After a series of delays, the federal government is now saying it will this month publish a long-promised rule to strip spouses of H-1B visa holders of their right to work. The news came via an update to the federal government’s “unified agenda.” The page dedicated to the planned work-ban has been changed to provide a new time-frame for the draft rule to be published, saying it will happen this month.
The prohibition would affect wives and husbands of H-1B visa holders on track for a green card. University of Tennessee researchers have estimated that 93 percent of the approximately 100,000 spouses, who are on the H-4 visa, are women from India.
In February, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security pushed the rule into its final stages, sending it to the Office of Management and Budget for review. Under the rule-making process, the budget office can recommend changes, before kicking the proposed rule back to Homeland Security.
However, reports suggest the rule is still awaiting approval from the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, which is part of the budget office, said Migration Policy Institute analyst Sarah Pierce.
Get breaking H-1B and other news and alerts with our free mobile app. Get it from the Apple app store or the Google Play store. According to the law, the information and regulatory affairs office has until June 20 to review the rule, Pierce said.
“Should it approve it, the rule could be published shortly thereafter,” Pierce said. “Assuming it gets approved, I do think we will see the published proposed rule this summer, but it does seem unlikely that we’ll see it in May, as the unified agenda seems to imply.”
Publication of the draft rule in the federal register is expected to trigger a public-comment period. Public comment periods for new federal rules typically last 30 to 60 days, but can extend to 180 days or more.
Under certain circumstances, rules can be finalized without a comment period, but Citizenship and Immigration director L. Francis Cissna said in a Sept. 6 letter to the Internet Association — which represents major tech firms such as Facebook and Google — that “the public will be given an opportunity to provide feedback during a notice and comment period on any revisions to regulations that DHS determines are appropriate, including revisions relating to the H-4 Rule.”
Homeland Security, on the unified agenda page dedicated to the work-ban plan, has said that some U.S. workers would benefit from the prohibition “by having a better chance at obtaining jobs that some of the population of the H-4 workers currently hold.”
A number of Bay Area residents on the H-4 have told this news organization that if they can’t work, they will likely leave the U.S. with their families.
Lawsuits seeking to block implementation of the rule are expected, according to Doug Rand, co-founder of Boundless Immigration — a technology company helping families with immigration — and a former White House official under Obama who helped implement the H-4 work authorization.
The administration of President Donald Trump, under his “Buy American and Hire American” executive order, has taken aim at the controversial H-1B visa, increasing the rate of visa denials and demands for more evidence that workers and jobs qualify for the visa. Silicon Valley tech firms rely heavily on the H-1B, and push for an increase to the annual 85,000 cap on new visas, arguing that they use the visa program to secure the world’s top talent. Critics point to reported abuses by outsourcing companies, and contend that the H-1B is used to supplant American workers with cheaper foreign labor.