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16 Dec 2017

New H-1B rules: Indian spouses won't be able to work

H-1B visa rules to tighten in near future

In a jolt to Indian workers in the US, President Donald Trump's administration is considering to do away with Obama-era rule that allows spouses of H-1B visa holders to work in the US.

While there was no explanation of the reasons behind the proposal, it is said to be taken "in light of" the "Buy American, Hire American" executive order by the Trump government.

In context

H-1B visa rules to tighten in near future
The H-1B program

Existing norms

The H-1B program

The H-1B visa program allows foreign skilled workers to work in the US, with many of them coming from India and China.

The H-1B visa has a 3-year validity and can be renewed for another 3 years.

Since 2015, spouses of H-1B visa holders waiting for green cards have been eligible to work in the US on H-4 dependent visas.

Work authorization for H-4 visa holders in recent years

In 2016, more than 41,000 H-4 visa holders received work authorization and this year till June more than 36,000 H-4 visa holders were given work authorization.

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Legal trouble and Trump's plans to overhaul H-1B program

Soon after, the 2015 rule allowing H-1B visa holders' spouses to work in the US has been introduced, a group called "Save Jobs USA" filed a lawsuit arguing that it jeopardizes the jobs of American citizens.

Further, Trump's overall protectionist plans which include overhaul of the H-1B visa program particularly alarmed India, which amounts to 70% of of all H-1B visas issued.

What else?

Additional changes to H-1B proposed

While the proposal wouldn't deter spouses of H-1B holders from pursuing other means for work authorization, it will have an impact on skilled immigrants staying in the US if their spouses can't find work.

Other changes under consideration include revising the definition of what occupations are eligible for the H-1B program "to increase focus on truly obtaining the best and brightest foreign nationals."

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