7% country cap on green cards likely to be removed; great benefit to Indians students and H1-B visa holders

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Following the US presidential elections, a major turnaround of events has taken place in favor of Indian students and immigrants with the new bill passed by the US Senate last Wednesday, December 2, 2020. The bill eliminates the 7% per country cap on the employment-based immigrant visa (EB-2 and EB -3 categories) green cards. The bill has proved to be a huge relief for Indian immigrants stuck in the green card backlog for years.

Every year, the US grants more than a million green cards for the following types:

  1. Family-sponsored Green cards: This type of Green Card is given only to immediate family, such as spouses, children, siblings, or parents of a US citizen or a US permanent resident.
  2. Employment sponsored Green cards: This Green Card is given to you if you have found a job in the US and your employer is going to pay for the forms and application procedure and sponsor your stay in the US.
  3. Returning resident Green Card: This Green Card is for those who previously had a Green Card but travelled outside of the US and did not come back for more than one year for unavoidable reasons.
  4. Diversity Visa Green Card: Every year the US holds a visa lottery for citizens of countries with low immigration rates to the US.

The employment sponsored green cards are further categorized into the following types:

  1. EB-1: Employment-based first preference, priority workers with a 40,040-annual cap.
  2. EB-2: Employment-based second preference, professionals with 40,040 workers with offers of employment in jobs requiring an advanced degree or higher.
  3. EB-3: Employment-based third preference, skilled workers: 40,040 workers with offers of employment in jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree and skilled workers with at least two years of experience.
  4. EB-4: Employment-based fourth preference, special immigrants: 9,940 religious’ workers, broadcasters, US government and military employees, and abandoned juveniles.
  5. EB-5: Employment-based fifth preference, investors: 9,940 foreign investors who made investments in a new commercial enterprise in the United States.

Out of these, the EB-2 and EB-3 visas apply to students pursuing masters and bachelor’s degrees in the US. Every year, as the number of applicants for green cards kept increasing, the backlogs also kept accumulating due to the 7% country cap.

As of November 2019, the backlog for EB-2 and EB-3 green card applications for India is a whopping 706,097 and only around 8000 green cards are being cleared annually because of the 7% country cap. Considering these figures, it might take 89 years to clear this backlog. As of December 2020, EB-2 applications up to 15th May 2011 and EB-3, applications up to 1st January 2014 have been cleared.

But there are chances that the clearance process for these backlogs will now accelerate if the 7% country cap is removed, and the number of green cards cleared annually will increase from only 8000 to 1,40,000, thereby benefiting H1-B visa holders and aspiring students.

However, even if the Senate has passed the bill, the chambers must reconcile their differences before the bill goes to the president. It is not yet clear whether President Trump would sign the bill into law, as the White House has previously expressed opposition to the concept of removing per-country caps and anti-immigration groups are publicly opposing the bill.

 

Impact of COVID-19 on American universities & admissions: An overview by SUNY Binghamton

IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON AMERICAN UNIVERSITIES & ADMISSIONS (1)

Last week, Dilip Oak’s Academy conducted a webinar on the current scenario in American universities, the impact of COVID-19 on admissions for Master’s degree, and funding opportunities in the USA. The webinar was presided over by Maggie Wolford, director of graduate admissions and recruitment, SUNY Binghamton. Here is an overview of her valuable insights into the scenario in America concerning several important pointers viz.:

  1. Location: Universities in the major cities like San Francisco, Chicago and New York have been more affected by the pandemic as compared to those in remote areas, like SUNY Binghamton, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, University of Oklahoma, Norman, etc.
  2. Financial impact: High class, Tier 1 research universities (those offering STEM courses) can sustain the effects of the pandemic, but liberal arts and other smaller universities have incurred significant losses.
  3. Factors for resuming in-person instruction: Universities will decide whether to start the in-person instruction soon or wait, depending upon the number of COVID cases in the area, cost of testing, and testing policies. (whether they have compulsory testing, voluntary testing, or symptomatic testing, and the budget for each)
  4. Spring semester schedule: The majority of the universities are quite likely to push their spring semester start dates. Usually, the spring semester commences in January, but universities might extend it to February. In that case, students will have extra time for project completion, but their holidays will be reduced.
  5. Impact on funding: Due to online instruction, positions for Teaching Assistantships are likely to reduce. Research Assistantships will also depend upon whether the university is funded by the government or by private agencies. Government funding has been reduced significantly for other fields, but a few like Supply Chain Management and Healthcare Management will still receive enough funding. Graduate Assistantships won’t be affected since university jobs like web page development, networking, etc. will continue.
  6. Impact on CPT and internships: CPT is activated only after completing two on-campus semesters. If you join in the spring semester, you cannot work on the CPT in summer. In that case, you can utilize the time for summer courses and graduate early, or take campus paid internships which don’t require CPT. For example, lab assistant jobs, office jobs, admin jobs, etc. You can also take up certification courses free of cost, which will add to your résumé.
  7. Impact on admissions: Presently, the examination system all over the world has been disturbed due to the pandemic. Many universities have waived the GRE requirement, and they are accepting unofficial transcripts as well. But the situation will remain uncertain for a few more months.

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Indian Students Are Joining American Universities in Increasing Numbers

US UnivData released by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement indicates a recent surge in the number of Indian students seeking to study in American universities. According their report, there has been a “31.9% increase in the number of Indian students studying in American universities since 2014”. This bucks a trend that goes back almost a decade:  from 2008-09 to 2013-14, the number of Indian students studying at American Universities was a fairly flat 1,00,000 annually. In 2014-15, this figure jumped by around 32% to 1,32,888.

This increase is part of a rise in the number of international students studying in the US. In 2015, that number was up by about 9%. However, a staggering 76% of these were from Asia. So, the fresh influx of students seems to be a largely Asian phenomenon fuelled perhaps, by the robustness of the pan-Asian economic scene.

In this overall picture, students from India accounted for about 13.6% (or 1,32,888) of the 9,74,926 international students who enrolled for undergraduate (Bachelor’s), graduate (Master’s) & doctoral (Ph. D.) programs in the US in 2014-15. A full 31.2% or 3,04,040 of these students were Chinese. One possible reason for this is that very large numbers of Chinese students have started enrolling for the undergraduate courses where the intake is larger while, the majority of Indian students join graduate courses which tend to offer more funding but have a smaller intake.

Another noteworthy trend is that Indian (and more broadly, Asian) students show a heavy preference for courses in the STEM fields – science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – especially, computer science. Currently, there are 10,54,045 international students on F and M visas in the US. Of these, 4,05,314 students are studying courses in STEM fields and of these in turn, 80% of them are from Asia. As many as 81% of all Indian students are studying STEM fields – this is the highest percentage for any country; and California, Texas and New York have emerged as popular destinations for students studying courses in the STEM category.

If these trends are any indicator, we should see a few more Satya Nadella’s and Sunder Pichai’s emerging in the coming years; If you are an engineer, a student from the field of computer science or one from the STEM category more broadly, this could be your opportunity to make it big in the United States. Even Donald Trump has said that, should he become President, he is willing to welcome bright young minds from India because he knows they contribute to America’s economy – and if Trump says so, the doors must definitely be open!