H-4 visa EAD to be terminated in 2018, H-1B visa rules to change

Tens of thousands of immigrant families in the US. Are going to face a bitter truth.  the Trump Administration has decided to move forward to terminate the Employment Authorization Document (EAD), or work permit, for H-4 visa workers – given to spouses and dependents of H-1B visa workers – in 2018.

The protectionist and obnoxious move by the White House, to curb and kill the aspirations of skilled professionals who have been living in the US for years or decades on an H-4 visa, is yet another trashing of an Obama Administration rule. It’s also yet another slap in the face of skilled immigrants, who are increasingly on a slippery slope till they get a Green Card, or permanent residency.

The Trump Administration issued a notice, titled ‘Removing H-4 Dependent Spouses from the Class of Aliens Eligible for Employment Authorization’, on December 14, as part of its ‘Unified Agenda’, a bi-annual list of regulations by various federal agencies. In it, the administration plans to propose an official rule in the Federal Register by February, 2018, and thereafter all existing EADs given to H-4 visa holders will be trashed, and no new ones will be issued.

The move has been hanging in balance for more than two years now, after a group called Save Jobs USA filed a lawsuit in April 2015 arguing that EAd to H-4 visa holders threatens American jobs, and pulls down salaries. It gained momentum after Trump became president, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions declared the H-4 EAD rule “hurts American workers.” In February this year, the Trump Administration asked for a 60-day pause to allow the new administration to assess the case.

In issuing the statement, which is sure to see a lot of highly skilled women break into tears,  go into emotional distress, the Department of Homeland Security didn’t cite any reason, saying only it was acting “in light of” the “Buy American, Hire American” executive order that Trump signed in April.

The rule to give EAD to some H-4 visa holders was met with elation by tens of thousands of mostly women, a lot of them from India, who got freedom to legally work and earn money for their family. They rejoiced, felt they finally ‘belonged’ in America; were not second-class citizens, who could become a wife and mother at their free will, but were prohibited by the government to work, unless to do voluntary service for no pay in their local community.

Indians are the largest holders of H-4 visas, comprising nearly 80% of the 125,000 issued in 2015 alone. Women account for 90% of all H-4 visas. Over 41,000 of EADs were approved in the year-ended September 2016, according to the Wall Street Journal. During the next year, more than 36,000 applications were approved, through June. India accounts for 70% of all H-1B workers, of the 85,000 visas issued annually.

Meanwhile, foreign workers in the US on a H-1B work visa, the most sought after among Indian IT professionals, may work for more than one company, the country’s immigration agency has said. The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. The technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China.

“In general, H-1B workers may work for more than one employer but must have approved I-129 for each,” the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the federal agency which receives and determines the successful applications for H-1B visas. The employee however, must submit I-29 petition, a form submitted by the employer for a non-immigrant worker. The H-1B visa has an annual numerical limit cap of 65,000 visas each fiscal year as mandated by the Congress

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