier to stay on, and never return except as tourists or to visit relatives, as a result of the changes Obama has announced.

  • Foreign students will have better opportunities to find temporary employment after graduation under expanded and extended Optional Practical Training programme.

  • A major problem for green card holders was an archaic rule that prevented them from changing jobs till they were granted citizenship. Many remained stuck in grossly underpaying jobs as the green card queue moved slowly, the waiting period
    is around 10 years.

  • Rules are also being amended to allow spouses of H-1B visa holders whose green card applications have been approved to work—also a major concern for Indian techies.

  • Leaving the country during a pending green card process will also be allowed with advance permission, called parole.


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