With USA Looking To Tighten Visa Rules, What Lies Ahead For Spouses Of H-1B Holders?

Published : 21 Jan 2019 11:55 AM GMT
With USA Looking To Tighten Visa Rules, What Lies Ahead For Spouses Of H-1B Holders?Image Credit: Naman Bharat

[Correction: Earlier in our article we mentioned that “a woman dependent on the husband who is H-1B visa holder, will not be able to get a driving license”, based on Firstpost report. However, as pointed by our community members, this doesn’t hold true and hence this line is being removed.]

As per the Migration Policy Institute, there were about 2.4 million Indian immigrants residing in the USA as of 2015. The number is also growing by the year. In 2016, Indians were the top recipients of the H-1B temporary Visa, given to skilled workers.

Another kind of Visa, H-4 Visa is issued to the spouses of H-1B holders. Under Obama administration in 2015, Employment Authorisation Document (EAD) for dependent spouses was introduced. EAD gave them the opportunity to work and even set up businesses. However, under Donald Trump, who has made his stance on immigrant population pretty clear, there has been a push to revoke the EAD. Even the decision regarding this presently lies in the court, a dagger hangs over thousands of such persons and their families.

Independence for H-4 Visa holders

The H-4 Visa is issued to spouses of the H-1B Visa holders in the USA. As reported by Firstpost, 94% of the H-4 Visa holders are women and 93% of this percentage are Indians. Many times, these women shift to the USA with their husbands, leaving behind a career, hoping to continue it in the foreign land. However, the wait for the green card extends from anywhere between 12 years to a staggering 150 years.

This changed for better in 2015, when the Obama administration realised that a large educated, and skilled work pool was getting wasted. With this came the EAD, which gave the opportunity for H-4 Visa holders to go for work or set up businesses. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) started issuing EAD to eligible H4 visa holders. Holders of such an H4 visa EAD could now legally work or start a business in the U.S. as long as their spouse’s H1B visa is valid. H4 holders could apply for EAD as long as their H-1B holding spouses met certain eligibility criteria which included having been issued H-1B Visa which is valid and the principal beneficiary has an approved Form I-140 (Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers) which has not been revoked or has extended their H-1B status beyond the initial 6 year period under rule AC-21.

However, soon after, the Save Jobs USA, an organisation of IT workers who claim that they lost their jobs to the H-1B holders, filed a lawsuit against the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Then came the Trump government, which is particularly known for its stance on the immigrants. A draft rule revoking the Obama-era policy was expected to come into practice by 2018. However, as of now, the issue remains to be still in court, as reported by The Times of India. What also remains is the uncertainty and fear under which these women, who have been able to find employment under EAD, live by.

Dagger hanging over head

If this actually comes to practice, many women who found a shot at career would be left jobless. It will also become almost impossible to seek new jobs under certain circumstances. This will also be limitations placed on the independence of such women. This would mean that a woman will not be able to get a social security number or even open a bank account, as reported by Firstpost.

As reported by India Today, if the 2015 rule is gone, Indians will be the worst affected. According to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, 3,09,986 Indians are working in the US out of the total 4,19,637 foreigners. Also, 93% of the total approved H-4 Visas for employment authorization were for people born in India.

Also Read: US Govt Moves To Amend H-1B Visas: Know How It Could Affect Indians And Indian Companies

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