Trump Admin May End Work Permits for Spouses of H-1B Visa Holders

This move could impact over 70,000 H-4 visa holders with work permits, of which 90 percent are Indians.

2 min read
Image used for representational purposes.

The Trump administration is planning to propose to end giving work permits to the 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.

A formal communication is expected to be made later this summer, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) director Francis Cissna said in a letter to Senator Chuck Grassley.

Our plans include proposing regulatory changes to remove H-4 dependent spouses from the class of aliens eligible for employment authorisation, thereby reversing the 2015 final rule that granted such eligibility.
USCIS Director Francis Cissna
The Trump administration’s move to end the Obama-era rule could have an impact on more than 70,000 H-4 visas holders, who have work permits.

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.

Indian-Americans were a major beneficiary of this 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.

The Trump administration is planning to terminate this provision.

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 United States workers in the administration of our immigration system..."

As with other revisions to regulations, the public will have an opportunity to provide feedback during a notice and comment period, Cissna said.

When asked about the proposal, sources in New Delhi said India's position has always been not to change the existing visa system as the contributions by Indians in that country is huge and the government continues to convey it to Americans.

This (visa) issue is a core issue for India and the government continues to lobby at various levels for the interests of Indian professionals there.
A source to PTI

According to a recent study by the Migration Policy Institute, the US has issued employment authorisation documents to more than 71,000 spouses of H-1B visa holders, over 90 percent of whom are Indians.

"As of June 2017, USCIS had granted 71,287 initial (versus renewal) employment authorisation documents to H-4 spouses," the study which was released last week said.

Of those H-4 spouses with work authorisation as of early 2017, a total of 94 percent were women, and the vast majority, 93 percent, were from India, while four percent were from China, the study said.

(This story was published in arrangement with PTI.)

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