AMA dalca

The American Medical Association has lent its support to a plan that would protect the Indian American children of physicians on H-1B visas. (representational image, Manjunath Kiran/AFP via Getty Images)

The American Medical Association has lent its support to a plan that would protect the Indian American children of physicians on H-1B visas.

Indian children of H-1B workers are allotted an H-4 visa, which allows them to remain in the U.S. while their H-1B parent is working. In the past, such children, along with their parents, received green cards and permanent status in the U.S. within six years.

But huge lags in the green card process — which limits the number of available employment-based visas to seven percent per country per year — have left thousands of Indian Americans stuck in green card limbo, which can last as long as 80 years.

Meanwhile, children holding H-4 visas — informally termed Deferred Action On Legal Childhood Arrival (DALCA) youth — age out of their status once they turn 18. They must then either return to India, or apply for an F-1 student visa, and pay international student fees at a far higher tuition than residents, even though they may have lived in the U.S. for most of their lives. Post-graduation, the children must find a way to port their student visa into a more permanent status to remain in the U.S.

About 200,000 DALCA children, primarily Indian Americans, are in danger of deportation once they turn 18. Indian American physicians represent a small minority of the overall number of H-1B holders, but in some states, as many as one out of every 25 physicians hold an H-1B visa, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association.

North Dakota had the highest approved percentage of H1-B physicians, followed by Rhode Island, Michigan, Delaware, and Arkansas. Overall, one percent of physicians in the U.S. have H-1B visas.

The AMA worked with the Republican Hindu Coalition’s executive member, physician Deepak Kumar, to adopt DALCA provisions within its goals. The AMA’s platform proposes protecting only the children of Indian American physicians. According to a press statement by the RHC, the AMA has committed to working with members of Congress to create legislation that would clear the backlog for conversion from H1-B visas for physicians to permanent resident status, and also allow H-4 youth aging out of the system to remain in the U.S. legally while their parents’ green card applications are pending.

“Just like DACA Dreamers, the United States is the only country these children have ever known,” said the RHC, chaired by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, in a press statement.

“Supporting permanent legal status for these people to remain in the U.S. could help reduce the impact of expected doctor shortages and help support physicians with H-1B visas,” said the AMA Board of Trustees report whose recommendations were adopted at the 2019 AMA interim meeting in San Diego, Calif., which was held Nov. 14-16.

The RHC said it has been actively working with members of the House and Senate to get protections accorded to all H-4 youth.

(See earlier India-West story here: https://bit.ly/2DCuPFa)

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