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Relief for spouses as US ends H-4 work ban

Our Bureau Mumbai | Updated on January 27, 2021

Biden coming with Bill giving automatic work authorisation for spouses

The Joe Biden administration has revoked a proposal to bar spouses of Indian techies in the US from taking up employment.

Since February 2019, the former President Donald Trump’s administration was moving to rescind the 2015 Obama-era ‘H-4 Employment Authorisation Document (EAD)’ rule. H4 visa is given to dependent spouses of H-1B visa holders to legally work in the US. Trump’s efforts, which were in their last lap, would have rescinded this work authorisation, depriving around 1 lakh immigrant spouses of Indian origin.

Sonam Chandwani. Founder, KS Legal, says: “The Trump administration’s efforts to skewer the H-4 visa holders’ work permit pushed the entire H-4 community towards the cliff’s edge. While the Trump administration declared the move as ‘economically significant,’ the latest development to rescind the ban on H-4 work permit facilitates the unification of families. Indian workers account for a lion's share of H-1B visas and this rescission of the ban will directly benefit Indian immigrants working in the US.”

Court challenge

However, while the H-4 EAD programme might be safe from a regulation perspective, it might still face some challenges in the US District Court of Columbia.

As Poorvi Chothani, Managing Partner at immigration law firm LawQuest, explains, “The court may still find that the H-4 EAD programme as harming American jobs and strike down the programme.”

However, there is a silver lining for Indian workers and their spouses working in the US. “President Biden has made a public announcement of a new immigration Bill, which he will be presenting to Congress. Per the public announcement, the Bill provides for automatic work authorisation for H-4 spouses,” said Chothani.

Rules modified

Biden, on taking over as the US President, put on modifications introduced by the Trump administration to H-1B visa rules. On January 12, the Department of Labour had changed how wage levels would be computed for permanent labour certifications. Then, on January 15, the Department of Homeland Security issued a new H-1B visa rule that broadened the employer-employee relationship’s definition, making it difficult for American companies to outsource jobs. Both these rules are now under review.

Published on January 27, 2021

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