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US decision to revoke spouse-visa rule may affect 1 lakh jobs, raise domestic tensions

The move will have a big impact on Indian-American women as they are the major beneficiary of the Obama-era rule. Fearing job loss, many such women have started applying in different companies back in India.

twitter-logo BusinessToday.In   New Delhi     Last Updated: July 2, 2018  | 18:57 IST
US decision to revoke spouse-visa rule may affect 1 lakh jobs, raise domestic tensions

The Trump administration in the US has reconfirmed its intent to rescind the H-4 rule regarding employment authorisation to certain spouses of H-1B visa holders, which is popular among Indian IT professionals. A research conducted by Christopher JL Cunningham of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and Pooja B Vijayakumar from the Kemmy Business School at the University of Limerick has revealed that the decision could affect over 100,000 people who might lose their jobs if the US government goes ahead with the revoking the rule. The move will have a big impact on Indian-American women as they are the major beneficiary of the Obama-era rule. The revoking of the H-4 rule would also cause problems for employers in terms of monetary losses and a shortage of workforce.

In a notification last month, the Department of Homeland Security's Unified Agenda stated that the Trump administration is "removing H-4 dependent spouses from the class of aliens eligible for employment authorisation." As per the notification, the department proposed to remove from its regulations certain H-4 spouses of H-1B non-immigrants as a 'class of aliens' eligible for employment authorisation.

The research report published in Bloomberg said Cunningham and Vijayakumar found that such a shift would likely isolate spouses socially, raise domestic tensions and strain the family's financial resources.  The decision would lead to dissatisfaction among H1-B visa holders, which could also force them to remain in foreign services for longer than usual, the report revealed. The country would also have to bear the failed expatriate assignments costs, which could vary from $250,000 to $1 million, the study said.

"Policy changes like the one being considered for America are often made in the absence of complete information that might help policymakers better understand the true breadth of likely consequences," the study said. It was in February 2015 that the Obama-led US government extended eligibility for employment authorisation to certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B non-immigrants who are now seeking employment-based lawful permanent resident (LPR) status. "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, USCIS Spokesperson had told PTI in June.

It was 1952 that the US started allowing companies to allow foreign workers to meet the employment demand. In the decades to come, several IT companies, especially Indian firms, were targeted for outsourcing cheap labour to avoid huge cost involved with employing American labour.

Tightening of the US visa rules to promote 'Buy American, hire American' was one of the poll agendas of President Donald Trump. The move, however, could have a deeper financial impact on the families living in the US, who benefited from the Obama administration's policies and even bought properties after settling in the country.

Some Indians whose wives were beneficiaries of the H-4 rule are living in the US for years now. Many such couples have even started families in the US, who are American citizens. Moving out could be really difficult for such people as their children are now the US citizens.

Many Indian women, who were earlier allowed to work in the US, have started applying in different companies back in India. Besides, Trump's restriction on the H-1B rule has led to fear of job loss among several male Indians living in the US. Those who already have worked in the US for more than six years -- under the H1-B rule a professional is allowed to work in the US for three years, a tenure that can be extended till the next three years - are also looking for jobs in neighbouring Mexico and Canada.

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