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For Immediate Release

National-Origin Quotas Unfairly Penalizing Visa Applicants From Most Populous Nations, Harming U.S. Economy

Indian and Chinese Immigrants Most Affected, Says First Immigration Ombudsman

Washington, D.C. February 2, 2010

The U.S. immigration system’s arbitrary quotas on employment-based visas may be harming the nation’s employers and economy by preventing visas from being issued to highly skilled workers from densely populated countries, according to a former Department of Homeland Security executive.

Prakash Khatri, the first person to serve as Immigration Ombudsman for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (2003-2008), says current immigration law unfairly limits to 2,800 the number of visas available to any single nationality group in each of three categories of skilled and highly skilled professional workers.

“Under this formula, the maximum number of visas allotted to nationals of China and India — each with a population of over one billion citizens — is the same as that for nationals from smaller states, such as Nauru with a population of 10,000 or even the Vatican, which has a population of only 800 citizens,” says Khatri. “This system is discriminatory and is preventing some of the world’s best and brightest talent from immigrating to the United States because of the population size of their country of origin. This is bad for U.S. employers and bad for the nation as a whole.”

Khatri says recently released data from USCIS and the U.S. Department of State indicate the extent of this problem, especially as it affects immigrants from India and China, may be far more serious than previously known. The data suggest that USCIS field offices may have many more pending cases than the agency has previously acknowledged. If true, the estimated number of years to process the employment-based visa applications for immigrants from India and China could rise dramatically. Currently, highly skilled immigrants from India – may have to wait as long as 35 years to get a green card.

“Our visa process should be based on an equal competition among all visa applicants. Such competition would ensures that the Department of State grants visas to the most talented individuals — those that this country needs most, rather than to those whose primary merit was coming from a less populous country,” said Khatri.

Khatri urged U.S. lawmakers to pass a repeat of legislation from 2000 that authorized unused visa allotments to be “recaptured” and added to the annual quota on employment-based visas.

“A one-time recapture of the 219,000 unused visa numbers could go a long way to eliminating this backlog and bringing much needed relief to many applicants who currently face the prospect of becoming residents of the United States long after they reach retirement age,” says Khatri. “It is time to remove this blemish from our immigration system.”

Contact: Prakash Khatri, Khatri Law Firm (202)470-0431 

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