H-4 visa withdrawal to hit tens of thousands of Indians

indica News Bureau


US President Donald Trump’s administration is all set to revoke an Obama-era rule that enables H-4 visa holders, or spouses of professionals working in the United States on H-1B visa, to work in the country – a move set to impact tens of thousands of Indians in the US.

An H-4 visa is issued by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to the immediate family members (spouse and children under 21 years of age) of the H-1B visa holders.

While the move to withdraw the rule will hit over 70,000 H-4 visas holders with work permits, it will, according to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), significantly benefit the US workers.

“Some US workers would benefit from this proposed rule by having a better chance at obtaining jobs that some of the population of the H-4 workers currently hold, as the proposed rule would no longer allow H-4 workers to enter the labor market early,” the DHS said in its recently released Unified Fall Agenda.

The DHS, which has already delayed three times this year issuing of the necessary notification, said the proposed rule would no longer allow H-4 workers to enter the labor market early.

Elaborating the reasons for the delay, the US attorney said since the DHS’ senior leadership had returned the filed recent status report to the USCIS this month for revisions after reviewing the proposed rule.

The next status report filing by DHS is due on November 19.

Anticipating further, the DHS said that there would be two primary impacts that it could estimate and quantify.  First, the cost-savings accruing to forgone future filings by certain H-4 dependent spouses, and labor turnover costs that employers of H-4 workers could incur when their employees’ employment authorizations are terminated.

As of December 25, 2017, US Citizenship and Immigration Services had approved 126,853 applications for employment authorization for H-4 visa holders.

These count all approvals since May 2015 when the rule was implemented. This number includes 90,946 initial approvals, 35,219 renewals, and 688 replacements for lost cards.

In its recent report based on the information obtained from the USCIS, the Congressional Research Service said that ninety-three per cent of approved applications for H-4 employment authorization had been issued to individuals born in India, and five per cent were issued to individuals born in China. The remaining two per cent of applications consisted of individuals born in all other countries combined.

Last month, Democratic Senators Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand wrote a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and USCIS Director L Francis Cissna, to not to go ahead with the decision to revoke authorization to immigrants on H4 visas.

“Preventing women from engaging in employment can lead to isolation, depression, anxiety, feelings of guilt, and a loss of self-worth. Revoking a wife’s ability to work leaves her and her children entirely dependent on her spouse. Increased isolation — coupled with complete financial dependence — can make leaving an abusive relationship dangerous and, in some cases, impossible,” they wrote.

However, the Trump administration is on track to undo the H-4 spouse work authorization decision taken by the previous Obama administration, as per the release of the Unified Fall Agenda.

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