P.S: I have written more recently on this topic with newer information here.
Six weeks ago I wrote about the promising state of comprehensive immigration reform in the US Congress. I wrote about how I expect the green card thru employment process to become significantly easier and a touch more expensive for Indians who have a Master’s degree or higher from an U.S university. Here below is an update on where things stand as of now and my take on the same.
1) Not much has changed in the proposed reform – With Republicans in control of the house and the Democrats in control of the Senate and the presidency, there is not a lot of chummy bipartisanship these days in Washington D.C. The two parties like each other less today than they have for most of the last century. That is why it is very surprising that the areas of consensus on comprehensive immigration reform have not changed much in the last few weeks. While Republicans in the house have raised concerns over the paths to citizenship offered to undocumented immigrants and some Senators have opposed current benchmarks for border security, the areas of consensus are vast in number. Both parties and both chambers of Congress have publicly expressed a desire to reform the country’s immigration system in ways that are impossible to find on other defining issues such as climate change, unemployment rates and health care reform. Articles such as this convey a sunny optimism and bipartisanship that passage of immigration reform now seems inevitable.
2) Lack of change is a good thing – The lack of change on the areas of broad consensus is a very good thing for immigrants undocumented and legal. No one has yet complained publicly about speedier and easier paths to a green card for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) graduates. There have been no leaks on the impact such reform will have on wages and pensions. There have been no reports of major breakdown in talks or intrusion from big business or labor. In fact big business and labor unions have even agreed to the broad parameters of ongoing debate and discussion.
All of this is very good news for Indians who graduated from US universities and are working in technology or are students currently. If nothing else changes as the planned reform makes its way thru House and Senate committees and eventually to a vote, things are promising for speedier and easier access to a deterministic process towards permanent residency.
3) Impact to families and spouses is unclear – One aspect I still don’t have a handle on is the impact to the families of those of us on H-1B or F1. STEM graduates and H-1B STEM employees who did a Master’s in the U.S are likely to have a fast-tracked green card process. But there is no indication yet on how or if current policy will be tweaked for spouses, would-bes, children and parents. Every Indian on H-1B realizes that marrying into or during the green card process is easier for everyone involved than marrying after the green card process is complete. But how will this change in 2013? Will spouses of STEM graduates and STEM employees get the same or any perks?
Answers to these questions are not clear as of today. My hunch is that spouses and families of STEM green card holders will benefit via a similarly fast-tracked but more expensive process. The U.S treasury is bleeding revenue and nothing makes more sense than extravagant fees for the rights to become a permanent resident quickly. I will stay on the lookout for more information related to the impact on spouses here and will update on this blog as soon as I hear or process anything on this front. Powerful media outlets like Bloomberg and Tech Crunch have been calling this area out to politicians in pieces such as this one.
4) When will the next big news break ? April. April is when the House of representatives will release their version of immigration reform. The plan from the house is likely to be even more friendly to those who are in the US to pursue a Master’s degree or have already done so. By then the Senate plan will also very comprehensive and clear. Most of what will happen after April will be political posturing and discussion about narrow focus areas as the bills get reconciled into a law that President Obama will sign into action by end-of-year 2013. For an Indian on H-1B or F-1, the next 40 days will reveal much of what will be the immigration law of the land for the next 20 years or so.