In a move that could affect thousands of Indians working in the US, the Trump administration has reconfirmed its intent to cancel the H-4 visa rule on employment authorisation to certain spouses of H-1B visa holders. The Trump administration believes that the H-1B visa policy is misused by companies to replace American workers and currently reviewing the policy.
The H1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations. It is quite popular among Indian IT professionals. H-4 visas are issued to the spouses of H-1B visa holders, a significantly large number of whom are high-skilled professionals from India.
"Removing H-4 Dependent Spouses from the Class of Aliens Eligible for Employment Authorisation," said the Department of Homeland Security's
Unified Agenda in the federal register notification of its semi-annual regulatory agenda.
The move will have a major impact on Indian women as they are the major beneficiary of the Obama-era rule.
As per the notification published on Monday, the Department of Homeland Security is proposing to remove from its regulations certain H-4 spouses of H-1B non-immigrants as a class of aliens eligible for employment authorisation.
It was in February 2015 that it published a final rule extending eligibility for employment authorisation to certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B non-immigrants who are seeking employment-based lawful permanent resident (LPR) status.
The federal register notification said that the notice of the proposed rulemaking would be published this month.
However, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) insisted that "No decision about H4 visas is final until" the rulemaking process is completed.
The USCIS will alert the public when the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) has been posted for public comment.
An NPRM is posted for public comment and after comments have been considered the USCIS will post the final rule, a USCIS official said.
"The agency is considering a number of policy and regulatory changes to carry out the President's Buy American, Hire American Executive Order, including a thorough review of employment-based visa programmes," Michael Bars, the USCIS Spokesperson told PTI.
"The USCIS is focused on safeguarding the integrity of our immigration system and ensuring its faithful execution so that the wages and working conditions of US workers are protected," he said.
"USCIS is committed to reforming employment-based immigration programmes so they benefit the American people to the greatest extent possible," Bars said.
Meanwhile, scores of Indian-Americans who have been waiting for years to get their Green Card met Congressman Paul Tonko in Albany, New York to press for an early reform of the Green Card backlog and not to rescind H-4 rule on employment authorisation.
Activist Renuka Rajkumar addressed the gathering about the impact of revoking employment permits for spouses who have been waiting on green cards for a long time.
In her speech, she recalled despairing for a decade before she was afforded the opportunity to work.
Despite her higher education and prior professional experience, it took her almost a year to find a job in her chosen profession.
(with PTI inputs)