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Rare relief for H-1B spouses as work permit restrictions delayed

The postponement will give H-1B spouses more months of work authorisation, according to Immigration Voice, an advocacy group that challenged the administration’s proposal to kill the programme.

world Updated: Mar 03, 2018 23:48 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
H-1B,H-4 EAD,Department of Homeland Security
The Department of Homeland Security in December announced plans to end the H-4 EAD programme in line with President Donald Trump’s Buy American, Hire American executive order that seeks to protect American jobs for Americans.(AFP file)

The Trump administration plans to delay till June the end of a programme that granted work authorisation to spouses of H-1B visa holders awaiting their Green Cards, mostly from India.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was expected to announce the end of H-4 Employment Authorisation Document (EAD) in February but told a court on Thursday it needed more time to re-evaluate implications of the decision. But it still intends to shut it down.

A response from US citizenship and immigration services, which runs the visa programme, was awaited. The postponement will give H-1B spouses more months of work authorisation, according to Immigration Voice, an advocacy group that challenged the administration’s proposal to kill the programme.

“This is great news for our members since they can continue to work and provide for their families,” it said in a Facebook post.

There are an estimated 1.5 million Indians on H-1B visas whose Green Card applications are being processed. But there is a long waiting period for them — 70 years, by one estimate — because of the backlog caused by a country-limit on Green Cards.

As the primary visa holders awaited their turn, their spouses were prevented from working in the US until 2015, when the Obama administration unveiled the H-4 EAD programme (only for spouses of those awaiting their Green Cards) as an incentive to attract and retain highly skilled professionals required by US employers.

The DHS in December announced plans to end it in line with the president’s Buy American, Hire American executive order that seeks to protect American jobs for Americans. The administration has been squeezing the H-1B visa programme to that en,d arguing it has been abused and misused to displace American workers.

A spokesperson for USCIS, which runs these visa schemes, had said in December that the agency “is focused on ensuring the integrity of the immigration system and protecting the interests of US workers, and is committed to reforming employment based immigration programs so they benefit the American people to the greatest extent possible”.

First Published: Mar 03, 2018 23:48 IST