US plans to end work permits for H-1B visa spouses

Rajashree Seal

US plans to end work permits for H-1B visa spouses

24 Apr 2018: US plans to end work permits for H-1B visa spouses

The Trump administration is planning to end allowing spouses of H-1B visa holders to work legally in the US, a top federal agency official has told lawmakers, a move that could have a devastating impact on tens of thousands of Indians.

The move to end the Obama-era rule could have an impact on more than 70,000 H-4 visas holders, who have work permits.

Fact: What is the H-4 visa?

H-4 is issued to the spouse of H-1B visa holders, a significantly large number of whom are high-skilled professionals from India. They had obtained work permits under a special order issued by the previous Obama administration.

H-4 visa holders: There are more 100,000 H-4 visa holders

The Indian-Americans were a major beneficiary of the H-4 visa provision. More than 100,000 H-4 visa holders have been beneficiary of this rule.

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.

Eligibility: The new plan will reverse the 2015 final rule

The administration is planning to terminate this provision. A former communication is expected to be made later this summer, said US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Francis Cissna.

"Our plans include proposing regulatory changes to remove H-4 dependent spouses from the class of aliens eligible for employment authorization, thereby reversing the 2015 final rule that granted such eligibility," Cissna said.

Action: Public can provide feedback about revised regulations

Cissna said such action would comport with the executive order requirement to "propose new rules and issue new guidance, to supersede or revise previous rules and guidance if appropriate, to protect the interests of US workers in the administration of our immigration system."

As with other revisions to regulations, the public will have an opportunity to provide feedback, Cissna said.

Fact: Total 94% of H-4 spouses were women

According to a study by the Migration Policy Institute, of those H-4 spouses with work authorization as of early 2017, a total of 94% were women, and the vast majority, 93%, was from India, while 4% were from China.