No rethink on immigration reforms, H-1B visas, says US

No rethink on immigration reforms, H-1B visas, says US

Ignoring India's concerns, the Obama administration has thrown its full weight behind the comprehensive immigration reform bill passed by the US Senate, arguing that it would benefit immigrants from countries like India and China.

The White House made its position clear on the contentious H-1B provisions of Senate version of the immigration bill in a fact sheet prepared for the Asian American and Pacific Islander Community (AAPI), which includes the influential Indian American community.

"The Senate bill would create new visa pathways for immigrant entrepreneurs and investors and make key improvements to the H-1B programme," the White House said in its fact sheet, without taking note of the concerns of India and Indian businesses in this regard.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had raised the issue when he met President Barack Obama at the White House in September.

"The Senate bill would create new visa pathways for immigrant entrepreneurs and investors and make key improvements to the H-1B programme," the White House said.

China, India and South Korea are in the top ten sending countries of immigrant entrepreneurs. The Senate bill would create a new visa programme for foreign entrepreneurs to start and grow their businesses in the US, the White House said, listing out the benefits of the bill to the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) community.

The new INVEST visa (Investing in New Venture, Entrepreneurial Startups and Technologies) would allow entrepreneurs who attract a threshold level of financing from US investors or revenue from US customers to start and grow their businesses, and to remain permanently if their companies grow further and create jobs for American workers, it said.

The Senate bill would also improve the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Programme, and increase the number of available green cards for immigrant investors from approximately 10,000 annually to approximately 14,000 annually, it said.

Arguing that petitioners from India (64 per cent) and China (7.6 per cent) continue to be the largest users of the H-1B programme, the White House said the Senate bill would increase the number of available H-1B visas by raising the baseline cap from 65,000 visas to 115,000 visas per year.

"Improvements to the H-1B programme would allow spouses of H-1B visa holders to work in the US and increase worker mobility by establishing a 60-day transition period for H-1B workers to change jobs," it added.

The White House said the bill would increase the number of employment based visas and eliminate restrictions on the number of immigrants from populous nations like India and China.

"In fiscal year 2012, more than 91,000 individuals born in Asia obtained green cards through employment-based immigrant visa petitions," it said.

But immigrants from India and China can wait 10 years or longer for some employment-based immigrant visas. Close to 93,000 individuals waiting in the employment-based immigrant backlog as of November 1, 2012, are from Asian countries, it said.

"The Senate bill would eliminate the existing backlogs for employment-based green cards, exempts certain employment- based categories from the annual cap, and remove annual country limitations altogether," the White House said.

In 2009, Indian immigrants represented 56 per cent of all Masters students seeking degrees in computer science and engineering, and China and India sent nearly half of all foreign nationals pursuing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) doctorates.

Almost half of Asian immigrant adults have a bachelor's degree or higher.

The bill, the White House said, would exempt STEM PhD and Master's graduates from the annual cap of 140,000 visas.

This provision would effectively "staple" a green card to the diplomas of advanced STEM graduates from US universities.

"The Senate bill would also exempt certain physicians from the overall visa cap. In 2009, 58 per cent of all immigrant doctors, and 52 per cent of immigrant nurses were from Asian countries," it added.

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