Young people in the US under their parents’ H1-B temporary work visas call themselves Documented Dreamers. There are over 250,000 of them, but they feel invisible in the national conversation about immigration.
They are often seen as privileged, as most of their concerns are about higher education. They have to pay international student fees, can’t get internships or financial aid, and can’t get accepted to medical schools.
And some of them can’t even stay in the country.
Kartik Sivakumar lived half his life in Iowa but was sent back to India when the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) denied his change-of-status application.
He turned 21 before his father got a green card, so he was no longer a dependent. Changing an H1-B to a green card usually takes 6 years – but can last a lifetime.
Only 7% of people from one country can get an employment-based green card each year, a policy that is supposed to encourage diversity. However, it creates huge backlogs for some – as 82% of the backlog are Indian applications.
Created for high-skilled work, the H1-B visa is mostly used in Silicon Valley. Since 2009, 65% of the 1.7 million H-1B visas have gone to Indians, and they make up over 80% of employment extensions.
The America’s Children Act proposes to give permanent residency to college graduates who came to the US as H1-B dependents. But as immigration is a highly political issue, many think the bill will fail.
For now, documented dreamers need to get an F-1 student visa, then hope to get an H-1B visa, then hope to get a green card. It’s a lot of years of hoping.
Sivkumar was able to get an F-1 visa within 3 weeks, but he’s got a long, uncertain road ahead.