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Children of Skilled Indian Workers In B-N Face Uncertain Future

Charlie Schlenker
From left, Saivikas Nethi, 20, Anisha Amaravadi, 13, and Sravya Jayam, 17.

For some children of Indian workers in Bloomington-Normal, the future is uncertain at best.

Their parents came to the United States on skilled worker H1B visas and are now on a 70-year-long waiting list for green cards.

As dependents of H1B workers, they’re unable to reap as many benefits as their American peers, especially when it comes to education.

Normal Community High School student Sravya Jayam is 17 and applying to colleges, but she said on GLT’s Sound Ideas her chances at a top education are low because of her legal status.

“I got into college. I can get into most colleges, but the really good colleges like the Ivy Leagues, if I did want to go there and I did get accepted, I most likely (couldn’t) go because of financial aid, because I cannot fill out the FAFSA without a Social Security number,” Jayam said.

University of Illinois at Chicago junior Saivikas Nethi said his situation meant he had little say in choosing a college major.

“I’m studying computer science. Computer science basically has been chosen for me because it is one of the easier ways for me to gain what I want for the future, which is a secure life,” Nethi said.

Nethi said he didn’t even consider other areas of studies because he knew computer science offered the best opportunity at securing an H1B visa after college.

“My future could have been anything if everything was accessible for me. Maybe business, maybe medicine, maybe even art,” he said.

These feelings of unease can be seen in younger children of Indian workers as well, such as Anisha Amaravadi, a 13-year-old student at Chiddix Junior High.

"I do everything else like American kids, but just the fact that I'm not considered American makes me a little sad."

“I’m doing everything else like an American. I go to school with American kids, I do everything else like American kids, but just the fact that I’m not considered American makes me a little sad,” Amaravadi said.

School is the top priority for all three, but what comes after for them is still uncertain. They will each have to get student visas when they turn 21 to finish their educations. To stay in the U.S., they will either need H1B visas or permanent residencies.

“It’s always just going to hang over our heads, and we’re going to have to deal with this as adults. Always renewing our visas, just living on the edge because we’re always going to be fearing going back to India,” Jayam said.

A sudden move to India would be a drastic change, since they have been in the United States for most of their lives.

“(It) is a very scary thought. It has been in my mind for a very long time. I have been here since I was in third grade and I am very accustomed to U.S. culture. The fact is, it would be a completely new life if I do go back there, and I’d have to restart pretty much everything I’ve gained here,” Nethi said.

There is currently a 70-year green card backlog for workers from India who want to make their stay permanent. A total of 1.5 million people in the U.S. legally are waiting for a green card.

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WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.
Dania is a reporter at GLT, as well as a student at Illinois State University.