The Donald Trump administration has told a federal court about its plans to do away with work permits given to H-4 visa holders within three month. Curbing the Obama-era rule will have a significant impact on Indian-Americans and Indian-origin women in the United States who are its major beneficiary.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) told the US District Court in District of Columbia in its latest court filing that it was "making a solid and swift progress in proposing to remove from its regulations on certain H-4 spouses of H-1B non-immigrants as a class of aliens eligible for employment authorisation".
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issues H-4 visas to immediate family members of H-1B visa holders, which mean spouses and children less than 21 years of age. The latter of the two visas is the most sought among Indian IT professionals looking to work in the US. Spouses of H-1B visa holders, on the other hand, can work in the United States via the work permits under the H-4 visa. The Trump administration is also reviewing the H-1B visa policy that it thinks is being misused by companies to replace American workers.
The DHS told the US court that it will submit the new rule regarding H-4 to Office of Management of Budget (OMB), White House within three months. Till then, the department urged the court to keep in abeyance its decision on a lawsuit which claimed that US workers were driven out of their jobs due to policies like H-4 visa work permits promulgated by the Obama administration. Plaintiff Save Jobs USA, however, has sought an early decision from the court, arguing that the longer the case remains in abeyance, the greater the possible harm to the US workers.
This is for the third time that the Department of Homeland has informed the court about the delay in issue of Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). The DHS has filed three status reports - on February 28, May 22 and August 20. The next status report is due on November 19. Explaining the reasons for delay, the US attorney said since the filing of the most recent status report, the DHS's senior leadership reviewed the proposed rule and returned it to the USCIS this month for revisions.
"Senior leadership review and the request for revisions is standard practice within the DHS. When the necessary revisions are incorporated, the USCIS will return the proposed rule to the DHS for final clearance and submission to OMB," he said.
As of December 25, 2017, the USCIS had approved 1,26,853 applications for employment authorisation for H-4 visa holders. These count all approvals since May 2015 when the rule was implemented. This number includes 90,946 initial approvals, 35,219 renewals, and 688 replacements for lost cards.
"Ninety-three per cent of approved applications for H-4 employment authorisation were issued to individuals born in India, and five per cent were issued to individuals born in China. Individuals born in all other countries combined make up the remaining two per cent of approved applications," the Congressional Research Service said in its recent report, based on information obtained from the USCIS.
Edited by Vivek Punj with PTI inputs