INDIA ABROAD January 20, 2017 24 COVER STORY
ore than 100 mem-
bers of the
nity attended an
open house last month designed
to explain, troubleshoot and
help resolve visa concerns, par-
ticularly those involving travel
The open house, organized by
the National Council of Asian
Indian Associations (NCAIA) in
conjunction with the Indian
Embassy, featured several senior
consular officers and was held on
Feb. 25 at the Center for Social
Change in Elkridge, a Baltimore
Informational sessions, moderated by NCAIA vice chairman
Ashok Batra, Dr. Surinder Singh
Gill and Shammi Singh ran several hours as embassy officials handled questions on various visa-related issues.
Many Indian-Americans often
complain of difficulty obtaining
visas to visit India or renewing
their passports or other travel-
related documents. Indian
embassy officials say these chal-
lenges are usually the result of
people not knowing Indian gov-
ernment rules or what docu-
ments are needed for a travel
Arun Sinha, the embassy’s
minister for consular affairs, dis-
cussed basic requirements for
obtaining travel documents and
clarified how misunderstandings
can be avoided if applicants do
basic planning, collect all docu-
ments and submit them with
Officials also explained what
they described as the “excellent
embassy system for responding
quickly to the needs of community members in emergency situations.” They said the service,
which was available around the
clock, would respond quickly to
queries and they provided attendees with contact emails and
Embassy officials provided
some on-the-spot resolutions to
a few attendees’ problems and
representatives from Cox & Kings
Global Services, which manages
the embassy website, said they
have made special efforts to
make the site more user-friendly
and the application process simpler.
NCAIA coordinator Kaleem
Kawaja and chairman Dr. Suresh
K Gupta, said they were pleased
the event had helped build good
rapport between the community
and embassy officials. Sinha and
N. K. Mishra said the embassy’s
participation was part of its community outreach initiative.
Untangling Travel Troubles
Open house with Indian Embassy helps smooth visa issues
Trump's Merit-based Immigration Proposal Could Benefit Indians
resident Donald Trump's
proposal for a merit-based
immigration system has
the potential to benefit Indians,
a large number of whom have
high levels of education and
But this will ultimately
depend on the finer details of
how the proposal is finally
In his State of the Union
Address to a joint session of
Congress on Feb. 28, Trump said
the U.S. should give out green
cards using a merit-based system
similar to those of Canada and
Australia in place of its current
"Nations around the world,
like Canada, Australia and many
others — have a merit-based
immigration system," he said.
"It is a basic principle that
those seeking to enter a country
ought to be able to support
By not following such a system, he said the U.S. was
"straining the very public
resources that our poorest citizens rely upon.
"Switching away from this
current system of lower-skilled
immigration, and instead adopt-
ing a merit-based system, will
have many benefits: it will save
countless dollars, raise workers'
wages, and help struggling fam-
ilies — including immigrant
families — enter the middle
class," he said.
Trump did not make any mention of those working in the U.S.
on temporary professional work
visas known as H-1B.
In earlier speeches, he had
said that he would root out abuses in that visa category and
restrict them if they were to
throw Americans out of work.
Those who qualify for H1-B
visas under more stringent conditions either imposed by the
Trump Administration or by a
bill introduced jointly by a
Republican and a Democratic in
Congress would likely have a leg
up in the merit system.
Any drastic reform of the
immigration process will be a
difficult undertaking for Trump.
Trump did not spell out how
the merit-based system would
On the face of it, Indians
would make a good fit for a
merit-based system going by the
community's current profile.
According to a report by the
Pew Research Center, 70 percent
of Indians in the U.S. are college
The U.S. Census Bureau
reported that in 2013, the median household income for Indian
families was over $100,000.
But there are other factors
such as whether the current
national quotas or limits on peo-
ple from any country who could
be admitted in a year are
retained could ultimately deter-
mine how it plays out for
The proposal will have to clear
First of all, it will run into
opposition mainly from the
Democratic Party which would
argue that it would not help the
poor and the unskilled immigrate to the US and discriminate
against immigrants from Latin
American countries whom the
party counts as a key part of its
A way out for Trump might be
to barter the merit-based reform
for allowing some illegal immigrants to stay on in the country.
In Canada, applicants for
immigration are given points for
different qualifications like education, skill levels, employability, language and family ties.
They would have to meet a
minimum score to be allowed to
Currently, the U.S. immigration system restricts the number
of people who can immigrate
from each country to seven percent of the total number allowed
in except for immediate relatives
This has led to several years'
wait for Indians to get their
green cards. There is also an
annual limit of 140,000 on
employment-based green cards.
Because of the limits, most
professionals from India have to
wait as long as 12 years for a
green card and those with
"exceptional qualifications" nine
years, according to the State
Department visa availability data
A merit-based system has the
potential to cut down the wait.
How the reform would ulti-
mately affect Indians could
depend on how country limits
and the cap on the number of
employment visas are retained
or handled and also on the reten-
tion of the immigration privi-
leges for brothers and sisters of
citizens and their families.
The reform may also affect
the ability of brothers and sisters
and elderly parents of citizens to
immigrate if they are subjected
to a points system.
"I believe that real and positive immigration reform is possible as long as we focus on the
following goals: to improve jobs
and wages for Americans, to
strengthen our nation's security,
and to restore respect for our
laws," Trump said.
He appealed to the Democrats
for bipartisan support for immigration reform.
"If we are guided by the well-being of American citizens, then
I believe Republicans and
Democrats can work together to
achieve an outcome that has
eluded our country for decades,"
N.K. Mishra, minister, community affairs in the Embassy of India, addresses the audience.