EB-1 visas halted for Chinese, Indians
Visas designated for exceptional talent put on temporary hold by State Dept
The US State Department has temporarily halted EB-1 visa applications from Chinese and Indian nationals due to a “dramatic increase” in worldwide demand for the visas, which are granted to immigrants with extraordinary abilities or skills and want to live in the US.
A State Department spokesperson told China Daily in an email that it halted the application process to make sure it does not exceed the allotted annual limit, which is about 40,000 for the fiscal year running from October to October. No more than 7 percent of visas can go to applicants from any one country, which means 2,800 each for China and India.
“Not all countries’ nationals apply in sufficient numbers to meet these limits, leaving extra visas left over,” the spokesperson said. “To assure these visas are used, our experts make calculations based on current demand and open up the extra visas to nationals of countries, such as India and China, which have already met their per-country annual limit.”
“In recent years, China and India have benefitted from our making these extra visas available, but because of the increase in demand and the fact that nationals of these countries have already reached their percountry annual limits, we are required to temporarily stop issuing visas to Chinese and Indian nationals,” the spokesperson added.
The EB-1 visa is granted to applicants in three categories: those with extraordinary ability, outstanding professors and researchers, and multinational managers or executives who may be transferring from one branch of their company to another.
The temporary halt does not come with any immediate restrictions. Those who filed a petition for the visa can still get their employment and travel documents, but applicants cannot get to the next step of the process — the actual green card application — until the halt is reset in October, according to immigration lawyers.
Anyone with an approved petition is not allowed to apply for an adjustment of status or a visa until more become available in October.
“They’ll have the employment and travel document, and they’ll be able to work without being sponsored, so it gives them a lot of flexibility anyway. They do have to keep working in their field, but that’s the only limitation,” said Merrill Cohen, a New York-based immigration attorney.
“We’ve been doing EB-1 and national interest visas, but now we just have to advise people that they’re not going to get their green cards anytime soon, if they’re Chinese or Indian,” she said.
We have to advise people that they’re not going to get their green cards anytime soon.” Merrill Cohen, immigration attorney
Sophie Alcorn, a Mountain View, California-based immigration lawyer with a practice geared towards Silicon Valley’s immigration needs, said that for foreign national workers struggling to get a green card on the H-1B track, EB-1 is a second option to try and get it faster.
William Stock, a partner at Klasko Immigration Law Partners, said that like other visa categories, there is a constant backlog of EB-1 applications and there is precedent for the State Department’s action: the last time applications were halted was in 2007.
The EB-1 visa is not as highly politicized as the EB-5, which basically sells green cards to people wealthy enough to invest $500,000 to $1 million in the US and has faced a backlash in the Republican-led Congress. Immigration lawyers said the EB-1 helps bring workers of value to the US.
“Immigration is a sign of a nation’s health,” Stock said. “The more we close off people from coming to the United States, the more we’re going to hurt our own economy. I think it’s a great strength that we are open to immigration to people from all over the world. Clearly, these categories are designed for people who are making a contribution to American society.”
The current quotas came into effect with the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, which created a preference system based on immigrants’ skills and family relations, and though not politically motivated, changing the quotas will “certainly be based on politics,” said Alcorn.
“They’re completely racist and outdated and limited”, at this point, she added.