US temporarily freezes EB-1 citizenship visa for China and India as applicants hit the limit

A sought-after visa that offers a speedy path to US citizenship is temporarily closed to Chinese and Indian nationals. The US State Department announced it would stop processing EB-1 applications from Indian and Chinese nationals until later in October.

Immigration lawyers explained that the EB-1 visa is available to three categories of candidates: people with extraordinary abilities in arts, science and business; researchers and professors; and multinational business executives and managers.

EB-1 visas are typically limited to 40,135 for this fiscal year, and no more than 7 percent can go to immigrants from any one country. Currently, we have a problem because there are too many Indian and Chinese trying to get their hands on the EB-1, exhausting the limit. The last time this happened was back in 2007.

 US temporarily freezes EB-1 citizenship visa for China and India as applicants hit the limit

Representational image. Reuters

“Why do we continue to artificially limit this program?" asked immigration lawyer David Parker. "It defies logic that we are turning away extraordinary and outstanding artists, scientists and business people from India and China," he added.

The EB-1 visa typically results in a green card in less than a year — one of the quickest pathways to receive one. And unlike many visas, some kinds of EB-1 visas don't require applicants to be sponsored by employers. This is a godsend as it gives talented artists and brilliant scientists frustrated with the more traditional path to US citizenship, like the H-1B visa, a speedy alternative.

The H-1B is one of the most heavily used visas by Indian techies and professionals. Demand far exceeds the annual allotment. The H-1B requires workers to be sponsored by an employer and leaves applicants at the whim of lotteries. This year demand for H-1B visas surpassed the entire year's allocation within five days and the US government ultimately awarded H-1Bs through a computer generated random lottery.

"A lot of people saw the EB-1 as the light at the end of the tunnel," Shah Peerally, who heads up an immigration law firm in Newark, California, told CNN.

Indian violinist Anita Krishnan who has played with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra said she was deeply disappointed as she was seeking out the EB-1 visa for "extraordinary ability".

"It is difficult for a musician to find a conventional employer to sponsor a H-1B visa so I was banking on the EB-1 to work in America," said Anita Krishnan.

"I came here as a student and need to work to pay back my college loans," she added. "This is a setback."

The limit resets when the government's fiscal year begins on 1 October. But Krishnan says she fears applicants from China and India will hit the ceiling again.

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Updated Date: Aug 22, 2016 09:15:36 IST