Legislation moved to prevent Trump admin from killing H-4 for H-1B spouses
Two Democratic lawmakers introduced a legislation in the House of Representatives Friday to prevent the Trump administration from revoking an Obama-era measure allowing work authorization to spouses of H-1B visa holders, most of whom are from India, waiting for their Green Card.
“Protecting work authorization for these H-4 visa holders is a matter of both economic fairness and family unity,” Representative Anna Eshoo, one of the two Democrats, said in a statement, referring to the authorization by its technical name H-4. “Eliminating this benefit would create a painful choice for many immigrants to either split up their families or return to their home countries and use their talents to compete against American businesses.”
“These are American citizens-in-waiting, stuck in line for their number to come up,” Representative Zoe Lofgren said in the same press announcement.
Called the H-4 Employment Protection Act, the legislation has no chance of passing in the current Republican-dominated House of Representatives and, subsequently, the senate. But it can be reintroduced in the the next House, which the Democrats will run after winning it from Republicans in the recent mid-term elections.
The Trump administration first announced its intention to kill the programme in 2017, and has since said it is committed to revoking it as it wants to ensure Americans had the first shot at American jobs, and not foreigners.
The Obama-era initiative, introduced in 2015, is also facing legal challenge in a Washington DC court.
Lawmakers from both chambers of US Congress and both parties have urged the administration to not kill the programme, but have received no assurance. The US citizenship and immigration services, which runs the programme, recently told some lawmakers that public feedback and comments will be taken into consideration.
The chief beneficiaries of the rule have been spouses of H-1B visa holders from India — 93% of the 126,853 H-4 applications approved till December 2017, according to a study by the Congressional Research Service, a non-partisan provider of data and analysis to US congress, based on numbers from the USCIS.
Indians have to wait the longest for employment-based Green Card (permanent residency) because of a massive pile up of backlogged cases caused by a rule that limits these visas to a 7% country-cap — there are currently 306,601 people from India in that queue and the wait time is put anywhere between 70 and 100 years at the current rate of disposal.