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Greg Siskind on Immigration Law and Policy

I'm Back!

Rating: 2 votes, 5.00 average.
My India journey has just ended and I'm speaking today in London at the Global Immigration Conference sponsored by the International Bar Association.

What to say about India after spending 12 days there? I visited Delhi, Chennai, Goa and Mumbai as part of a delegation from the American Immigration Lawyers Association. We visited the US consulates in Delhi, Chennai and Mumbai and got behind the scenes tours of each of these massive visa processing operations as well as had extensive meetings with the senior officials in each city.

I went in to the meetings somewhat jaded regarding what to expect from consular officials. After 23 years practicing immigration law, it's hard not to recall many instances where consular officers had a gatekeeper mentality. It was pretty refreshing to hear the message over and over again that the consulates view themselves as being in the "visa facilitation" business. And they had the hard data to prove it. Visitor and student visa approval rates have improved dramatically in India in the last few years and work visa approval rates are also very high. The consulates have been getting much more efficient as well with the typical wait at each consulate less than 45 minutes. I know this is true because we had the opportunity to see each consulate from "behind the window" and learn exactly how they've been using technology and outside vendors to be able to let consular officers focus on their core mission - reviewing the substance of the visa petition to determine an applicant's eligibility.

We also had the opportunity to "break bread" with the consular officials in each city. Having the opportunity to talk with these government officials over a meal really gave us an opportunity to better understand each other.

And, of course, having the chance to get to know India was really wonderful. What a country! The rapid pace of change in the country is apparent everywhere. Certainly the country has enormous challenges. The poverty is well known, as is pollution, public health problems and dealing with a population that is now 1.2 billion people. But the country is clearly on the move and those who dismiss India as a rising force in the world are making a mistake.

I also learned that there are many Indias. Each region is very different and there are many cultural differences (and languages) across the population. It seems that India is like the US in recognizing that the country's diversity is a strength, though, like the US, there are many who sew the seeds of disunity by attacking those who are different.

I know the knowledge I gained on the trip will help me better serve my clients and also give me better perspective when I write about the Indian-US immigration issues.

I've been monitoring news in the US and it looks like my trip was well-timed. Not that much has changed in the last two weeks. It's nice that everybody waited for me to get back to blogging and tweeting.

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