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Spouses of H-1B visa holders may soon lose their right to work

Among the overhauls to America's immigration policies being pursued by the Trump Administration are changes impacting recipients of H-1B visas. This visa is an important step toward a green card for many people. Despite the anti-immigration rhetoric coming from Washington, H-1B visa applications continue to pour in. This is the sixth year in a row that the government had to stop accepting applications after a week because of the volume.

A majority of these visas, which are issued to people from other countries with valuable skills (such as those involving science, math and technology) go to Indian nationals. Some 75 percent of those approved in 2017 were for people from India.

One of the changes to the H-1B visa program announced by the administration is to rescind a related program started under President Obama. Known as H-4EAD, it allows spouses of H-1B visa holders in line for a green card to legally work. This change would largely impact Indian women married to men with H1-B visas.

Many of these women are well-educated, highly-skilled people themselves. Prior to the H-4EAD program, they'd had to give up their careers and standard of living to follow their husbands to the U.S. because they hadn't been allowed to work. Under H-4EAD, they could get work permits that allowed them to contribute significantly to the family income. Now, their jobs and futures are in jeopardy. Further, companies that rely on H-1B visa employees are concerned that if spouses can no longer get work permits, they may lose applicants.

The head of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently said that its priority is to protect American workers. Some of these workers who say they've lost their jobs to skilled people from other countries have sued the government seeking to end the H-4EAD program. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which oversees the program and issues work permits, says it's analyzing its economic impact and will likely decide its fate by June.

Immigration programs and laws are in flux -- perhaps more than they've been in a long time. If you have any questions about your ability to work legally in this country or anything else concerning your status, an experienced immigration attorney can provide valuable information and guidance.

Source: The New York Times, "Thousands of Indian Women Find Their American Dreams in Jeopardy," Miriam Jordan, accessed May 10, 2018

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