In a major blow for H1-B visa holders, the Trump administration has begun the process to ban work permits for spouses of H1-B visa holders. The move, which was first proposed in 2017, would affect thousands of Indian techies in the US.
According to The Economics Times, the US government on May 22 issued a notice for the proposed rule-making that will kick in public consultations to ban the H4 EAD (Employment Authorisation Document). While explaining its reasons for the proposal, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) wrote that American citizens would benefit “by having a better chance at obtaining jobs that H4 workers hold”.
What is H4 visa?
In 2015, Obama administration allowed H4 visa-holders - mainly spouses of the H1-B visa-holders - to be gainfully employed in the US.
The H4 visa is issued to dependent family members (spouse and children) of H1-B visa holders. Employment Authorization Document (EAD) for H4 visa holders allows H4 visa dependent spouses of H1-B non-immigrants to legally work in the United States.
The H4 EAD rule was implemented with the intention of retaining highly skilled foreign workers and decreasing the interruption to US businesses that results from H1-B workers choosing not to stay in the US. The Obama administration expected the rule to reduce economic burdens among H1-B non-immigrants and their families.
From February 25, 2015, spouses of H-1B visa holders who were in the process of obtaining a green card were given work permits. DHS now seeks to remove this from its regulations. DHS now seeks to remove this from its regulations.
How Indians will be affected by the ban?
Indians, largely female engineers, have been the biggest beneficiaries of the H4 EAD visa programme, taking over 90% of the 120,000 visas issued since 2015.
Since Donald Trump became President in 2017, the US has tightened immigration rules across the board. The biggest that has affected India is the tightening of the H1-B visa programme for IT services companies in favour of US technology companies. The US has brought in rules that give preference to candidates with US Master’s degrees for H1-B visas, helping US companies, while increasing the rejections for existing visa holders who seek extension for another three years. Nearly 70% of the H1-B visas are granted to Indian nationals.