US Immigration : Conference on Gujarati Diaspora

Role of USA Immigration laws

A talk by Sudhir Shah, advocate, at the second conference in the series of Global Gujarat and its diaspora at the plenary session in Patan

Respected chairperson, hon. ministers, secretaries of state, my co-speakers, professors and friends:

The past two days I have been listening to distinguished speakers providing information about their in-depth studies and analysis as to “How Gujarat diaspora could be better connected with Gujarat”.

They have explained us the importance of science and technology, healthcare and pharmacy, tourism and hospitality, social sciences and media, organisations and networking.

The chairpersons and speakers of the plenary sessions have enriched us with their thoughts. They all have unanimously agreed that Gujarat would become more vibrant with the Gujarati diaspora taking more and more interest in Gujarat’s development.

Under American laws, a US employer cannot receive any amount from a foreign ­employee to file an H-1B petition for his benefit. Due to the ignorance of such provisions of US law, visa consultants and placement agencies demand from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 10 lakh for filing H-1B petitions

All the learned speakers have given their views as to how reconnecting the Gujarati diaspora with its homeland would contribute to Gujarat’s development. Everyone is unanimous that by building a knowledge society the object of reconnecting the Gujarati diaspora with its homeland would be achieved.

I must agree with the suggestions made by learned speakers who are imminent in their respective fields. They have provided several valuable suggestions. By adopting them, we certainly would attract the Gujarati diaspora in playing increasing role in the progress and prosperity of Gujarat.
As far as I am concerned, I am an advocate. My main area of practice is advising Indians and particularly Gujaratis on US immigration laws.

I try to fulfill Gujarati’s American dreams.

Currently I am engaged in research work on the subject “Effect of US Immigration Laws on the Migratory Trends of Indians”.

I therefore know what is the role of US immigration laws in the development of Gujarat. I know how information concerning US immigration laws would benefit Gujarat.

You all will agree that it is only when Gujaratis can travel to America or do business with America that they can acquire the riches of that country. And then only they can give back the same to their homeland.

To travel to America for a temporary duration as a businessman, or to study there, or to work there, or to establish a branch of their existing business in Gujarat or simply to migrate to America, it is necessary to know what type of visas are needed and what are the requirements to receive that type of visa. Knowledge of American immigration laws would greatly facilitate Gujaratis travelling to America for whatever object they want to travel.

Indian businessmen have an impression that if they want to do business in America they can only do it if they invest $1 million i.e. Rs 5 crore in a business in America. They are not aware that under the US immigration laws, a special category of visa exists which is known as intra-company transferee L-1 visa. They are not aware that if an Indian business entity, be it a sole proprietary firm or a partnership firm or a private or public limited company or a cooperative society or a trust; if that business entity opens a branch in the US or enters into partnership or joint venture with a US company or establishes its wholly owned subsidiary in the US then that US business entity can sponsor a person working with the Indian business entity as a manager, executive or person with specialised knowledge for one year during the last three years, to work in the US as an intra-company transferee.

Indian businessmen are not aware that it is not necessary to invest $1 million in such US companies. They are not aware that there is no minimum requirement of compulsorily investing any particular amount in a US business. 

They are not aware that these managers are not required to be graduates.
They are not aware that these managers are not required to know the English language.
They are not aware that these managers need not be paid salaries at the prevailing market rate.
They are also not aware that these managers’ salary can also be paid in Indian rupees.
They are also not aware that these managers can be sponsored for Green Card.

If Indian businessmen are made aware about these facilities available under US immigration laws, they would certainly think of doing business in America. 

The Immigration and Nationality Act 1952 of America has provisions whereby it is possible for Indians to travel to America and do business there. This can be done in two ways:

One is to invest $1 million in a business in America for a minimum period of 5 years and provide employment to 10 US workers in that business for 5 years. If the business is to be carried on in a designated backward area the investment is reduced to half a million. But who would like to go and do business in a backward and remote place?

The second option available to an Indian to do a business in America is to establish a branch or subsidiary of its existing Indian business or enter into partnership or have a joint venture with an American business house. In doing so, there is no requirement to invest a minimum capital into that business of America.

