Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, visited the United States this week. His official tour generated expectation and also headlines.
A joint statement from the United States and India summarizes all the agreements and announcements made. However, in this blog post we will stay away from most political topics and focus only on immigration-related news derived from Modi’s visit.
Especifically, this blog post discusses in detail the projected opening of new U.S. consulates in India and the inauguration of a domestic visa renewal program.
The Role of India in U.S. Immigration Landscape
Understanding India’s pivotal role in the U.S. immigration scenario is essential before diving into the specific updates. As it stands today, India is second only to Mexico in terms of the number of immigrants it sends to the U.S., with nearly 3 million Indian nationals residing in the country. The significance of India’s contribution further becomes apparent when we look at the employment-based green card petitions and family-based green card categories, where India outpaces all other countries as observed by its larger backlogs (graph below from CATO institute). These figures underscore the deep importance of Indian nationals on U.S. immigration.
The Expansion of U.S. Consulates in India
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the U.S. served as the right moment to announce the establishment of two additional U.S. consulates in India. As it stands, Indian applicants have access to five consulates, including the Embassy in New Delhi, for their visa or green card applications.
The additional consulates, planned for Bengaluru in Karnakata and Ahmedabad in Gujarat, will be useful to mitigate the backlog issues faced by Indian applicants. It will also be great for petitioners who live in India but far from one of the existing five consulates. However, no detailes on the timeline for these two additional consulates were provided.
On the other side of things, India is planning to open a new consulate in Seattle, Washington, and two more consulates in locations mutually agreed upon the two countries.
Domestic Visa Renewal Program
The recent U.S. visit by Prime Minister Modi also re-emphasized the introduction of a domestic visa renewal program, initially announced in February. This program, with its pilot slated to start in 2023, will primarily facilitate the renewal of H and L visas for Indian and other international applicants. It’s crucial to remember that H visas cater to highly skilled professionals working in the U.S., while L visas ease the transfer of employees from overseas to U.S. firms. Importantly, these visas are non-immigrant and do not confer permanent residency, or green card status, to the beneficiaries.
Benefits from the upcoming domestic visa renewal program
The benefits offered by the domestic visa renewal program to eligible applicants include:
- Cost reduction: By permitting visas to be renewed within the U.S., this program eliminates the need for international travel, thus saving expenses.
- Time conservation: Avoiding international travel for visa renewal saves time, eliminates potential delays related to appointments and passport processing.
- Increased convenience: For Indian nationals living far from the consulates, this program eliminates the need for long-distance travel, accommodation arrangements, and related inconveniences.
- Streamlined process: The renewal process becomes more efficient, removing the need for applicants to visit a foreign country simply to continue their life and work in the US.
- Positive influence on U.S. businesses: U.S. employers also stand to benefit as the program minimizes uncertainties caused by employees stuck overseas during the visa renewal process and cuts down costs related to inefficiencies and travel.
While the specific details of the pilot program are pending announcement, I expect the U.S. State Department to release comprehensive guidelines regarding eligibility and implementation in the near future.
Contemplating Alternative Routes
While we await further details on the domestic visa renewal program, it is advisable for current holders of H or L visas to examine alternative options for long-term immigration plans. For Indian nationals, the EB1 (Employment-Based First Preference, Extraordinary Ability) green card represents a promising category, allowing individuals to self-petition and gain permanent residency without a job offer. If you want to read more about the requirements for EB-1A you can read this blog post.
If the EB1 category isn’t suitable, another path worth considering is the EB-2 NIW (National Interest Waiver) category, details of which can be found in my website eb2niw.info. While Indian nationals may face considerable backlogs in this category due to high demand, individuals from other countries may find this a viable route to permanent residency.
In conclusion, staying informed about the latest shifts in visas and immigration policies, even those not directly related to green cards, is crucial. Given the increasing number of Indian nationals interested in U.S. immigration, these updates carry substantial implications. Rest assured that we will keep an eye on the developments and provide timely updates.