USA: Government may review work permits granted to spouses of H-1B visa holders

The Department of Justice has sought 60 days to respond to a case, which challenges a 2015 decision allowing H-4 visa holders to work in the country.

Fears are running high among H-1B visa holders and their spouses in the United States after the government sought two months’ time to respond to a court case that challenges the work permit granted to H-4 visa holders. The Donald Trump administration has filed an appeal seeking time to “allow the incoming leadership personnel consider the issues”, PTI reported on Tuesday.

The case pertains to the decision made by the administration under former US President Barack Obama, which allowed spouses of H-1B visa holders to work or start a business in the country under an H-4 visa. The decision, made in a federal court in Washington DC in 2015, was challenged by several groups. According to the rules, H-1B visa holders can bring their immediate family members (spouse and children under 21) to the US under the H-4 visa category as dependents.

The US Department of Justice had filed the appeal on February 1. But immigration experts have already expressed their scepticism over the matter, as Attorney General Jeff Sessions had said the new change in rules would “hurt American workers in a way”. Indians make up a significant part of those in the US with H-1B and H-4 visas.

Immigration Voice, a non-profit organisation in the US, told PTI that they will intervene to defend the work permit and safeguard the rights of its members and their families. “There is nothing for the Department of Justice attorneys to confer with their leadership about, given the district court’s clear decision stating that this case had no basis for ever being filed,” Aman Kapoor, co-founder and president of the NGO, said.

The outfit also argues that providing work permits under the H-4 visa indirectly generate employment for US citizens. “I expected to create 5 to 10 new American jobs in the construction industry,” said intervenor Anuj Dhamija, who has been working legally in the US since 2010 but had to switch to the H-4 visa programme as his green card took years to be issued, according to the PTI report. Immigration Voice also pointed out several cases where such H-4 visa holders had contributed to the growth of the US economy.

This comes close on the heels of US President Donald Trump announcing that he will sign an executive order that will target work visa programmes like the H1-B, which are used extensively by Indians. “I think there’s an overall need to look at all of these [work visa] programmes. You’ll see both through executive action and through comprehensive measures a way to address immigration as a whole and the visa programme,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer had said.

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