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Indian Visa-holders while Waiting for Green Cards See Hope in Donald Trump Review

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US President Donald Trump, VOA
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When Gokul Gunasekaran was offered a full scholarship for a graduate program in electrical engineering at Stanford University, he saw it as the chance of a lifetime.

He had grown up in Chennai, India, and had a solid job offer with a large oil company after getting his undergraduate degree.

He came to America instead, got the Stanford degree and now works as engineer at a data science startup in Silicon Valley.

But for the past five years, he has been waiting for a green card that would give him full legal rights as a permanent resident. In the meantime, he is in a holding pattern on an H1-B visa, which permits him to live and work in the United States but does not allow him easily to switch jobs or start his own company.

“It was a no-brainer when I came to this country, but now I’m kind of regretting taking that scholarship,” said Gunasekaran, 29, who is also vice president with a nonprofit group called Immigration Voice that represents immigrants waiting for green cards.

Many from India

Immigration Voice estimates there are 1.5 million H1-B visa holders in the country waiting for green cards, many of whom are from India and have been waiting for more than a decade.

Many of these immigrants welcomed President Donald Trump’s executive order this week to the federal departments overseeing the program to review it, a move that may lead to H1-B visas being awarded to the highest-paying, highest-skilled jobs rather than through a random lottery.

Their hope is that merit-based H1-Bs might then lead to merit-based green cards.

“I think less random is great,” said Guru Hariharan, the CEO and founder of Boomerang Commerce, an e-commerce startup.

Hariharan, who was previously an executive at Amazon.com and eBay, spent 10 years waiting for his green card and started his own company as soon as he got it.

Green cards can be a path to naturalization, and Hariharan expects to become a U.S. citizen soon.

H1-B visas are aimed at foreign nationals in occupations that generally require specialized knowledge, such as science, engineering or computer programming. The U.S. government uses a lottery to award 65,000 such visas yearly and randomly distributes another 20,000 to graduate student workers.

The H1-B and the green-card system are technically separate, but many immigrants from India see them as intimately connected.

Cap on green cards

The number of green cards that can go to people born in each country is capped at a few percent of the total, without regard to how large or small the country’s population is. There is a big backlog of Indian-born people in the line, given the size of India’s population — 1.3 billion — and the number of its natives in the United States waiting for green cards.

That leaves many of those immigrants stuck on H1-B visas while they wait, which they say makes them almost like “indentured servants,” said Gaurav Mehta, an H1-B holder who works in the financial industry.

Mehta has a U.S.-born son, but he could be forced to take his family back to India at any time if he loses his job and cannot find another quickly.

“He’s never been to my country,” Mehta said of his son. “But we’ll have no choice if we have to go. Nobody likes to live in constant fear.”

The H1-B visa is tied to a specific employer, who must apply for the visa and sponsor the employee for a specific job laid out in the visa application. To switch employers, the visa holder must secure paperwork from his current employer and find another employer willing to take over the visa.

Some H1-B holders suspect that employers purposely seek out Indian immigrants because they know they will end up waiting for green cards and will be afraid to leave their employers.

But changing the green-card system away from country caps to a merit-based system would require an act of Congress. Some executives also worry that allocating H1-Bs and green cards based on salary — while it would be done to counter the argument that immigrants undercut American workers — would hurt startups that cannot afford high wages.

Practical steps

In the meantime, H1-B holders like Nitin Pachisia, founding partner of a venture capital firm called Unshackled Ventures, are taking more practical measures. His firm specializes in taking care of the legal paperwork so that H1-B holders can start their own companies, a process that is possible but tricky.

Pachisia is hopeful that changes to the H1-B visa program could revive interest in making the entire system, from H1-B visas to green cards and eventual citizenship, more merit-based and focused on immigrants who are likely to start companies and create jobs.

“If the purpose of our high-skilled immigration program is to bring in the most talented people, let’s use that as a lens. From that perspective, it’s a good thing we can focus on the most talented, and I’d say most entrepreneurial, people,” he said. (VOA)

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Deadpool Actor Karan Feels the Present Time Best to Work in the US

Karan feels things would have been different if "The Simpsons" was made in recent times.