The highest numbers of such intra-company transferee L-1 visas were issued by the American embassy in Delhi and three consulates in Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata together to Indian companies. Almost 45,000 L-1 visas were issued to Indian companies last year. But unfortunately the recipients of these visas were a few multinational companies like Infosys, Wipro, Tata and Satyam. Small and middle businessmen did not avail of these visas since they were not at all aware of this category of visa whereby even a small businessman employing five-10 people and having a turnover of Rs 2 crore to Rs 5 crore can travel to the US and do business there. 

Likewise, there are many other provisions of the US immigration laws of which Gujaratis are not aware of. There are visas on which unskilled Gujaratis can legally travel to the US and work there. There are visas for agriculturists and farmers. There are visas for priests. We all believe that H-1B visas are meant for computer professionals only. The truth is that H-1B visas are specialty occupation work visa. They can be obtained by professors like you all sitting here, teachers, advocates like me, doctors, nurses, chartered accountants, architects, engineers, even librarians. If the US job is such that it needs a degree holder to carry out that job, then the US employer can under the US immigration laws without obtaining Labor Department permission invite a foreigner to work on an H-1B visa.

We Gujaratis, although we are aware about H-1B visas, do not know as to for whom this types of visa is meant for. Young, knowledgeable Gujarati graduates desirous of working in America are duped by visa consultants and placement agents because they are not aware about the provisions of US laws concerning H-1B visas. They are not aware that under American laws, a US employer cannot receive any amount from a foreign ­employee to file an H-1B petition for his benefit. Due to the ignorance of such provisions of US law, visa consultants and placement agencies demand from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 10 lakh for filing H-1B petitions.

If Gujaratis would become aware of the provisions of these US immigration laws, visa consultants and placement agencies will not be able to cheat them and more and more deserving Gujaratis would travel to the US to work there. Gujaratis are not aware that if they have extraordinary abilities they can obtain a green card of the US to stay there permanently by filing a petition by themselves. My distinguished co-speakers and other speakers at this conference, if they so desire, they all can get, on their own, O-1 visas and thereafter receive a green card.

Learned Gujaratis are also not aware that on a J-1 visa, they can earn and learn in the US. They are also not aware that on an H-3 visa they can take training in the US and at the same time receive a stipend. There are visas of all types of alphabetical letters for different type of persons and different things to be done in America. Almost anyone who desires to travel to America has a visa category which would fit him. If all this is known to Gujaratis, they would be travelling to America. Here I am not suggesting that Gujaratis should leave Gujarat and migrate to America. But certainly if Gujaratis would travel to America, they would be in a position to enrich themselves. America is a land of plenty and opportunity. If Gujaratis would travel there they would receive the abundance of America and take advantage of the opportunities which it offers. This in turn would benefit Gujarat. 

Information therefore of US immigration laws is very much needed by Gujaratis. Knowledge of US immigration laws will make Gujaratis think of travelling to America and that will strengthen the connection of Gujarati Diaspora with Gujarat.

If information concerning how Indians and particularly Gujaratis can travel to USA is made available then thousands of Gujaratis who are anxious to travel to USA would do so and in turn would bring riches of America to India and Gujarat. 

As far as I am aware no Indian lawyer excepting myself is in the practice of providing professional legal guidance to Gujaratis on USA immigration laws.

There are few visa consultants doing this work but they themselves do not know the US immigration laws and instead of providing guidance they misguide. There are no books available on this subject. Websites which provide information on this subject do not provide complete guidance and information provided thereon is such that it confuses the reader.

I therefore suggest that if we desire to travel to America and other countries to better our prospects and to gain knowledge and riches of those countries the first and foremost step would be to provide authentic information on immigration laws of America and other countries to Gujaratis.

Knowledge is power. And if an answer is to be found to the question raised by this conference title “How Gujarati Diaspora could be better connected with Gujarat”, then the same is to provide them the information concerning US immigration laws. Give them the knowledge of US immigration laws.

March 2009

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