Even as the demand for US H-1B visas goes up, applications for “green cards” have been coming down, at least from Indian tech workers. This prompted two US senators to accuse Indian IT companies of misusing H-1B visas to cut costs by rotating their workers. But immigration experts say there are other reasons for as many as 60,000 H-1B visa holders returning to India last year alone: the difficulty of getting a green card coupled with the booming economy back home.

“The charm of the American green card is on the wane,” says E Balaji, chief operating officer of Mafoi Management Consultants in Chennai. Indians are looking forward to return to India for equally good or even better prospects, says Dolphy Abraham of Bangalore, a green card holder in Los Angeles who is a professor of computer sciences at Loyola Marymount University.

More than half of H-1B visas are cornered by Indians, mostly from Bangalore and Hyderabad. An H-1B is valid for three years, extendable by three more years. During that time, the H-1B holder can apply for a green card, which allows a person to stay permanently in the US without being a citizen. That is why, although the H-1B is called a “non-immigration” visa, it is said to have a “dual intent” of immigration.
But Professor Ron Hira of the Rochester Institute of Technology has pointed out that Wipro, for instance, has applied for green cards for only 69 out of 19,450 H-1B holders, negating the H-1B programme’s design as “a gateway to immigration for the best and the brightest”. This formed the basis for the US senators’ queries to Indian companies. The thrust of the proposed new immigration law in the US is also towards retaining the ‘brightest’ people in that country since that is in the interest of its economy, says Mumbai-based immigration expert Arun Vakil.
At the same time, the demand for more and more H-1Bs will continue because not enough Americans are both equipped and inclined for the coding job, says Lakshmikanth Reddy, earlier an H-1B holder and now a green card holder who founded Megha Technologies, a software development company in New York.

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