H-1B visaholders’ spouses may not get to work in US: Top 10 developments

Trump administration’s move to end work authorisation for H4 visaholders will have a devastating impact on tens of thousands of Indians

Soon, the spouses of H-1B visa holders might not be allowed to work legally in the US. A top federal agency official has told lawmakers that the Trump administration is planning to put an end to the Obama-era rule. The move would have a devastating impact on tens of thousands of Indians – the US has issued employment authorisation documents to more than 71,000 H-1B visaholders’ spouses, over 90 per cent of whom are Indians. “Our plans include proposing regulatory changes to remove H-4 dependent spouses from the class of aliens eligible for employment authorisation,” said the official. H-4 visas are issued to spouses of H-1B visa holders.

The move comes at a time when, according to a top Silicon Valley newspaper, Indian IT companies that were major beneficiaries of the H-1B programme, have dramatically reduced their H-1B visa filings. San Francisco Chronicle’s editorial board has said applicants for the H-1B visa programme are anticipating the hardest process in many years.

In 2015, the Obama administration issued a rule allowing work permits for H-1B visaholders’ spouses, who otherwise could not be employed while H-1B visaholders sought permanent resident status – a process that could take a decade or longer. US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Francis Cissna has said that the Trump administration will be “reversing the 2015 final rule that granted such an eligibility”.

Here are the top 10 developments around Trump administration’s move to end work authorisation for spouses of H-1B visaholders:

1) H-1B visaholders’ spouses to lose work authorisation: The USCIS director has told lawmakers that the Trump administration is planning to end allowing spouses of H-1B visa holders from working legally in the US. The move to end the Obama-era rule would have an impact on more than 70,000 H-4 visas holders with work permits.

2) When will the work authorisation for H-1B visaholders’ spouses be done away with? No concrete date is available as of now. However, the USCIS director’s letter provides an estimate. A formal communication is expected to be made later this summer, according to USCIS Director Cissna’s letter to Senator Chuck Grassley.

ALSO READ: Trump admin plans to end work permits for H-1B visa spouses

3) Work authorisation rule being removed from June this year? There is some information indicating the work authorisation rule will be removed in June or after. In March this year, the Trump administration had delayed its decision on the termination of work authorisation for spouses of H-1B visaholders, in what was a big relief to a significantly large number of Indian workers and their families.

At that time, in a court submission, the Department of Homeland Security had said that it would not take a decision on terminating the work authorisation of H4 visa users, spouses of H-1B visaholders, until June, as it needed time to review the economic impact of such a decision.

4) What Obama-era rule is Trump trying to undo? The previous Obama administration had started issuing employment authorisation, or work permits, to the spouses of H-1B visa holders in 2015. The spouses or dependents of H-1B visaholders come to the US on H-4 visas. Before 2015, they were not authorised to work in the US. Indian-Americans were a major beneficiary of this provision.

5) Indians will be the worst hit: Trump’s move to end work authorisation for spouses of H-1B visaholders will hit India workers in the US the most. The US has issued employment authorisation documents to spouses of more than 71,000 of H-1B visaholders, over 90 per cent of whom are Indians, a report has said.

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