Spouses of H-1B visa holders will get work permits

MUMBAI: Spouses of non-immigrant workers, such as those on H-1B will be authorised to work, as per the provisions of the Immigration Bill, released by the Biden government. The important aspect is that the current restrictive conditions relating to the employment authorisation program will not apply.
Currently, when the H-1B visa recipient is on track for a green card, or has got an extension beyond the permitted six years, the spouse (holding an H-4 dependant visa) could apply for an employment authorisation document. This in turn enabled the spouse to not only find a job or be self-employed, but also enabled the spouse to obtain a social security number, a driving license or for that matter open a bank account.
At present nearly a lakh Indian spouses (largely women) are estimated to hold a work permit. Only recently, the Biden administration withdrew a proposed circular (issued earlier under the Trump regime) that would have rescinded the employment authorisation program.
“The provisions of the bill, which authorise employment for the spouse of a non-immigrant temporary worker, admitted to the US, appear wider, even as detailed rules could later follow,” says Poorvi Chothani, founder of an immigration law firm in Mumbai.
“Currently, spouses of L-1 visa holders (on intra-company transfers) are permitted to work. It seems that the same will now apply even to spouses of H-1B workers. They will be given a work permit. This is big news given that Indians constitute a significant number of those allotted H-1B visas each year.”
At this juncture, it is not known whether the work permits for spouses will be wide open for any sector or for certain sectors where there is a dire need – say in the medical field.
According to statistics in a report released by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, of the 3.89 lakh H-1B visas (including extensions) issued during fiscal 2019, nearly 72% or 2.78 lakh were allotted to Indian beneficiaries.
While opening up work opportunities for spouses of H-1B workers would make the US an attractive destination, it could also invite ire from certain segments on grounds that it is harming job opportunities for locals and could result in litigation.

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