US planning to abolish H-4 visas altogether: report

19 Oct 2018


President Donald Trump’s administration is planning to revoke an Obama administration rule that granted work permits to H-4 visa holders - who are spouses of professionals holding H-1B visas – most of whom are from India.

This is because the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) believes that denying work permits to H-4 visa holders will benefit some US workers. 
The move will render thousands of immigrant workers ineligible to work while in the US, a move that could impact an estimated 70,000 Indians.
H-4 visa is issued to the spouse of H-1B visa holders, a significantly large number of whom are high-skilled professionals from India. 
They had obtained work permits under a special order issued by the previous Obama administration in 2015.
The Department of Homeland Security in its Unified Fall Agenda released on Wednesday said it believed that abandoning the current practice of granting employment authorisation to H-4 dependent spouses would benefit some US workers.
The DHS said the proposed rule would no longer allow H-4 workers to enter the labour market early.
The DHS, which has already delayed three times this year issuing of the necessary notification, said in its agenda that it was on its way to remove H-4 dependent spouses from getting work authorisation.
In its agenda, the DHS said it anticipated that there would be two primary impacts that it can estimate and quantify.
First, the cost-savings accruing to forgone future filings by certain H-4 dependent spouses, and labour turnover costs that employers of H-4 workers could incur when their employees’ employment authorisations are terminated.
“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 labour market early,” it said.
As of December 25, 2017, US Citizenship and Immigration Services had approved 126,853 applications for employment authorisation for H-4 visa holders. 
These include 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.
Last month, two powerful Democratic women Senators – Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand – had urged the Trump administration not to go ahead with its decision to revoke authorisation to immigrants those on H-4 visas as such a move would have an impact on about 100,000 women.
“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 seems to be in no mood retain the H-4 spouse work authorisation decision taken by the previous Obama administration.

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