World

US court seeks status report on work authorisation for H-1B spouses

MUMBAI: Soon after the Biden administration withdrew the proposed rule that would rescind work authorisation rights available to a certain section of spouses of H-1B workers, a US court has sought a joint status report.
This joint status report, which has to be filed by March 5, will help determine on whether the Save Jobs USA lawsuit will move forward or not. It has been a long-drawn litigation, dating back several years to April 2015, when Save Jobs, a group of workers in the technology sector, challenged the right of the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to grant employment authorization to eligible H-4 (dependant) visa holders.
In November 2019, a US Court of Appeals reversed the grant of summary judgement in favour of DHS, that was accorded by the US district court (for the district of Columbia). The Appeals court held that Save Jobs had demonstrated that the H-4 Employment Authorisation Documentation (EAD) Rule, would subject its members to an actual or imminent increase in competition for jobs, and that it therefore has a standing to pursue its challenge. Since the Trump administration was rescinding the EAD Rule, regular stays on court hearings were requested by the government agencies.
Now, Judge Tanya S Chutkan has sought a joint status report from the parties to the lawsuit by March 5, 2021, advising the court: whether the current dispute has been mooted or the parties anticipate that it will be mooted; whether the parties wish to stay this action for any reason, including the parties’ negotiations over resolving this dispute; or whether the parties agree that this litigation should continue as anticipated pursuant to the federal rules, local rules or a scheduling order.
It may be recalled that to take care of the decades-long green card backlog for certain sections, such as applicants from India, the Obama administration in 2015 had introduced the ‘H-4 Employment Authorization Document (EAD) rule’.
Spouses of H-1B workers are given an H-4 visa. This rule permitted, that in certain cases (such as where the H-1B visa recipient was on track for a green card or where the H-1B visa recipient had got an extension beyond the permitted six years), the H-4 spouse could apply for an employment authorisation document. The EAD permitted the spouse to work or be self-employed.
According to the latest available official data, up to December, 2017, nearly 84,360 Indian spouses (largely women) held an EAD (this was 93% of the total EADs issued). The number of such Indian spouses is now estimated to be over a lakh.

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