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Green is the Indian Professional's new favorite color and no, we're not talking about cold, hard cash we're talking about the infamous, ever-elusive US Green Card-the ticket to American Citizenship.

Unfortunately it looks like the Indian Professional has a long wait ahead of him before he can enjoy his new red-white-and-blue status..we did mention elusive , didn't we?

According to the National Science Foundation, almost half of the Ph.D. engineers and scientists in the United States are foreign born and Indians make up a significant portion of these skilled immigrants. However, with the competition for the Green Card so intense, it is rather obvious that the per-country cap of 25,600 on Green Cards will not suffice the demand. In fact, these limitations have created a backlog of nearly 71,000 applications, mostly for Indian and Chinese nationals.

Besides the Card, applications for H-1B, or skilled temporary employment visas for the 2007 fiscal year vanished before the beginning of the year itself. Though the visa is valid for six years, those reapplying face restrictions on changing jobs and applying for research funding. The applicants also have to pay a premium on mortgages and, to add to this, their spouses are not allowed to work.

In the face of such restrictions in a country which has become a technology leader partly because of its immigrant population, an increasing number of skilled immigrants are looking to different parts of Europe in search of work and readily available citizenship. Countries like the UK and Canada have eased their immigration rules in a bid to tempt these same workers to their shores. All of this could spell trouble for the US. Analysts have questioned whether the US will be able to maintain its technological and commercial edge in the possibility of such developments.

Increasing terrorist concerns and outdated government procedures have caused enormous paperwork backlogs.

Usually in applying for permanent residence, three departments have to clear three different forms, two of these departments being the Labor Department and the US Citizenship and Immigration Services. While the former has a backlog of 235,000 cases the latter still has 180,000 cases pending.

Finally, after these forms have been processed, the third body i.e. the State Department predicts a wait of a further 1 to 5 years for even the most highly trained immigrants.

Backlogs have been the curse of the departments. In 2005, the Labor Department had a reported backlog of 325,000 cases due to 'an out-dated, paper based' system that it inherited 'from the previous administration'. By 2003, the immigration services had a backlog of 809,000 Green Card cases as a result of the FBI checks run on all would be immigrants in the wake of 9/11.

While the US Congress debates over low skilled immigrant workers and as US students struggle with math and science, the highly skilled immigrants are ignored. Though the US industry is ready to have them, the government caps the number of visas far below actual demand. The recovery of the US economy has brought with it the demand for visas for skilled worker like scientists and engineers but the number has been capped at 140,000 annually for all employment based categories.

The 71,000 case backlog is mostly among Indian and Chinese nationals who have already been cleared by the departments of Labor and Homeland Security, but exceed the 7% limit. The state departments estimate that a first priority worker from India or China will wait another year to get in front of the line. Second priority workers from India like physicians, professors and Ph.D engineers will have to wait another three years.

Interesting to Know :
US green cards are actually pink in color. They used to be green many years ago.


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