Trump admin says will revoke work permits to H4 visa holders

“Unfortunately, the Government of India cannot control how other governments deal with their laws. They can just appeal on behalf of the people who are impacted”


indica News Bureau


The Trump administration has told a federal court that it plans to revoke work permits to H-4 visa holders – a significant majority of whom are Indian-Americans – in the next three months.

The move is likely to have a major impact on Indian women on H4 dependent visas who have benefited from the Obama-era rule that allows eligible spouses of H-1B visa holders waiting for green cards to work in the US.

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

In its latest court filing on Saturday, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) told the US District Court in District of Columbia that it was “making a solid and swift progress in proposing to remove from its regulations certain H-4 spouses of H-1B non-immigrants as a class of aliens eligible for employment authorization”.

Till the new rule is submitted to the Office of Management of Budget (OMB), White House, the department has urged the court, to hold off its decision on a lawsuit filed by Save Jobs USA – a group of workers who argue that the policy harms US workers.

During the recent Indo-US 2+2 dialogue, India had flagged its concerns about H1B and H4 visas that could severely impact Indians working in America. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj raised the issue ‘forcefully,’ asking Trump administration to take a favorable view on the matter.

The DHS had first recommended scrapping work permits for the workers’ spouses in December 2017.

This is for the third time that the Department of Homeland has informed the court about the delay in issue of Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM).

The DHS, which has filed three status reports – on February 28, May 22, and August 20 – will submit its next status report November 19.

Save Jobs USA has sought an early decision from the court, arguing that the longer the case remains in abeyance, the greater the harm to American workers.

Explaining the reasons for delay, the US attorney said since filing of the most recent status report, this month the DHS returned it to USCIS for revisions.

“Senior leadership review and the request for revisions is standard practice within the DHS. When the necessary revisions are incorporated, the USCIS will return the proposed rule to the DHS for final clearance and submission to OMB,” he said.

The USCIS had approved 126,853 applications for employment authorization for H-4 visa holders as of December 25, 2017. These count all approvals since May 2015, when the rule was implemented.

“Ninety-three per cent of approved applications for H-4 employment authorization were issued to individuals born in India, and five per cent were issued to individuals born in China. Individuals born in all other countries combined make up the remaining two per cent of approved applications,” according to a recent Congressional Research Service report that is based on information obtained from the USCIS.

Markandey Katju, a former Supreme Court of India judge, made an appeal to the US government, saying, :The recent proposal to ban H-4 visas to spouses of holders of H-1B visas in America is causing great concern among the Indian community living in USA, and I request you to reconsider it. After all, there would only be about one or two hundred thousand holders of H-4 visas. That is only a drop in the ocean in a country with over 300 million people.

“The H-4 visa, as modified by former President Obama, permitted spouses of holders of H-1B visas to get employment or start a business in USA, otherwise the wife of a H-1B visa holder would only have to sit at home. Such wives are usually highly educated themselves, and can contribute to the US economy.

“A good example is Alpa Gajera, an IT engineer who is on a H-4 visa, and has started two restaurants in Atlanta employing 6 American citizens. She was planning to extend her business, thus providing many more jobs to Americans ( which is one of your cherished goals ), but if her visa is canceled all her plans will go awry.

Krishan Bansal of the Republican Hindu Coalition, a US based advocacy group that hightlights the issue of a H-1B visa backlog and of DALCA (the Deferred Action for Legal Childhood Arrivals) told indica, “The reason people are on H4 because the green card has been pending for a long time. We have been working on the green card backlog and following upon it and this – the H4 EAD – has been in the background.”

Asked if if the Trump Administration will listen to India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on this matter, Bansal said, “Unfortunately, the Government of India cannot control how other governments deal with their laws. They can just appeal on behalf of the people who are impacted.”

He said his group argues for the H-1B visa because it is only granted to people when the requisite skill is not available in the country. He said it does not displace any job and, in fact, is good for the economy.

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