Trump administration urged to keep work permits for H-1B spouses
A 2015 rule issued by the Obama administration allows work permits for spouses who otherwise could not be employed while H-1B visa holders seek permanent resident status -- a process that can take a decade or longer.
By: PTI | Washington | Updated: March 16, 2018 8:36 pm
President Donald Trump (AP Photo)
Six Democratic lawmakers from the Silicon Valley have urged the Trump administration to retain Obama-era rule allowing spouses of H-1B visa holders to work legally in the US, according to a media report. A 2015 rule issued by the Obama administration allows work permits for spouses who otherwise could not be employed while H-1B visa holders seek permanent resident status — a process that can take a decade or longer.
Indian-Americans were a major beneficiary of this provision. More than 100,000 H-4 visa holders have been beneficiary of this rule. More than 104,000 spouses have been granted work authorisation since the H-4 visa rule was enacted, according to DHS’s Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Democratic Congressmen Anna Eshoo, Zoe Lofgren, Ro Khanna, Mark DeSaulnier, Barbara Lee and Jerry McNerney in a letter to the Homeland Security Secretary urged to “reconsider” his plan, saying it would “create significant uncertainty and financial hardship for many highly skilled professionals who are vital to our economy,” Silicon Valley-based Mercury news said. In their letter dated March 5, the lawmakers argued that in many areas where H-1B workers live, including Silicon Valley, “it is nearly impossible for a family to live on one income.”
The lawmakers in the letter said the H-4 rule is a matter of both economic competitiveness and maintaining family unity. “The United States has already invested in these workers with years of expertise and we should not be sending them abroad to innovate and use their experience and talents against US businesses,” they wrote. Since the H-4 rule was implemented three years ago for spouses of highly skilled immigrants, over 100,000 workers, mainly women, were finally granted permission to work and contribute to their households and the American economy, it said. “The H-4 rule lessened the burden on thousands of H1-B recipients and their families while they transition from non-immigrants to lawful permanent residents by allowing their families to earn dual incomes,” it said.
“Over 880,000 immigrants own businesses in California, and together those immigrant-owned businesses have contributed over USD21 billion to our state’s economy and created more jobs than such businesses in any other state,” they said. “However, until 2015, the spouses of many highly skilled H-1B visa holders were left out, unable to contribute financially to their family or pursue their own professional goals because they did not have permission to work,” the lawmakers from California said. The move comes amidst reports that the Trump administration is planning to revoke an Obama-era rule under which spouses of H-1B visas were given work permits.
In a recent court filing, the Department of Homeland Security said that it needs time till June to take a decision on it. Earlier, Business and tech industry groups — representing Amazon.com Inc., Google, Visa Inc. and other companies — urged the Trump administration not to halt work authorisations for spouses of immigrants who have specialty worker H-1B visas and are seeking permanent residency. The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. It is typically issued for three to six years to employers to hire a foreign worker. But H-1B holders who have begun the green card process can often renew their work visas indefinitely. The technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China.
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