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Deadpool 2 is going to be released this month. Pixabay

Karan Soni finds the Apu controversy “cool”. The “Deadpool” actor of Indian origin says it is a great time for people of colour in Hollywood, but he cannot say the same for the entire US, especially under Donald Trump’s presidency.

“I think it is a great time (to be people of colour) in the entertainment industry. In America in general because of Trump, I don’t know. I am very lucky to live in Los Angeles, which is a diverse place where it is great to be different,” Karan told IANS in an interview over phone from Los Angeles.

“In America in general…I know there are a lot of parts where may be it is not that great to be brown or black. So, it is good specifically in Hollywood and in general it depends where you are in America and based on who voted for whom,” he added.

Karan, who got noticed as Deadpool’s Indian cab driver Dopinder in the first part, feels the Apu controversy — which emerged as Hank Azaria voiced Apu, a character from “The Simpsons” — will initiate a positive change. Apu had to grapple with the troubling stereotype of a convenience store clerk with an exaggerated, fake Indian accent since the show’s inception.

“The controversy over the character is completely justified simply because in 2018 it is weird to have a white actor doing an Indian accent on a TV show. There are so many Indian actors who can do that part and do it better.”

He doesn’t blame the makers of the series.

“It has been on for 20-plus season. Back then I don’t know if they tried to look for Indian actors for that part or they didn’t even try.

“In a weird way, I think it is a positive controversy because people don’t want a white actor doing an Indian accent or playing an Indian character in 2018. People are upset because they want to see actors from that ethnicity to play that part instead of giving it to someone who is not.”

Karan feels things would have been different if “The Simpsons” was made in recent times.

“If the show was made this year and there was an Indian or Asian character, they would not give it to a white actor. It is cool that the controversy happened.”

Nevertheless, he is proud that the “Deadpool” makers understood the importance of having a diverse cast.

The film tells the story of an adult superhero with a twisted sense of humour. Karan’s Dopinder took relationship advice from Deadpool. His role was short, but it didn’t go unnoticed.

Based on Marvel Comics’ most unconventional anti-hero, “Deadpool” is the original story of a former Special Forces operative who turns into a mercenary and is now out to seek revenge against the man who nearly destroyed his life.

The Ryan Reynolds-starrer, brought to India by Fox Star India, released on Friday.

The "Deadpool" actor of Indian origin says it is a great time for people of colour in Hollywood, but he cannot say the same for the entire US, especially under Donald Trump's presidency.
Karan Soni has acted in Deadpool 2. Pixabay

“The makers always wanted the movie to be diverse because ‘Deadpool’ movie takes place in X-Men universe. The mutants are kind of outcast, the minorities as compared to human race. They recognised it well that the cast needs to be diverse.”

In the second part, Dopinder is doing more than just driving Deadpool around. He has joined his army and is seen doing some action too.

There was a Bollywood twist in “Deadpool” in 2016 with songs like “Mera joota hai Japani” featuring in the opening credit, and “Tumse achha kaun hai” also finding a place in the narrative. But Karan says there are “fewer Indian references” in the second chapter.

After expressing his view on increasing diversity in the West, Karan, born and brought up in Delhi, hopes to see an Indian superhero crossing boundaries and entering Hollywood “in his lifetime”.

“If we look at ‘Black Panther’, it did so well. There were a bunch of supporting black characters in the movies for years and then it took a long time, but finally they did make that.

Lust Stories on Netflix: Lust Stories Makers Happy With Empowered Platform Like Netflix

“I am just happy to be part of the initial steps. I hope in my lifetime we will get to see an Indian superhero for sure,” said Karan, who studied at the University of South California, and soon found a way into showbiz.

He has featured in projects like “Safety Not Guaranteed”, “The Neighbors”, “Goosebumps” and “Ghostbusters”. What’s next?

“From being in ‘Deadpool’ to then going to be an Angel with ‘Harry Potter’ star Daniel Radcliffe in ‘Miracle Workers’ to then getting stuck in a cage with Sharon Stone in ‘Corporate Animals’ — there are different kinds of things.” (BollywoodCountry)