Despite its H-1B visa restrictions, it seems the US is trying to attract the best brains from India.
According to a report in The Times of India today, as many as 35,472 Indians got green cards in 2012. The number is massive when compared to a mere 6,000 who received green cards in 2011.
A green card allows a person to live and work anywhere in America, and is a path to citizenship. In contrast, an H-1B visa-holder is beholden to the employer who hired him or her, and can be deported unless the holder can find another H-1B sponsor.
Earlier this year, US President Barack Obama had come out with his much-awaited comprehensive immigration reforms that, among other things, will pave way for legalisation of more than 11 million undocumented immigrants.
One of the key proposals of his "comprehensive" reform plan included "stapling" a green card to the diplomas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), PhD and Masters Degree graduates from qualified US universities who have found employment in the country.
The TOI report notes that most Indians who got green cards in 2012 came from the EB-2 category, which includes professionals with advanced degrees in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).
In a major policy speech on comprehensive immigration in Las Vegas in January, Obama urged the Congress to act on his proposals. "It (immigration) keeps our workforce young, it keeps our country on the cutting edge, and it's helped build the greatest economic engine the world has ever known. After all, immigrants helped start businesses like Google and Yahoo. They created entire new industries that in turn created new jobs and new prosperity for our citizens," Obama said.
The President also proposed to create a start-up visa for job-creating entrepreneurs.
Furthermore, it authorises employment for dependent spouses of H-1B visa holders, thus meeting a long-pending demand.
It also proposes to increase portability of high skilled foreign workers by removing impediments and costs of changing employers, establishing a clear transition period for foreign workers as they change jobs, and restoring visa revalidation for E, H, L, O, and P non-immigrant visa categories.
Individuals from India, the source of most tech industry immigrants to the US, often have to wait up to 10 years for a green card due to the per-country cap.
The rule makes it easier to obtain a green card for applicants from smaller countries that don't generate a significant amount of applications, but makes it tougher for workers from big countries that provide most of the foreign tech workers sought by companies.
If the legislation is passed by the Congress and signed into law by the US President, it will enable the recapture of Green Card numbers that were approved by Congress in previous years but were not used. And in 2013, there may be more green card recipients from India.