President Trump’s Build America visa card proposal may soon replace the Green Card. If his proposal is accepted, it is going to mean some changes in how applicants are granted permanent residentship.
It’s still early days to tell just how it will affect you if you’re thinking of applying for lifetime permission to work and live in the US. But here’s the lowdown on what you can expect, especially if you’re a student in the US and want to continue working there after completing your studies.
Current Employment Options for Students on an F1 Visa
So far, students on an F1 visa are not allowed to engage in business in the US. There is no immigration law that prevents you from establishing your own business since business planning is not considered engagement. But once the business is established, you can’t operate your business, receive revenues or be paid a salary. You can invest in your own company and be paid dividends as long as you file an income tax return. You can only engage in business after you’ve obtained an additional visa, such as a work visa or a Green Card.
Note that the OPT (Optional Practical Training) does let you work temporarily in the US as long as your job is related directly to your major area of study. Your OPT authorization can extend up to a total of 12 months before your program and/or after your program is complete.
Current Hurdles for the Green Card Applicant
There are a few problems with the current Green Card rules that make it difficult for talented people to obtain the residentship they want in the US. One of these is the country quota for the application of Legal Permanent Residentship (LPR), which stands at seven per cent per country.
The Green Card is attractive because it offers advantages over the non-immigrant H1B work visa on which many international professionals go to the US. The H1B visa, however, doesn’t allow the individual to run their own business and it doesn’t allow their spouses to work in the US. As a result, many students and professionals in the US apply for the EB5 investor visa, which has a long wait of between 5 to over 10 years.
But in order to apply for an EB5 visa, the fastest route to a Green Card as of now, the individual needs to invest about five hundred thousand USD in certain sectors in the US and create ten full-time jobs.
Further, according to the US government, the allotment of 66 per cent of Green Cards so far has also been on the basis of random selection. Most of these immigrants are allowed in because they have relatives living in the US. 21 per cent are randomly allowed in on the basis of lottery or on humanitarian grounds. Reportedly, only 12 per cent of legal immigrants is selected on the basis of skill.
The Build America Visa in a Nutshell
The new proposed visa will replace the old immigration system with a merit-based system that is similar to the one that exists in Canada, Australia and other modern countries. The points-based selection systems in these countries make it easier for governments to narrow down skilled, English-speaking individuals who will add value to the community. It will apply to students and professionals already living in the US, as well as those who are applying from overseas.
On the face of it, this can only mean good things for the student and young professional who are top scorers and good at their job. President Trump’s goal is to change the existing rules that often force skilled young people to leave the US and return to their home countries against their will, for lack of relatives to sponsor them. If the proposals are turned into law, then the category of visas for extended family members like siblings and parents will see a drastic drop.
Changes Proposed in the Build America Visa
The Build America Visa will be designed to prevent skill and brilliance from trickling out of the country. It proposes to raise the proportion of highly skilled immigrants from 12 per cent to 57 per cent and higher, if possible.
President Trump has also promised that the spouses and children of applicants will be put on the top priority list for individuals who are granted the Build America visa. There are going to be no changes in the total number of Green Cards allotted each year – a total of 10,000. But the criteria for admission will be made more universal and simpler.
Who is More Likely to Get a Build America Visa?
There are a few profiles of applicants that are more likely to be granted legal immigrant status in the US according to the proposed rules.
- Students who want to become entrepreneurs after their studies are over, or entrepreneurs who want to relocate to the US. In the past, many highly successful entrepreneurs who originally wanted to start up companies in the US were forced to leave the country and start up elsewhere because of the visa rules.
- If you are a high-wage earner, you are more likely to be granted a Build America visa. The government does not want low wage workers to enter the country and compete with American labour. In this way, benefits for American citizens will be protected.
- The applicants will also be required to learn English. They will need to pass a civics examination before they can be admitted.
The proposal for the Build America visa has not been unanimously accepted. It has attracted criticism from the opposition government in the US. There is a lot more refinement that is needed before such a plan can become law.
However, in the meantime, if you are studying in the US or plan to do so in the future and then wish to permanently live and work there, be prepared for some tough competition. The point-based system may feel once again like the toughest examination you remember appearing for.