US starts process to ban work permits for spouses

Vastavam web: The Trump administration has moved to the next step on the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) proposal to ban the practice of granting work permits to H4 visa holders, mostly spouses of H1B visa holders. On May 22, the US government issued a notice to kick-off public consultations for the proposed rule. More than 1 lakh Indian immigrants working in the US would be staring at job loss in the near future, if this four-year-old rule is scrapped.

The H4 visas are given to immediate family members of H1B visa holders, which include spouses and children below 21 years of age. Work permits for certain categories of H4 visa holders were issued under an executive order by the previous Obama administration in 2015 in a bid to address the skill shortage in the technology domain.

Before that, spouses could not be employed while H1B visa holders sought out permanent resident status-a process that can take a decade or longer. Indians, largely female engineers, have reportedly been the biggest beneficiaries of the H4 EAD (Employment Authorisation Document) visa programme, taking over 90% of the 1.2 lakh visas issued since 2015. Advertise With Us The Trump administration, already well-known for its hard-line anti-immigration stance, moved to scrap this programme in February last year.

Then, in October, the DHS claimed in its Unified Fall Agenda that “Some US workers would benefit from this proposed rule by having a better chance at obtaining jobs that some of the population of the H4 workers currently hold, as the proposed rule would no longer allow H4 workers to enter the labour market early”. Hence, this proposed rule is clearly aligned with US President Donald Trump’s Buy American and Hire American executive order.