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Indian Families Likely to Face an Uncertainty Owing to Rollback of US H4 Spouse Visa

January 2018, 08
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Rollback-of-US-H4-Spouse-Visa
The recent developments announced in the US are not good for spouses of H1-B visa holders comprising of scientists, engineers, financial professionals and doctors. The Department of Homeland Security has created an anxiety among Indian-Americans, with the announcement, that a new law was being proposed, to finish work authorisation, meant for dependent spouses, who stay on H4 visas. In case of passage, several spouses who are highly skilled Indian women and men are likely to lose their jobs. The recipients of offers face the possibility of them being withdrawn, even before starting. 

The past

Three years ago the spouses of H-1B visa holders received the right to work. In 2015, the Obama administration had signed an Executive Order, permitting dependent spouses to receive an Employment Authorisation Document to carry out their work. The Trump administration will overturn it. The Department of Homeland Security has notified to an American court that it plans to issue a proposed regulation in Feb 2018 to withdraw the law which permits H4 spouses to work. 

The future

There are risky repercussions ahead especially for professionals and postgraduates who were able to secure a job after waiting for a decade. At present, there is a sword hanging on H4-EAD, and no employer is willing to take a chance. Many H4 spouses had patiently waited for more than six years to start their work. The question is not just about work authorisation; but also about independence. The spouses are not permitted to obtain a social security number in the US and have no existence for US Citizenship and Immigration Services. A rollback, of this initiative, will have immense implications and many immigrants will be rendered jobless and without business. The promise of a second income, allowed the people, to invest in properties, perform non-Information Technology jobs and also to open a few businesses. Until a final decision is taken by the government, there will be a great uncertainty. Whether it will be an entire rollback of the work permit system for spouses or an amendment will replace the present law, is still not clear. 

Implications

There were 1, 26,692 H1B visas issued to Indians in the country in 2016. So, Indians will be the most affected when this change in law happens. The Citizenship and Immigration authorities and the DHS have proposed a rule with the title Removal of H4 Dependent Spouses from the Class of Aliens who are Eligible for Employment Authorization mentions that, in February 2015, DHS had promulgated the final rule, which extended the eligibility norms for Employment Authorisation, to a few H4 dependent spouses, of H-1B non-immigrants, who seek employment which is based on legal permanent resident status. DHS intends to publish a notice of the future amendment to the final rule of 2015. It proposes removal from its directives, a few categories of H4 spouses, of H-1B non-immigrants, as a category of aliens, who are eligible for Employment Authorisation.


Effects of the proposed law

This measure will take away the Economic Independence. Any rule change in the governing of H4-EAD will affect the morale of many women, who had begun their careers, after a period of great struggle, regarding their status. Surely, it disturbs the plans of families, who chose to buy homes and hoped for a settled life.  The change in rule will lead to shutting down of many businesses. Not only will the employees along with their families, be affected but the US citizens also will suffer. Huge financial losses will happen and many entrepreneurial dreams will be smashed. It is a dilemma to have broken family relationship by opting for H-1B or think of staying at home jobless. It will lead to Women losing their economic independence, and current jobs, without finding a sponsoring employer, to obtain a work permit. 

Other matters

Experts feel that these developments are not about the loss of jobs. There is great frustration, that a highly educated spouse, is not in a position to work, and cannot obtain the social security credential nor open an account in a bank. Moreover, the couples have made monetary commitments, bought homes and assets and based their mortgage payments on the expected income of two partners. The remedy for these H4 visa holders is, to enrol in a qualifying academic course and change the status to a student visa in J/M/ F-1 categories. Through this, they can earn from any work for twenty hours on the campus jobs available in the universities and colleges at the place of their enrolment.  They can also seek an independent profession, where an employer agrees to sponsor their H-1B visa.

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