Washington: The Trump government has moved to the next step on the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) application to ban the practice of granting work permits to H-4 visa holders, mostly spouses of H-1B visa holders. On May 22, the US government issued a notice to kick-off public consultations for the proposed rule.
More than 1 lakh Indian immigrants working in the US will face job loss in the near future, if this four-year-old rule is scrapped. The H-4 visas are given to immediate family members of H-1B visa holders, which include spouses and children below 21 years of age. Work permits for certain categories of H-4 visa holders were issued under an executive order by the previous Obama government in 2015 in a bid to address the skill shortage in the technology domain.
Before that, spouses could not be employed while H-1B visa holders sought out permanent resident status-a process that can take a decade or longer. Reportedly Indians, largely female engineers, have been the biggest beneficiaries of the H4 EAD (Employment Authorisation Document) visa programme, taking over 90% of the 1.2 lakh visas issued since 2015.
But, even if this proposal goes through, it would take a while for it to take effect. As per Rajiv S. Khanna, managing attorney at immigration law firm Immigration.com, "The process is currently at the second last stage. Once it is approved here, it will be posted in the federal register and people will have 30 or 60 days to post comments, following which the regulation will be made final.”
The administration is obligated to comment before publishing and implementing the final rule, a process that could take as much as a year, he added.
Khanna also explained, "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". Hence, this proposed rule is clearly aligned with US President Donald Trump's Buy American and Hire American executive order.
It's not just H-4 visa holders who are running scared but also H-1B visa holders. H-1B Visa is a popular non-immigrant work visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations, and American tech companies have long depended on it to hire highly-skilled employees from countries like India and China. In fact, Indians typically garner more than 60% of these visas and our IT services sector is a major beneficiary.